Filtering Out Acetone: Air Purifier 101

Do you know what acetone is? It is a clear, flammable liquid that is often used as a solvent in many different fields.

But did you know that it's also a volatile organic compound (VOC) that can be found in your home? Yes, some household items, like nail polish remover, paint thinner, and even some cleaning products, can give off acetone.

If you have an air purifier or are thinking about getting one, it's important to know what VOCs like acetone are and how they can affect the quality of the air in your home.

In this article, I'll tell you more about acetone and explain why you should care about it.

Understanding Acetone and Air Quality

Acetone is a liquid that is flammable, has a strong smell, and is clear.

It is the simplest and smallest ketone.

It is an organic compound with the formula (CH3)2CO.

Acetone is widely used as an important organic solvent in industry, home, and laboratory due to its miscibility with water and quick evaporation in the air.

In 2010, the world made about 6.7 million tons of acetone, most of which was used as a solvent or to make methyl methacrylate (and, from that, PMMA) and bisphenol A.

Uses of Acetone

Acetone is a primary ingredient in many nail polish removers, as it breaks down nail polish, making it easy to remove with a cotton swab or cloth.

In the textile industry, it is also used to clean wool and remove gum from silk.

Acetone is frequently incorporated in solvent systems or "blends," used to make lacquers for automotive and furniture finishes.

It can also be used to make lacquer solutions less thick or viscous.

Acetone is a solvent that can dissolve or break down other materials, such as paint, varnish, or grease.

Occurrence of Acetone

Acetone occurs naturally in the environment in trees, plants, volcanic gases, and forest fires.

There are also small amounts of acetone in the body.

But acetone can hurt your eyes, nose, or skin, and if you eat it, you could get acetone poisoning.

Acetone-containing products are safe to use as long as you follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

The chemical is very flammable, so you need to avoid using things that can create sparks or flames around it.

Environmental Impact of Acetone

As waste from factories, acetone can get into surface water, and it can also seep into groundwater from landfills.

Rain and snow move it from the air into water and soil, and it moves quickly back into the air from water and soil.

It doesn't stick to the soil and it doesn't build up in animals.

Acetone is broken down by microbes or chemicals in water and soil.

Health Effects of Acetone

Acetone can hurt your eyes, nose, or skin if you get too close to it.

Consuming it can lead to acetone poisoning.

If a person is exposed to or inhales acetone fumes, it may also irritate the eyes, nose, throat, or lungs.

This can make your eyes itch, your throat hurt, you cough, get a headache, and make you feel dizzy.

Severe exposure to acetone vapor may cause damage to the nervous system, confusion, or unconsciousness.

Air Purification

Acetone can change the quality of the air, and it is important to filter it out because it can be bad for your health.

Volatile carbonyl-containing contaminants, like acetone, in indoor and cabin air are a big health risk and should be avoided as much as possible.

Acetone can be taken out of the air with filters.

People can help prevent the adverse effects of acetone by using it safely.

This means using acetone-based products in a well-ventilated space away from open flames or cigarettes, away from food or drink, and out of the reach of children.

People who work with acetone can take more precautions, such as installing or using an exhaust ventilation system in the workplace and only using as much of the product as they need.

Health Risks and Air Filters

Acetone is a clear liquid that is found in many household items, such as furniture polish, rubbing alcohol, and protective coatings for furniture and cars.

While acetone poisoning can be life-threatening, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies acetone as Generally Recognized as Safe, with a low potential for causing acute or chronic health problems.

When using products with acetone, it's important to follow the directions from the manufacturer and stay away from open flames.

Exposure to Acetone

Exposure to acetone can occur through inhalation, ingestion, skin, and/or eye contact.

Acetone can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, or lungs, which can lead to symptoms like red eyes, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or feeling dizzy.

If you breathe in too much acetone vapor, it could hurt your nervous system, make you confused, or even make you pass out.

If you breathe in a lot of acetone, it can irritate your nose, throat, eyes, and lungs, give you a sore throat, make you cough, make you dizzy, give you a headache, make you feel sick and make you throw up, speed up your heart rate, make you confused, and put you to sleep.

Acetone in the Environment and the Body

Small amounts of acetone are found in the environment and in the body.

When fat is burned for energy instead of glucose, acetone is made by the body.

People with diabetes should take their medicine as prescribed to prevent ketone spikes and regularly check their blood sugar level.

