Commercial Air Scrubber Guide

We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review if you click through our affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Commercial Air Scrubber
Commercial Air Scrubber

What is an Air Scrubber?

Commercial air scrubbers, sometimes referred to as portable air scrubbers, air wash units or commercial air purifiers, are standalone machines that remove unwanted airborne particulates from indoor environments through the process of filtration.

They are effective at removing a variety of contaminants from the air including bacteria, gasses, molds, chemicals, odors, smoke and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Air scrubbers are often called portable air scrubbers (PAS) as most units are made to be moved around on job sites. Most can be moved by a single person but may require a second to lift them off the ground.

Pollutants Air Scrubbers Remove

Many small, even imperceptibly sized pollutants can be removed including:

  • Airborne toxins
  • Bacteria
  • Chemical odors
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Fungi
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander and hair
  • Plant spores
  • Tobacco smoke smell
  • Wood smoke smell
  • Viruses
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs
Best Air Scrubbers for 2021

What Commercial Air Scrubbers are Used For

Commercial-grade air scrubbers are used for a variety of industries and functions including:

Disaster Restoration and Mold Removal

Restoration and remediation projects are places you’d expect to find air scrubbers at work. In cases of water damage they are routinely used to remove mold from the air while protecting against other airborne contaminants including gases and other bacteria.

Floods aren’t the only disaster where air scrubbers are used. Following a structure fire they are also used to remove smoke, odors and airborne bacteria or molds. Other remediation jobs include purifying the air when lead, asbestos or other pollutants are present.


Units are often found on construction sites protecting workers in closed spaces. They are used to remove dust, dirt, carpet fibers, allergen spores and chemicals from the air.


Medical research centers, clinics and hospitals use air scrubbers to limit the circulation of airborne pathogens, protecting medical and clinical staff as well and patients alike.


Remodeling jobs have the same requirements as construction jobs but with added environmental complexities. Notable differences include the use of harmful chemicals as well as the presence of VOCs, lead, asbestos or mold spores.

How Air Scrubbers Work

Air scrubbers work by passing air through a series of filters to remove whatever pollutants the filters can catch. Most all units have multiple filters, each trapping a different size of particulate.

Air Scrubber Diagram
Air is introduced then passes through three levels of filtration before being exhausted.
  1. Dirty air is drawn into the air scrubber at one end
  2. As air is sucked through the unit, filters remove airborne pollutants
  3. Clean air is exhausted out the other end of the air scrubber

Once the air has passed through the filters it is either removed from the environment entirely (such as exhausting it outdoors) or is exhausted into the same room.

Air Scrubbers vs. Air Purifiers

Air scrubbers and air purifiers do share a lot in common. Both are used to purify air. There are some differences though. While most all air scrubbers have or can be fitted with the filters necessary to remove mold and odors, air purifiers for home and office use aren’t necessarily up to the task. That isn’t to say air purifiers aren’t effective. It might be better stated to say air purifiers are made for a different purpose altogether.

Commercial Air Scrubbers use HEPA filtration to clean the air. Some air purifiers do have HEPA or other high efficiency filters, however. But, even those aren’t still very different from air scrubbers. Air scrubbers are generally used in commercial situations like removing mold from a home or business, or to deal with smoke and water damage following a fire.

Since air scrubbers are used in such environments, they don’t need to be, and in general aren’t, quiet. They’re also built with the rigors of constant operation in mind, usually housed in a tough plastic case and often one with wheels.

Air purifiers are meant to be used inside a home or business when it is occupied. They are engineered to run quietly and to fit in to their surroundings.

Commercial Air Scrubbers vs. Negative Air Machines

The term negative air machine is often incorrectly used interchangeably with air scrubber. While they share many similarities, they are not the same. All commercial air scrubbers are negative air machines as they both operate on the principle of negative air pressure. Both also employ filters to remove impurities in the air.

As far as differences go, negative air machines are generally larger and not as feature rich. Their size and weight makes them suitable for very large jobs where the unit is intended to be stationary most of the time. As moving the unit can require several workers, their often employed on jobs where there is a larger staff present.

Air scrubbers, in contrast, are usually smaller in scale and specifically designed with portability in mind. As mentioned above they are often referred to as portable air scrubbers (PAS) as this portability is all but a given in their design. Portable air scrubbers are desirable, especially for smaller crews, as they can be maneuvered by a single person, including moving them up or down stairs, and often even lifting them into a vehicle.

Is the Air Scrubber Plus or Air Scrubber by Aerus the same as a commercial air scrubber?

Both of these products, the Air Scrubber Plus and Air Scrubber by Aerus, refer to a residential product as opposed to a commercial air scrubber. The product is integrated into a homes HVAC system by placing it in the ductwork. The product differentiated itself from the approach taken by high grade residential MERV 13 air filters with what they called ActivePure technology.

To quote Aerus, their product could “go beyond traditional air purification systems by not only eliminating stale odors and reducing dust, but actually eliminating harmful contaminants* in the air and on the surfaces of your home.”

Regardless, while these products leverage the Air Scrubber name, they are not commercial solutions or of use to a water damage, mold remediation or restoration professional.

Is it better to rent or buy an air scrubber?

It really comes down to need. If an air scrubber is only going to be used for a few days or a week, then never again, renting likely makes sense. If you are starting a renovation, water or smoke damage, or mold remediation business you want to chose from the best air scrubbers on the market. Making an investment in professional grade equipment will ensure your success and will be far cheaper over time.

How much do air scrubbers cost?

You can expect to pay $450 to $750 for a professional-grade portable air scrubber. Some models with greater levels of filtration, higher airflow and other options can cost up to $1,000, however. And, for specialized scrubbers, such as for use in a medical environment or for lead abatement work, costs start at $1,000 and go up from there.