What is an Air Washer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An air washer is a piece of equipment that is designed to improve air quality by scrubbing the air that moves through it and adjusting humidity levels to keep the environment consistent. Air washers are used as part of climate control and air quality systems. Numerous companies manufacture equipment designed for different applications, including machines rated for buildings of varying sizes. It is important to select the right equipment, as an underpowered device will not be able to keep up with air flow and equipment not designed for applications with high levels of particulates may fail due to overloading.

Museums may use air washers to protect their collections.
Museums may use air washers to protect their collections.

The air washer works by continuously moving a supply of air over chilled water and pushing the air out to cycle it through a room or building. Humidity is pulled out of the air as it reaches the dew point by passing over the cold water. In addition, impurities in the air such as pollen and dust precipitate out. The air exiting the machine is drier and cooler. It also contains fewer particulates, making it safer and more comfortable to breathe.

In climates where the air is extremely dry, an air washer can work to increase humidity.
In climates where the air is extremely dry, an air washer can work to increase humidity.

In climates where the air is extremely dry, an air washer can work to increase humidity. Dry air can be hard for people to breathe. It can also contribute to the development of dry skin and may damage objects kept in the environment. The air washer removes particulates from the air and adds an injection of humidity to keep the climate at a steady humidity level for increased comfort. Environments like museums and archives need precise climate control to protect their collections and an air washer can help with this.

Simply using a fan to draw air over a container of cool water can scrub the air and make an environment more pleasant. Air washers draw upon this basic concept. The design can include extra features like filters to trap harmful particulates in order to increase the purity of the air.

Like other devices that clean air, an air washer can eat up a lot energy. Some are designed to be more efficient and may have features that are intended to reduce energy usage. Constructing buildings with efficiency in mind can include reducing the load on air washers by providing prefiltering and designing the building to hold a steady temperature and humidity level on its own. It is also possible to put these devices on timers and adjust their performance specifications to cut down on energy use.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Hi -- really cool article. I wanted to pick your brain about how to choose an air washer though. I know sometimes you all do "How do I choose the best" articles, so I wondered if you had any on how to choose an air washer.

I have been wanting to get one for some time now, since I moved into my new apartment space, which seems to just generate dust spontaneously. I have terrible dust allergies, so I'm hoping that getting an air washer will help.

I've looked at several different ones, and I think that I've got it narrowed down to a Jenn air washer, a Swiss air washer, and a 2055 air washer. Which of these do you think I should get?

Also, I would like to know a little about air washer repair. If it breaks down, do I have to call a specialist or get a new one, or are they fairly easy to maintain by yourself?

I would appreciate any information you or fellow readers could give me, I'm really drowning in dust right now and want to get a washer ASAP!


Really nice article. I have been considering getting an air washer for my home, since it seems to always have that "paint" smell, but it's hard to get a handle on exactly which ones to consider only by looking at air washer reviews.

I mean, all of those are so opinion based that it's hard to really get an idea as to how they actually work or why you would really need one, so I really liked how this article spelled all that out.

Great job, guys -- I'll be sure to let you know how the air washer turns out. Here's hoping that it works!


Hi -- nicely written. I honestly think that every home and building should come with an air washer. I recently read an article that was talking about something called "new building syndrome," where people who worked in new buildings tended to get sick more often than those who did not.

Apparently it's because all of these new buildings are built with so many chemical-laden materials, and so well insulated that the chemicals can't get out, and just keep circulating over and over again throughout the building.

Well, as you can imagine, this makes everybody get sick really easily, and leads to many recurring illnesses. The same thing applies for new homes, but those are usually a little better because at least there you can open the windows.

So I think that every building should have an air washer in its design -- it's not only healthier, but it would also make the company more efficient, since it wouldn't be dealing with sick workers all the time!

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