Like you probably do I love animals but like anyone else, pet dander can be a problem – especially for those of us who have indoor pets. It seems like I’m always sneezing or feeling the symptoms of pet allergies because of the dander in the air. There are so many air purifiers out there to choose from. You may be asking that very question – which air purifier is best for pet dander?
I’ll cover some basic information you need to know about pet allergies and show you some of the best air purifiers for your money to relieve pet dander problems, along with some brief reviews to help you decide.
Pet allergies: what causes them, and what is pet dander?
In order to best understand what type of air purifier we should decide on it is best to understand what kind of problem we really need to solve. There are many misunderstandings and a lot of bad information out there about allergies – especially those caused by being around pets, as well as many items in the air around us you may have never heard of.
What is “pet dander”?
Pet dander is actually the skin flakes of pets which in turn cause an allergic reaction in humans. It is carried by the fur of pets and is also carried by the air around you. (Note: Pet dander, just like human skin cells that are shed, is what supports dust mites which are another major source of allergies! So in fact reducing pet dander helps you in more ways than you may have realized)
Another fact: Although cats are found in fewer homes than dogs they account for more allergies when compared to dogs. Also, male cats produce less allergen material than female cats. Interestingly, enough, older animals have been shown to actually produce more dander skin shedding than younger pets.
Facts & myths about pet allergies
Myth: A common belief is that when you begin feeling the symptoms of pet allergies (red or puffy/itchy eyes, sneezing, itchy feeling, and more) it’s because of pet hair around you & circulating in the air.
Truth: Pet allergies are not caused by pet hair but their skin secretions (from pet dander) as well as their saliva to a lesser extent. However, pet hair can be undesirable and somewhat irritating to a degree, too.
Dander is actually an informal name used to describe material that is shed from the body of animals, including humans, which have feathers, hair, or fur. Think of dandruff but on a more normal level.
Myth: Some breeds of pets product cause less allergies than others
Truth: Breeds with shorter fur may carry few allergens than other breeds, but the fur is not the primary cause of allergies. Short haired breeds still contribute to allergies just as much as other breeds. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat!
Why pet dander is hard to deal with – and why fans & fresh air don’t work
Pet dander is microscopic and can be moved around your home via house dust and even provides food for dust mites which feed off of skin particles leaving the bodies of human and animals. Even worse, when airborne dander can enter the open passages in your body like your nose, throat, and lungs causing allergies and in some cases more severe reactions due to the proteins found in the skin animals shed. It also builds up on various surfaces and therefore over time becomes an problem that never goes away and only increases.
Opening a window lets in fresh air from the outside and can remove some odors and bring in clean air, but the main problem with having allergens in an enclosed space is that they remain there until removed. Using an electric fan will not help an can actually aggravate your allergies and disturb existing dust and pet dander, causing more problems. Air fresheners do not actually remove odors and have no effect on contaminants in the air.
As allergens like pet dander and dust mite waste are incredibly small (microscopic), down to only a few microns in size (1 micron is 1/100,000 of a meter) they’ll simply increase and increase until you can’t stand it any more. And the dust mite population with flourish as well due to so much pet dander to consume. Because of its size it is easy to see how it’s nearly impossible to get rid of pet dander without the right solution.
A quality air purifier is the right solution – and here is kind you need to shop for
As mentioned earlier, pet dander (along with other allergy causing substances) is microscopic in size and the only true way to alleviate your allergy & uncleanliness problems is to find a product that can actually remove is.
High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are based on a standardized level of filtering quality that began in the 1950s in the United States. Filters claiming to be “true” HEPA in quality must me 2 very strict requirements:
Can remove 99.97% of particles from the air passing through them
Are able to remove elements & substances down to 0.3 microns in size
(Note that 1 micron is 1/100,000 of a meter – extremely small!)
Because of this and when implemented in well-designed, quality product they are capable of making a huge impact on your pet dander & allergy problems. The filtering process is accomplished by pulling air through the filter where these particles are trapped permanently – leaving only fresh, pure air in the surrounding air.
A true HEPA filter addresses the source of the problem – pet dander & dust carried in the air that can come in contact with your skin and enter your breathing passageways. Additionally, good purifiers typically come with 1st & 2nd stage filters consisting of a more coarse filter for trapping larger elements like pet hair & large dust as well as a carbon/charcoal filter stage for trapping chemical substances in the air like odors.
Why not an ionizer (ozone generator) purifier?