HEPA Filters and Acetone Removal

HEPA filters are designed to remove particles from the air, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as acetone.

HEPA stands for "high-efficiency particulate air filter." In theory, a HEPA filter can get rid of at least 99.97% of airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns in size.

HEPA filters work by forcing air through a fine mesh that catches particles, including VOCs, as they pass through.

But not all HEPA filters work the same way.

Some consumer-grade air cleaners contain filters or sorbent materials that can physically trap VOCs, but some products also offer chemical methods of destroying VOCs, such as photocatalytic oxidation or ionization using ultraviolet light, plasma technology, or carbon-titanium-dioxide filters.

Efficiency Test

Sentry Air Systems tested their activated carbon filter cartridge's ability to remove acetone vapors from the air flow in a Sentry Air hood.

The test was done in-house.

The results showed that the concentration of acetone vapors in the airstream was reduced by more than 99% at the hood outlet and in the ambient air and by over 98% at the operator�s breathing zone.

The Relevance of Formaldehyde in Air Purifiers

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that is commonly found in household products such as adhesives, paints, and cleaning agents.

It is also a byproduct of combustion and is present in cigarette smoke.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and in high concentrations, it can lead to respiratory problems and even cancer.

Air purifiers are designed to remove harmful pollutants from the air, including formaldehyde.

Some air purifiers use activated carbon filters to absorb formaldehyde molecules, while others use HEPA filters to capture particles that may contain formaldehyde.

It is important to choose an air purifier that is specifically designed to remove formaldehyde if it is a concern in your home or workplace.

Regular maintenance and filter replacement are also crucial to ensure the effectiveness of the air purifier in removing formaldehyde and other pollutants from the air.

For more information:

Formaldehyde: Sources, Health Effects & Air PurifiersFormaldehyde: Sources, Health Effects & Air Purifiers

Benefits and Maintenance of HEPA Filters

The Effectiveness of HEPA Filters in Removing Contaminants

HEPA filters are highly effective in removing small particles from the air, such as pet dander, pollen, smoke, and dust.

They work by catching these particles, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi that are in the air.

However, they may not be enough to remove harmful contaminants in the air that are not particles, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (VOCs).

Removing Acetone Vapors with Activated Carbon Filters

Sentry Air Systems did a study to see how well their activated carbon filter cartridge removed acetone vapors from the air in a Sentry Air hood.

The results showed that the concentration of acetone vapors in the airstream was reduced by more than 99% at the hood outlet and in the ambient air and by over 98% at the operator�s breathing zone.

This suggests that, when used with activated carbon filters, HEPA filters may be able to get rid of acetone from the air.

Replacing HEPA Filters

To ensure optimal performance in removing acetone, HEPA filters should be replaced periodically according to the manufacturer's recommendations on maintenance and replacement.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends periodic cleaning and filter replacement for all air cleaners to function properly.

Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and ISO guidelines do not say how long HEPA filters can last, though.

Leak Tests for HEPA Filters

KleanLabs, a company that specializes in cleanroom technology, says that leak tests should be done every six months in ISO zones 1 through 5 and every twelve months in ISO zones 6 through 9. If the filter fails the test, it needs to be changed. As a general rule, the company says that HEPA filters should be replaced every three years. However, clients have told them that HEPA filters can last up to eight years. But this doesn't mean that the filter has reached the end of its useful life at that point.

Other Air Pollutants and Air Purifiers

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are one of the most effective types of air filters for removing VOCs.

These filters get rid of VOCs by letting them stick to the large surface area of the activated carbon.

This process removes the VOCs from the air and traps them in the filter.

Activated carbon filters are commonly used in air purifiers and HVAC systems.

Photocatalytic Filters

A photocatalytic filter is another type of air filter that can get rid of VOCs.

The VOCs are broken down by a catalyst, like titanium dioxide, into harmless byproducts like carbon dioxide and water.

A lot of air cleaners and HVAC systems use photocatalytic filters.

Combination Filters

In addition to activated carbon and photocatalytic filters, there are also air purifiers that use a combination of filters, such as HEPA and activated carbon, to remove VOCs from the air.

HEPA filters work well at getting rid of particles in the air, and activated carbon filters work well at getting rid of VOCs.

Some air purifiers also use ionizers to remove VOCs from the air.

Effectiveness of HEPA Filters

Acetone doesn't get taken out of the air by HEPA filters.

