Do Air Purifiers Help with Dust?

More than just being annoying, dust can be a serious irritant and contributor to poor air quality in your home. Read on to find out how an air purifier might help!

A pair of glasses sits on a bookshelf.

Photo by Mari Potter

Introduction

Ever sit as a child and watch the sunlight stream through the window on a bright sunny day? I would often do this and become mesmerized by the tiny particles and fibers floating in the air. My imagination would run wild, and thoughts of “Horton Hears a Who” would bounce around my young and imaginative mind! What could possibly be happening in those swirls that seemed to float and dance, sometimes attracted to each other and other times repelled like tiny magnets facing the opposite poles? My mind would transport me to a world of tiny dust battles! (Star Wars was big when I was a kid!)

To my mother, it meant something quite different! Time to dust… again! It was a never-ending battle for her — sometimes dusting twice a day. Once in the morning and then again in the evening! The struggle is real. I’m sure that you’ve been there yourself. I know I have. But in today's modern age we have some amazing tools at our disposal. And one of those tools is home air purification. So let’s dive in and see how a home air purifier can help remove dust particles and improve the overall air quality.

Let’s look at using air purification in our ongoing battle to combat dust. Some of the questions that I hope to answer are;

  • Do air purifiers help remove dust? And are they worth the investment?
  • What exactly is dust? (This section may surprise you.)
  • How do air purifiers capture dust?
  • What filtration system works best?

Do air purifiers remove dust? And are they worth it?

A man with a tissue.

Photo by Brittany Colette

The short answer is yes! While it’s relatively easy to clean up the dust bunnies that accumulate under the couch or on ceiling fan blades, it's a whole different story catching the airborne particles that are suspended in the air of our homes. Even day-to-day cleaning like running a vacuum cleaner on our floors, or when cleaning curtains can blow dust around and send it back up into the air.

The size and type (more on this next) of dust fibers determine how toxic they are, and what part of your respiratory system they will affect. The larger particulate matter is trapped in the nose and throat and may cause irritation. Smaller contaminants can pass into the lungs and become trapped there. The filter systems in today's air purifiers are specifically designed to trap the dirt that is suspended in our air. The particles are removed before they can settle out of the air and onto your furniture. An added benefit of an air purifier is that it does some of the dusting for you. We’ll get into some of the reasons that you should consider these things as another form of air pollutant in our next section.

As to the question of whether an air purifier is worth it, it is really a personal matter. For families that have small children and pets, or folks suffering from allergies and dust sensitivity the answer is definitely a resounding yes! Also, if you’re just concerned about your personal well-being or the development of asthma, I would say that investing in a quality air purification system is money well spent.

Next, we’ll look at what dust is and why you should be concerned about removing as much of it as we can from our homes. Read on!

What exactly is dust?

A dusty attic.

Photo by Mika Baumeister

Sure seems like there is a simple answer to the above question, but as you’ll soon see it’s a bit more complicated. For you see dust as we know it is composed of many elements — some that are quite harmless and others that carry significant health risks. Many indoor air pollutants are contained in simple household dust. Let’s take a look at what types of things can be possibly floating around in our home’s dust.

  • Pollen and other allergens: Most people suffer from one sort of allergy or another. Whether you’ve been tested by a doctor or just happen to get a runny nose and sneeze every year when a certain bush or tree flowers (for me it’s mulberries). Then you know what I’m talking about! A home air purification system is a great way to remove pollen and relieve these allergy symptoms.
  • Smoke: With the ever-increasing threat of wildfires each year, more and more people are suffering the adverse effect of smoke particles entering the home. These tiny particles become bound up in dust. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA), smoke in the home increasingly creates a significant health risk.
  • Bacteria: Tiny particles of bacteria, that are generally from one to five microns in size can also be carried through the air in dust particles. To give you an idea of how small this bacteria is, a normal strand of human hair is approximately 50 microns in size! That’s 10 times larger than a single bacteria! This is why an air purifier system with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is necessary; these filters are capable of trapping particles as small as 0.3 microns in size.
  • Mold spores: Molds are a natural part of the environment. In nature, mold plays its part by helping break down dead organic matter like leaves and fallen trees. But indoors, mold growth is unwanted. Molds have the potential to create health problems. Molds produce allergens, lung and nose irritants, and in some cases, toxic substances known as mycotoxins. Molds reproduce by the means of spores. These spores are invisible to the naked eye and float in both indoor and outdoor air. The allergic reaction to mold spores produces hay fever-type symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes. Mold problems in the home can be mitigated with the use of an air purifier!
  • Odors and trapped gases: In the same way that the other items on our list have made their way into household dust, so too are some odors and gases. Odors and gases can piggyback and attach themselves to microscopic particles that float in the air. They eventually settle out of the air and onto our floor's furniture. These chemicals can be removed from the home with the use of an air purification device.
  • Pet dander: It is made up of microscopic flecks of skin shed by dogs, cats, birds, and other animals with fur or feathers. And because pet dander is so lightweight, it can remain suspended in our indoor air for a long time. The main reason for eliminating pet dander is allergies.
  • Viruses: They have been at the forefront of everyone's mind over the last couple of years due to the pandemic. I feel a bit of a disclaimer should be made here. I’m not a healthcare professional or doctor. My reason for including viruses is that they can be found in dust. Please consult the manufacturer of the air purifier that you are considering with regards to their claims on virus removal.
  • Dead skin cells: They are the result of our skin's natural renewal process. As new layers of skin are made by the body, the old skin is shed or exfoliated. This dead skin can become airborne and also settle out on pillows and mattresses.
  • Dust mites: According to the American Lung Association, dust mites are very small, insect-like pests that feed on dead human skin cells. They are too small to see. They don’t bite, sting, or burrow in our bodies. However, people with allergies to dust or dust mites are having a reaction to the proteins in dust that come from the decaying bodies, urine, and feces of these microscopic creatures! They don’t tend to stay suspended in the air for a long time, but they do become airborne for brief periods of time and can be removed by a true HEPA filter.

