Resources and Support for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Environmental Illness, and Chemical Injuries in Canada

Room-style Air Cleaner: Particulates and VOCs

This is what this air cleaner looks like when complete. If I were buying a new fan to use to make this, I would definitely buy a box-style fan as shown in the materials list below because the housing or casing is metal and the square style would simply be easier to work with. I have four of this style though, and since they are offgased, I tend to try to use them as and where I can.

You'll notice I've foiled around the edges. This is because this style fan has grating there and I need to make sure no air can travel through anywhere except as is drawn through the charcoal to ensure the all the air is filtered. If openings were left there, the fan would draw the air through those holes and little would pass through the filter. This fan style has two fans and I could as easily have used both sides and made a larger filter, but I didn't have enough charcoal available to do that today.

As you can see here, this is set up to be about 30" high from the floor. This works well for most applications where you simply need to clean all of the air in the room.

In this set up the base is a steel frame from a coffee table, upended. I use this because the metal frame is inert and the height is perfect to slip over the edge of my desk to filter VOCs from paperwork or books.


2 same-height objects to rest the air cleaner on. In the demo pics here, I've used 2 pedestals that are about 3 feet high and in the other view, a metal coffee table upended. I use this on the metal coffee table when I need to sort papers or things like that and need to pull the VOCs from the paper or books away from me. The height is very good for that. You can you use almost anything as this base, but they have to be the same height so that the fan will balance on it. In a pinch I have used a metal ironing board frame that I have. I simply removed all of the padding, set this up on the board and ran it.

Metal grate/shelf.

I use a piece of ventilated wire shelving for the grate or "shelf" to sit this on. The mesh or holes between the slats allows air to move through very easily, but provides a strong enough base to support the bag of charcoal. If you buy ventilated wire shelving, be sure to get the metal type and not the type that has a vinyl covering on it as that will offgas. If you want to simply test this to see if it even works for you without having to purchase a piece of shelving, you could use an oven rack or the grate from a fridge. In the pictures here, I have three pieces of wire mesh shelving taped together with foil tape. These pieces are actually meant to form a box for storage, but this is a better use for them for me. Note that the centre piece overlaps and sits on top. With the foil tape holding it in four places, it's actually quite sturdy. I thought I'd use this shelf for this demo, just to show you can use whatever you have around that will work.


This box-style fan is available from Canadian Tire: Airworks 20-inch Box Fan: Price $31.99. Steel body with plastic grill. If purchasing this new, be sure to wash what is possible to safely wash with safe-for-you soap and water or a baking soda and water solution. There can be residual oils on the casing left from the manufacturing process, and washing will help to remove them.


I've been able to use charcoal purchased at pet stores for aquariums to filter air. This is the least expensive form of charcoal in my area that I've found. If you don't tolerate this form of charcoal, there are other types available from places like Aller Aire. Pet (or fish) stores also sell zeolite and most also carry a blend of charcoal/carbon and zeolite granules. Many are able to use zeolite as well as charcoal to filter air or to adsorb VOCS from drawers or closets, but I've found charcoal works best for me.

Hammock style filter.


This type of filter material is normally used in furnaces and you can cut it yourself to size. They are usually about 30" x 60" approximately. I normally buy the True Blue brand of this type of filter. Anything by Filtrete would work as well. Be certain that you DO NOT buy anything made of fibreglass as cutting fibreglass can release particles the right size to be dangerous to the lungs when inhaled. If you find you are reacting to the filtration material, I have washed the True Blue brand in the sink with safe-for-me soap and water and rinsed well and it helped a great deal. I've not tried this with the Filtrete brand, but expect it could also be washed.

Stapler. Just a regular office type of stapler used to staple papers together.

Kitchen scissors. To cut filter material.


Place metal shelving, grating or rack of some sort, over the edges of whatever you are going to use as the base.

Making the Charcoal Bag

To make the charcoal bag or pouch, cut 2 pieces of the filter material an inch or so larger than the opening of the fan grating on the back. It is important that the size of the bag is large enough to not allow any air to pass between it and the sides of the fan frame when the fan is laid on it. Staple it so that three sides are "seamed" with staples. Place the staples very close together so that the charcoal won't fall out. These sides could also be sewn, of course, but stapling works very well and is very quick and the metal staples are inert so don't offgas.

You can also staple the remaining side closed about half way and use the remaining opening to pour the charcoal into. How deeply you can layer the charcoal in the bag will depend on how strong the fan is. The stronger the fan, the more charcoal you can use. In this example, the layer of charcoal is almost as thick as my little finger (about 1/2").

I fill the bag while it's sitting on the frame as it's easier to figure out how much charcoal to use then. To spread the charcoal as evenly as possible in the bag, I use a wooden chop stick, but you could use anything that is long and thin, such as a knife to cut bread or a spatula. Layer the charcoal as evenly as possible, but it doesn't have to be exactly even.

When first setting this up, you'll need to play a bit with how much charcoal to use. Simply turn on the fan and make sure that air is being drawn through the fan well. If you are able to use matches or a lighter, you can light one and check the flame to see that it's being drawn through the fan from a bit of a distance away. If it isn't, remove some charcoal til you have the right amount.

Close-up of one edge of the bag stapled shut.

Finished charcoal bag on rack.

Set the fan on top and test it.

NOTE: Make sure the fan doesn't overheat! I've never had one overheat, but be sure to double-check it in case.

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