But air cleaners may lessen the effects of some particles on your health, like dust or light spray mists, and some air cleaners can get rid of some particles that you can breathe in, like tobacco smoke particles.

People who are exposed to these particles may have health problems, such as irritated eyes and lungs or more serious problems like cancer or less lung function, that can be lessened by getting rid of the particles.

Potential Harmful Effects of Air Cleaners

Some air cleaners, like ionizing devices, can make other harmful air pollutants, like oxygenated VOCs like acetone.

Consumer-grade air cleaners that use chemical oxidation to cut down on VOC pollution in the home can also be a source of VOCs.

So, it's important to choose an air cleaner that does a good job of getting rid of harmful particles without making more of them.

Using an air purifier with a HEPA filter may not help reduce the chance of getting sick from being around acetone.

However, air cleaners may reduce the health effects from some particles, and it is important to choose an air cleaner that is effective in removing harmful particles without creating additional harmful pollutants.

Activated carbon filters, photocatalytic filters, and air purifiers that use a combination of filters are all effective options for improving indoor air quality.

HEPA Filter Maintenance and Air Quality

HEPA Filters and Air Purifiers

HEPA filters are designed to remove harmful particles from the air, including dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns or larger.

They are good at getting rid of things in the air that can cause allergies or breathing problems, like pet hair, cigarette smoke, and dust mites.

But it's important to remember that they can't get rid of all of the air pollutants in a home.

Multiple Filters for Different Pollutants

Some air cleaners are made to filter either particles or gases.

If you want to get rid of both types of pollutants, you may need to use more than one filter.

When choosing a HEPA filter, it's important to think about the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) for specific pollutants, like tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen.

The longer the filter runs, the more air it filters, which can help remove more pollutants from the air.

Effectiveness of HEPA Filters in Removing Acetone

There are a few things to think about to make sure that an air purifier with a HEPA filter is working well and getting rid of acetone from the air.

First, it's important to know that HEPA filters are made to catch particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Acetone has a molecular weight of 58.08 g/mol and a boiling point of 56.05°C, which means that it can easily evaporate into the air as a gas.

Therefore, it is possible that an air purifier with a HEPA filter may not be effective in removing acetone from the air.

Physical Tests and Activated Carbon Filters

To determine if an air purifier is working properly, a physical test can be conducted on the device.

This means checking the airflow of the device and looking at the air filters for dust, pollen, and mold.

If necessary, dirty filters should be changed.

Most importantly, check the filter service indicator light or particle sensor.

To make sure the air purifier works well, it is also important to clean it often, especially the filter.

To get rid of acetone from the air, you might need an air purifier with an activated carbon filter.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like acetone are what activated carbon filters are made to catch.

It's important to know that not all air purifiers with HEPA filters also have activated carbon filters.

Before buying an air purifier, it's important to look at its specs.

To sum up, if you want to make sure that an air purifier with a HEPA filter is working well and getting rid of acetone from the air, you should test the device physically, clean it regularly, and think about getting an air purifier with an activated carbon filter.

HEPA filters are good at getting rid of common air pollutants that can cause allergies or breathing problems.

However, they can't get rid of all air pollutants, and you may need to use more than one filter to get rid of both particles and gases in the air.


In conclusion, acetone is a common volatile organic compound that is found in many household items.

Even though it might seem harmless, being around high levels of acetone for a long time can hurt our health.

This is why it's important to do things like use an air purifier to cut down on our exposure to VOCs.

If you own an air purifier, you should make sure to maintain it and change the filters often to make sure it is removing VOCs from the air.

If you want to buy an air purifier, make sure to do your research and choose one that is made to get rid of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

In the end, it's up to each of us to take care of our own health and well-being by paying attention to the products we use and the air we breathe.

By taking small steps to reduce our exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), we can improve the quality of the air inside our homes and protect our health and the health of our loved ones.

So, the next time you reach for a bottle of nail polish remover or paint thinner, remember that VOCs like acetone can be harmful and take steps to protect yourself.

It's worth it for your health.

Links and references

  1. WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality: selected pollutants
  2. Heterogeneous oxidation of VOCs
  3. Real-Time Laboratory Measurements of VOC Emissions
  4. Toxicological Profile for Acetone

My article on the topic:

VOCs: Sources, Risks, & Air PurifiersVOCs: Sources, Risks, & Air Purifiers

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