What to do about an office that smells like smoke, exhaust, and stale french fries?
November 4, 2009 3:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I make the air in my office more breathable? HEPA filter, activated charcoal, or both? Brand/model recommendations?

My office is in an old building with heat that is hard to control. Year-round I'd like to be able to modulate the temperature by opening the windows, but they're one floor above an area where people stand for smoke breaks, across the street from a restaurant that emits frying smells, and right at an intersection where cars idle. The air in here isn't that great even with the windows closed, but of course it's particularly bad when I try opening them.

Specs of the office: a single room about 200 square feet, baseboard heat, window a/c unit in one window, two openable crank-style windows.

From prior questions it seems like a HEPA filtration unit (the Austin Air HealthMate was mentioned) and/or activated charcoal might help with the smell, flying road dust, and headache-inducingness of this situation. Which would help more, or can they be used together? Should I try putting filtering material over the window screens and/or an active filtering device? (The solution does not have to be aesthetically pleasing.) Product recommendations welcomed. Thanks.
posted by lakeroon to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Decorative bamboo charcoal
posted by hortense at 3:53 PM on November 4, 2009

You may also be able to use plants to filter and freshen your air. With only 200 feet you may not need many plants to make a difference.

Lifehacker: Three Plants that Give You Better Indoor Air
Treehugger: Best Air-Filtering House Plants According to NASA!

Better yet, one of the plants listed in both articles, the Snake plant, is also extremely resistant to abuse and neglect. I know this first hand by forgetting to water and fertilize mine.
posted by meowzilla at 4:45 PM on November 4, 2009

Best answer: My friends swear by Blue Air. With 200 sqft, you can def go with one of the smaller models.
posted by chalbe at 7:56 AM on November 5, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! I may try them all.
posted by lakeroon at 2:58 PM on November 5, 2009

Sorry I'm a little late to the thread, but I use a Sharper Image ion machine (Ionic breeze) to help freshen my condo that picks up lots of odors from the other people in the building or from stuff (smoke, barbecue smells, cooking odors, fabric softener) blowing in from outdoors. I have 3, actually, in varying sizes and styles. I find them to be very effective at neutralizing the odors. The only downside would be that the room can vaguely smell like ozone--but oftentimes it's rather pleasant, like after a storm. You can pick up refurbished ones at plenty of online stores like Overstock.com, or buy new at places like Office Depot. (I don't think Sharper Image is selling them anymore.) I've had super-good luck with the refurbished ones. And the best part about these machines is that they are SILENT. And there's no filters to replace; all you need to do is wipe the collection grids down every so often. (A cleaning solution with bleach cuts through the debris if plain water isn't enough.) Hope you find something that helps!
posted by LillyBird at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2009

Response by poster: I thought I'd follow up with what I ended up doing, in case later searchers are curious. I bought some Filtrete Micro Particle and Airborne Allergen Reduction Hammock Filter at a hardware store; this is a blanketlike piece of material that I cut a little bit bigger than one of my window screens and attached over the exterior of the screen. This didn't have much impact on the smell, but I do think my office is less dusty. Then I got a Febreze True Air plug-in air filter. The smell is much better! I'm sure one of the bigger machines would be better yet, but for my small room, the Febreze seems sufficient. I've had it about a month now and the filter isn't yet starting to register on the needs-replacement indicator.
posted by lakeroon at 6:21 PM on December 9, 2009

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