Do Air Purifiers Help with Dust? Here's What to Know Before Adding One to Your Home

Air purifiers can help eliminate impurities like dust, pollen, and pet dander.

close up of a Dyson air purifier
Photo:

Dera Burreson

Air purifiers are helpful devices that improve home air quality. Yet, some people are skeptical about whether they really work and what exactly air purifiers filter out. If you've been thinking about putting air purifiers in your home—or just aren't sure how your existing purifiers work—here's what you need to know.

What to Know About Home Air Quality

Poor air quality can impact your health. It can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and respiratory diseases, and can even worsen chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer. Clean air positively impacts quality of life, so it's important to keep the air in your home as clean as possible.

"People spend more than 90% of their time indoors, and indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air," says Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). One of the main factors contributing to poor indoor air quality is dust. "Dust in your home is mostly made up of human debris (skin cells, hair, and "other"),” says Mendez. He says indoor air irritants typically come from dirt, pollen, animal dander, mold spores, microplastics, and fibers.

Seemingly innocuous films of settled dust can become airborne during cleaning or after a gust of window enters a room. But dust, dust mites, and their droppings can quickly end up on your clothes or in your lungs. An air purifier can help remove dust from your home and avoid dust-related irritation.

What Are Air Purifiers?

Air purifiers are devices designed to clean and sanitize the air in your home. They remove impurities in the air, including dust, smoke, odors, and other air pollutants. "Air purifiers (also called air cleaners) are designed to remove small particles from the air we breathe indoors," Mendez says.

How Do Air Purifiers Work?

Most air purifiers sanitize the air by pulling indoor air through a filter. The filter then traps dust and other airborne particles before releasing clean air back into the room. Filters are usually made of fiberglass, paper, mesh, carbon, foam, or aluminum.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove 99.9% of airborne particles measuring as small as 0.3 microns. "These particles can irritate the lungs or trigger asthma or allergies when inhaled," Mendez says.

However, some air purifiers release harmful levels of ozone. "Ozone can cause irritation and inflammation of the airways in healthy people, and it can cause more serious effects in people with asthma," warns Dr. John McKeon, CEO and founder of Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) of the Asthma & Allergy Friendly® Certification Program. "Ozone is also an air pollutant that can harm people with asthma," he says.

Do Air Purifiers Remove Dust?

The answer is yes. By filtering particles, air purifiers remove pollutants, allergens, and other toxins from the air. However, how effective they are in eliminating dust will depend on the specific features of the device. For people with asthma and other respiratory problems, consider air purifiers with an ASL and AAFA certification for the best results.

McKeon says you should place an air purifier in the room where you spend the majority of your time. For example, dust and other allergy triggers are common in bedrooms. But anywhere that street-traffic pollutants or external allergens enter is ideal.

What Are the Benefits of Air Purifiers?

Using an air purifier to remove dust can significantly reduce the concentration of tiny particulate pollutants, allergens, and toxins. Improved air quality features several benefits, including:

  • Minimizes symptoms for people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Improves sleep quality

Important Factors for Dust Elimination

Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR): CADR refers to the volume of particles an air purifier can filter in a set time. The bigger the room, the higher this rate should be.

Size: Look for models that will work for your room size. Always choose models designed for larger areas than you have, so you can operate them in a lower, quiet setting.

Filters: Some purifiers' filtration systems feature odor filters, HEPA filters, vital ionizers, and washable prefilters. Ensure that the purifier you choose has filters to cater to your needs. Also, consider how frequently you must change the filters, as that affects the overall operational cost. Reusable or washable filters help keep costs low.

Fan speed: Some purifiers come with fans that adjust according to the air quality. Others lower the speed at night, so it doesn't disturb sleep.

Certification: Lookout for certifications, like from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). AHAM standards ensure home care appliance safety, efficiency, and performance. An ASL and AAFA certification on an air purifier means that:

  • It can reduce the level of allergens in the air
  • It does not reintroduce allergens back into the air
  • It limits ozone emissions

More Ways to Get Rid of Dust in Your Home

The best way is to identify the source of the dust and address it. Also, ensure that your home has adequate ventilation. Other steps you can take include:

  • Vacuum regularly
  • Clean your curtains regularly
  • Swap fabrics for leather or vinyl, which can easily be washed or wiped
  • Wash bedding in hot water, to kill any dust mites
  • Lower the indoor humidity
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