Everything an Air Purifier Can and Can’t Do

air purifier review

The kind of purifier we’re
talking about here today is called a HEPA purifier. That stands for High
Efficiency Particulate Air, or High Efficiency Particle Arrestance. They are fundamentally simple machines. They consist of a fan,
and then a dense filter, and when air is drawn through
that filter by the fan, virtually all the particles in
the air are rapidly captured.

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However, air purifiers
can’t purify everything. And so we’re just gonna go through today the things that they can
do, the things they can’t do and stuff that you can do to maybe address those other things. (jazzy music) All right. Smog, this is a yes, but. Smog is a really complex
mix of substances. Certainly it contains a lot
of soot and other particles. A HEPA filter is very,
very good at getting those out of the air. But smog also contains a lot
of volatile organic compounds, essentially, chemicals
that have been evaporated into the air, and a HEPA
purifier is not good at removing those. Essentially, those molecules are too small to be captured physically by the filter, to really make a meaningful difference. Pollen, this is a clear yes.

Pollen grains are typically
around 10 microns in size, or larger. HEPA filters easily capture
particles of that size. They are tested on
particles of 0.3 microns, so 30 times smaller. And they really have no trouble at all. The one thing is, the pollen
will settle on surfaces. If you really want to
get rid of all of it, you’ll need to mop or
dust, or ideally do both of those things. Dust, this is also a yes. Dust, like pollen, tends to be
of such a large particle size that HEPA filters are
easily able to capture it. The same caveat applies, though, dust will also settle on surfaces. If it’s there, it’s not going
through the air purifier so you’ll need to get rid of
it by mopping and dusting. Paint fumes, this is a no.

HEPA purifiers, again, are
really designed just to remove particles from the air. And when you’re talking about
volatile organic compounds, odors, those are molecules
that have evaporated into the air. They’re too small for the physical filter in a HEPA purifier to capture them. Wildfire smoke, this is a real yes, but. The answer for the smoke
particles is absolutely yes. Smoke particles fall right in the range that HEPA purifiers
remove very efficiently, and so they can do a
really, really good job of getting smoke out of your home. This said, wildfire
smoke also does contain volatile organic compounds, chemicals that are coming
from burning trees, burning wood, burning road surfaces, and HEPA purifiers are not very good at getting those out of the air. Between the choice of
having a HEPA purifier and not having one
during a wildfire smoke, it will make a huge difference
in your quality of life.

Marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke. Also yes, but. Again, smoke particles,
right in the size of particle that HEPA filters are excellent
at getting out of the air. Course, both of these things
do produce odors, VOCs, which purifiers, HEPA
purifiers are not great at. And also, the smoke gets into furniture, gets into carpets and so
any time you move around, you’re gonna be kicking up
more of those particles, and you may well breathe them in before they get into your purifier.

Ah, viruses, this is another no. Viruses are generally
too small to be captured by HEPA filters. A lot of purifiers do contain a UV bulb that’s designed anyway to kill pathogens that are in your air. We are unable to test for that, but if it’s something
you’re concerned about, it is an option. So this is our drawing of
pet odors, this is a no. Again, similar to other things, odors are basically small molecules that are floating around in your air, and they’re too small for a
HEPA filter to get rid of ’em. Pet hair and pet dander in
general, that is a yes, but, as many of these are. Any pet hair and pet dander
that’s floating around in your air, a HEPA purifier will
very easily remove that. I mean, relatively speaking,
those things are huge particles and these’ll have no
trouble at getting them out.

The thing is, a lot of pet hair and dander is simply too big to
float around in the air for very long in the first place. So again, it’s a situation
where your best bet is not an air purifier, it’s
just regularly vacuuming, mopping, sweeping. Mold, this is a yes. Mold spores are generally much larger than the 0.3 micron minimum
that HEPA filters are tested at. They are small enough
to be floating around in your air, however, and a HEPA purifier does an excellent job of removing them. If you’re thinking about
getting an air purifier, first think about the specific problem you’re trying to address. I think the main takeaway
is that you can see that yes, and yes, but really kind of dominate, but if you have a problem with
volatile organic compounds, with odors, that’s when
you need to look for a machine that can do a bit more. How many air purifiers do I use? I’ve three going in my house right now.

Earlier this year, I shut one
of them off for a few days. In fact, the next three or for days I’m just sneezing and sneezing
and really had no idea why. I’d become so used to having
purified air in my home.