How do air purifiers capture dust?

Now that we’ve investigated what dust is, let's take a look at how the best air purifiers can capture dust.

Six-stage filter breakdown for Rabbit Air products.

Six-stage filter breakdown. Image courtesy of Rabbit Air

The filter is the key. Most air purifiers on the market today use multiple filters to capture dust. Often, these main filters are contained in one single unit but are made up of multiple stages. Each stage performs a specific function and removes elements of household dust at each stage according to size and composition.

The other specific functions of these filters in addition to removing dust come in the form of an activated carbon filter that removes volatile organic compounds or VOCs (the most common cause of odors). These VOCs can become entrained or trapped in other elements of the dust. In addition to the main filter, some units use a pre-filter to clear out the larger particles so that the other stages are more efficient. There are also ionic filters that are charged by an ionizer built into the unit and use attraction caused by an electrical charge that attracts the dust to the filter in the same way that opposite poles of a magnet attract. Some ionic filters are contained in the main filter and are charged during the manufacturing process and placed as one of the stages in the main filter unit.

Most air purifiers also have a medical-grade true HEPA filter as one of the stages of their filter system. The HEPA portion of the filter unit is capable of trapping particles as small as 0.3 microns. This traps those tiny unseen particles such as bacteria, mold spores, and dust mites that we spoke of earlier! Some manufacturers have developed their own patented filters that use a combination of these elements of filtered air with special proprietary features. So remember, when looking for an air purifier to help with dust, pay attention to the makeup of the filter.

What filtration system works best for dust?

The Rabbit Air Minus 3

The The Rabbit Air Minus 3.

The Rabbit Air Minus 3 has a six-stage filtration system that provides four air changes per hour in rooms that are 535 square feet, and over two air changes per hour for 1,000-square-foot rooms. It also has proprietary filters that are designed for specific contaminants: Germ Defense, Odor Defense, Pet Allergy, and Toxin Absorber. But you don’t have to worry about picking any certain filter unless you have a specific need in mind. Each filter performs the full spectrum of air purification, but each specific filter has been specially designed with an emphasis on the stated specialties. And if your initial purchase was the Germ Defense filter, you can switch to a different filter to try when it’s time to replace the old one! Its clean air delivery rate (CADR) is 262 CFM, and its weight is 20.3 pounds.

Molekule Air Pro - Pollutant-Destroying Air Purifier

The Molekule Air Pro - Pollutant-Destroying Air Purifier.

Molekule Air Pro - Pollutant-Destroying Air Purifier by Molekule has a proprietary PECO filter that uses the same free radical technology used to destroy cancer cells. It is designed to break down particles at the molecular level. It has two auto-control modes that sense both particles and VOCs and automatically adjust fan speed. It protects up to 1,000 square feet of home or workspace; it is great for large rooms. It also provides real-time air quality monitoring to your smartphone with Air View. Its weight is 22.9 pounds.

Wixix AM 80

The Wixix AM 80.

The Wixix AM 80 by Winix has a four-stage true HEPA filter and provides five air changes per hour for 360-square-foot rooms. The unit can be used in rooms up to 1,740 square feet, where it will provide one air change per hour. The clean air delivery rate (CADR) is 233 CFM for dust. It has a five-speed fan setting, and also comes with an auto setting. It weighs 16 pounds.

Conclusion

As you can see, dust is more than just shiny particles that dance around in the sunlight and float around our homes. Dust can produce serious health risks and an effective way to remove dust is with an air purifier system. The conclusion is yes, air purifiers do help with dust. I encourage you to chat with an Air Purification Expert and discuss with them the needs of your family, home, or office. May the above info help you breathe easy (pun intended). Thanks for stopping by!

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Written By
As a child of the '70's I've always been interested in clean air and water! This led me down a career path heavily focused on the environment! The whole science of taking contaminated air and water and making it safe to use again has been very rewarding. I'm still an active consultant with the Mojav...

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