Can a Handheld Air Purifier Really Work? I Put LG’s PuriCare Mini to the Test
- Value: 17/20
- Functionality: 17/20
- Ease of Use: 17/20
- Aesthetics: 19/20
- Portability: 20/20
In a pre-COVID world, I’d never considered getting an air purifier. Sure, I hate dusting as much as the next person (and probably put off doing so twice as much), but the air never seemed dirty enough to merit owning one. Then I started waking up congested—only to have things clear up an hour later—and learned it could be due to allergens in the air. Yes, I could vacuum and change out my AC unit’s air filters more often, but as I grasped for control in a pandemic-driven world, I looked for even more options. And that’s how I stumbled upon LG’s new PuriCare Mini, a water bottle-sized air purifier that promised to “remove 99 percent of fine particle matter.” It hardly took up any space. It looked sleek (matte finish + leather carrying strap? Move over, “it” bags! 2020 is about statement purifiers!). I’d give it a shot.
First Impression: Is This the iPhone of Air Purifiers?
There aren’t a ton of instructions or buttons or cables and cords—and that’s a great thing. Setup is pretty intuitive, taking the intimidation out of using an air purifier. You just pop in the filter, power it up with the same kind of USB-C charger you might use for your phone or laptop, and you’re good to go. There’s a PuriCare Mini app you can use to fire it up and monitor the air quality—great if you prefer to stick to an air-cleaning schedule you can automate—but there are also a few buttons atop the device that let you choose how long (and how strong) its dual-motor runs. All the while, a thin light on the top of the PuriCare Mini glows from green to yellow to orange to red, depending on the quality of the air as it’s running. I soon found myself running the machine in every corner of every room in the house. No surprise: The nooks I dusted and vacuumed the least had the most particles in the air…like the nightstand near my bed.
Lingering Question: Yes, It’s Working—But What Is It Doing?
While the whir of the fan, the green-to-red light and the app’s air quality reports let me know it was working, I still had questions about what it was actually doing for me. What is “fine particle matter,” anyway? Could all this air purifying help protect me against COVID-19? Is this all a placebo? After two weeks of use, I realized my nose wasn’t congested at night, but I wanted to do a deeper dive. Here are the highlights:
- Its pre-filter and micro filter pick up dust that’s smaller in diameter than a strand of your hair. Much smaller, in fact: It picks up particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter, whereas hair tends to be 50 to 70 microns wide. (Pollen and mold tend to be about 10.)
- It won’t protect you against COVID-19. While portable air purifiers can reduce airborne contaminants in your home, the Environmental Protection Agency is clear that they, on their own, are not enough to protect you from the coronavirus. It can be helpful as part of an overall plan to protect your home, provided you’re using it properly and following CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting your space.
- You can use it in your car. I could easily plunk it in a cup holder and run it in my SUV. And, according to LG’s research, the density of dust in your car drops 50 percent after using it for 10 minutes.
- It (unintentionally) doubles as a noise machine. This is not a feature of the PuriCare Mini. In fact, the brand touts that on low, the fan runs at 30 decibels—roughly the sound of a whisper—but I strangely enjoyed the quiet hum of the fan on high as I fell asleep. If someone’s watching TV loudly in another room, it won’t drown it out, but it’s a nice alternative when things are eerily quiet at home and you need something to quiet your mind.
The Downside: The App’s a Bit Glitchy.
Most of the time, I ignored the app entirely, just pressing a button on the PuriCare Mini when I wanted to run the purifier. And maybe it’s because my phone’s a few years old, but the app itself seemed to be running in the background, sending push notifications that it was “in use” even when the PuriCare itself wasn’t running. That said, you don’t really need the app to get what you want out of the purifier.
The Verdict: It Surpasses Its Hype.
Yes, the PuriCare Mini has been certified by the British Allergy Foundation and product-testing company Intertek for its ability to remove fine particles and allergens. And yes, it was an honoree at the 2020 Innovation Awards at the Consumer Electronics Show. Those are reassuring, but it wasn’t until I used it for a few weeks that I started to genuinely see the benefits of using an air purifier. And maybe dusting a tad more.