When I lived in China I became accurately aware of air quality; the Air Quality Index would regularly hit 300+, and sometimes went as high as 755+ on a scale that used to have a maximum of 500. For perspective, NYC is generally below 70, and small-town Guelph is usually less than 10.

Here are pictures of the air in Beijing, all from my same window…

The air smelled like battery acid.

The best air in Beijing wasn’t in the government building or shoppings malls, it was in a tiny plant shop located in an outer suburb. The ~16m² shop had 500+ planets, including large bushes and trees, and many ferns hanging from the ceiling. These plants created a little bubble-shop of near perfect air, in a city that otherwise smelled like battery acid.

I fell in love… with plants.

And I may have been that shop’s best customer. Here is the collection I purchased:

My personal forest.

I also became more conscious of air quality and what I can do to improve the quality of air I’m breathing in. Whenever I move, which is often, my first purchase is house plants and an air filter; even before I do the Tempur-Pedic Hustle. This setup is great at home, but leaves at least one major gap in my otherwise filtered air consumption: travel. When I stay at hotels, Airbnbs or on cruises, I’m aware that the air quality is lower.

There are very few travel sized air filters, and most of them are built for cars and have an ozone or ion feature. I just wanted something to filter stuff out of the air, so I decided to build my own.

Here it is!

The following is a quick blueprint to making your own mini air filter, perfect for travel, cubicles or small apartments. The cost to build one air filter unit is about $12, and replacement filters are 10 cents each. The unit takes 5 minutes to assemble and doesn’t require any special equipment.

How to Build Your Own Mini Air Filter

Here is a gif that shows the assembly of the travel size air filter from start to finish:

And here is a two step guide to building your own…

Step 1: Order the parts! I bought the components on Amazon, and they are mostly computer parts. You need a strong fan, something to hold the filters, and the filters. I chose this 80mm fan because it is small (3.14″ x 3.14″), has good air force, and is USB powered so I can just plug it into my phone charger. I added this companion layer, which holds the filters and comes with a basic dust filter. I added air vent filters, because they help clear out pollen, dust, smoke and other pollutants. One pack of filters should last for 10+ years.

Step 2: Lay out your parts. Unscrew the metal cover from the fan. Screw on the filter container. Cut the vent filter to be same size as dust filter. Place the dust filter in the filter container so it is closest to the fan, and put the vent filter on top. Snap on filter container lid. You are done.

Version 2.0, I may add a UV light to help sanitize the air. You could make an air filter that is 75% smaller by choosing the 40mm fan and cover. I haven’t experimented with the smaller fan, but I suspect it wouldn’t have enough surface area to make a meaningful difference in air quality. You could also make a 2.25x larger air filter with a 120mm computer fan and filter, or really any size following the same principles.


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