With pollutants such as dust, bacteria, and smoke mixing in your home, it’s no surprise that air purifiers are seen as an affordable solution to eliminating unwanted pollutants. But how well do the best air purifiers help get rid of dust, and why should you care?
You may have already extracted dirt from air purifiers because you are tired of allergy attacks. After all, indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Small particles such as dust irritate the lungs and nasal passages, says Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and immunologist, which can trigger an allergic response in some people.
By filtering offending particles in one room, air purifiers must pick up pollutants such as dust. However, before you grab your first air purifier off the shelf, we’ll investigate exactly how effective it is. More specifically, how useful are they for people with allergies to dust and dust mites?
Do air purifiers help remove dust?
Take a look at the subtleties on the packaging of any air purifier, and you’ll see quite a few promises. Some air purifier companies pledge to eliminate up to 99.995% of dust and viruses, while others boast about treating dust allergy for good. In fact, the science behind air purifiers is a bit more complicated.
While you might think that the root of the allergy problem lies in the dust itself, dust mites are the trigger. Dr. Jay Portnoy, a professor of immunology who has developed guidelines for treating dust mite allergies, explains that these tiny creatures have about the same size as most dust particles, and they feed on dead human skin in carpets, furniture and beds.
While air purifiers are effective at removing the majority of harmful air particles from a single room, they certainly don’t remove all of the particles, and certainly not those that have penetrated walls, floors, and furnishings, explains Dr. Alana Bigers, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
It is also not effective for those with dust mites because the mites live in carpets and bedding.
How do air purifiers help with dust?
This begs the question, do air purifiers help with the same dust particles? First of all, if you are going to unplug the air purifier, you will find something different inside depending on the type you purchased.
In theory, the fibers in a high-efficiency air (HEPA) filter will filter out 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So, that covers your traditional pollutants, including dust, pollen, mold and bacteria – all of which are mostly fine particles less than 2.5 microns, and the most annoying of health problems.
“While a standard air purifier typically contains a pre-filter and a HEPA filter to process these types of particulates, other air purifiers may force the air through an electrostatic filter or compress chemicals and odors by absorbing them and trapping them in a carbon filter,” Bassett says. These carbon-based filters are better equipped to deal with particulates and odors than things like dust and lint.
So, while air purifiers with HEPA filters seem to have more luck filtering dust from your home, other dust-control measures are still necessary. Without other methods of breaking down dust such as proper ventilation and stopping pollutants at their source, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that air purifiers are powerless at lowering indoor air pollution levels — including dust.
Do air purifiers help get rid of dust mites?
Nobody likes to share their home with unwanted intruders, and unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for dust mites to like your home. In fact, one survey found that dust mites were infested in 84% of households in the United States. For those with dust mite allergy, this presents a whole new scheme of problems, including sneezing and a stuffy or runny nose.
For many people, it’s the proteins in dust mite droppings that cause symptoms, not the mites themselves, according to scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Once dust mites have a fine squeak of dead skin cells, the enzymes they use to break down food come out the other end in tiny fecal pellets, which are incredibly powerful allergens, according to Portnoy.
Litter gets caught in “dust traps” such as rugs, rugs, blankets, and curtains. So instead of relying on an air purifier, scientists say the best way to get rid of dust mite droppings is to steam dry furniture and soft furnishings, vacuum carpets, and swap out your bedding for an allergen-resistant alternative.
How will you know if air purifiers help remove dust?
Once your air purifier is on, it can be hard to tell if anything is going on. After all, we can’t actually see dust particles with the human eye. You can determine how much an air purifier helps remove dust by pausing before making a purchase and noticing your symptoms. After purchasing an air purifier, do the same and compare notes.
The higher the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), the more floor area your air cleaner can cover, and the more effective it will be, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. CADR is based on air flow rate and removal efficiency. This is how much clean air your device spits out in cubic feet per minute, so it’s important to buy an air purifier the right size for the job.
Above all, personal experience may be the best indicator of effectiveness. You should notice that the cold and itchy nose that used to be bothering you are getting better. This may indicate that there are fewer dust particles, dust mite droppings, and other pollutants that cause an allergic reaction. Check out our guide to the best air purifiers for allergies if you’re looking to breathe easy.