Other purifiers marketed work by generating ozone from the surrounding oxygen molecules using a principle based on high voltage generated internally. The free ozone molecules may separate and bond to nearby particles in the air, and some can become trapped on “filter plates” or a reusable filter, depending on the design.
The problem is that while they do produce some clean air and can remove some pet dander, dust, and so forth, they aren’t close to the performance of a HEPA filter-based purifier. Also even small amounts of the ozone produce may not be suitable for those with respiratory problems as they can aggravate their symptoms. Many low-quality foreign made ozone generators are marketed as “air purifiers” and “air cleaners” but in fact both unsafe levels of ozone and have little to no impact on your air quality. Some people may even experience headaches too as a consequence of being around ozone.
Suggested air purifiers for pet dander – my selection criteria
The following air purifiers have been picked based on my criteria:
No ozone production
Best sellers, Amazon’s Choice, or other awards & ratings due to popularity
Great overall ratings
Good to excellent pet dander removal performance
Quality designs & great owner satisfaction
Good features (not that budget models may be limited, as expected)
Comparing 4 excellent choices for removing pet dander
An excellent air purifier that’s one of the most feature-packed in it’s price range, the WAC9500 offers more air purifying capabilities than the competitors. And a great feature for dealing with what your pets leave behind – a washable pre-filter which traps larger particles like pet hair in the air. All in all it offers not 1, not 3, but 5 stages of purification!
The filter stages are:
Washable pre-filter (traps larger particles like hair and other debris)
True HEPA filter with 99.97% effective filtration down to 0.3 microns in size
CleanCel anti-bacterial treatment
Granular carbon filter for odor control
PlasmaWave stage which produces positive & negative ions
Unlike standard HEPA-based purifiers the Winix is one of the most competent at cleaning pet dander & odors. It’s also very well regarded, with excellent reviews from other buyers too. The PlasmaWave stage is a type of air molecule device which creates charged particles which attract and bond to viruses, bacteria, chemical vapors, and odors in the air. A filter replacement reminder is included too.
The digital display makes viewing the operational status easy and indicates your settings while in use as well as the dirtiness of the air and odor level that the sensor detects. In Auto mode the purifier increases or decreases speed automatically depending as needed depending upon detected air particle levels. Both sleep mode & and an off time with 1, 4, and 8 hour shut off timer are included, making it incredibly easy to “set and forget.” Both at bedtime and when you’re about to leave your home.
A remote control is included and allows operation of all the major features including changing the fan speed too. Even the light level of the purifier changes automatically with the light level in your home! Low & sleep speeds provide quite operation so as not to disturb you.
When first set up the unit needs a few minutes to calibrate but operation is simple and straightforward.
The remote control also stores neatly on top of the unit in a provided section of the body. Replacement HEPA filters cost a bit below $50 and on average can be replaced around once a year.
One of the highest levels of pet dander removal in its price range
Informative display with all odor & dust levels, operational mode status, and more
Works well for large rooms
Filter replacement reminder
Senses both odors and particles/dust/dander
Auto mode adjusts operational level based on air quality
3-option auto-off timer
3 fans speeds plus Turbo (high speed) mode for quick & maximum air quality on demand
Remote control included (stores in the body if desired)
PlasmaWave technology is unique to the Winix brand
Remote control batteries are included
Filter cost is somewhat higher than competitors
Heavy (around 24 lbs) – cannot be used on most shelves
Due to size (16.5 x 8.9 x 21.9 inches) not suitable for small spaces in your home
No additional color or style options
Not for smaller budgets
Heavy weight (around 24 lbs) means more suited to floor use or heavy tables
May be more than some need for smaller rooms & small pets
For those with a budget the Hamilton Beach TrueAir represents a great buy and one that is compact and well suited for desktops, shelves, and other convenient places. It’s a great choice if you have a smaller pet dander problems.
It is simple to operate, using a rotary 3-speed fan switch yet still remains very quiet during operation unlike other lower-priced purifiers on the market. Even more beneficial is that the HEPA-grade filter is permanent and can be cleaned off for reuse – no replacement filters to buy! Note that the pet-specialized carbon filter does need replacement, but a 3-pack of those costs less than $15, so it is still a very economical model.
It is also small in size, measuring only 8.5 x 13.5″ yet provides coverage of up 140 square feet, so it is suitable for small rooms & offices. Due to it smart design it can be turned on its side for use as well.
The included zeolite carbon filters are specially designed for pet odors while the HEPA filter removes pet dander from the air down to 3 microns in size (which is sufficient for all pet dander, dust mite allergens, dust, and much more).
For the best cleaning & most expedient cleaning it can be set on high speed, medium for all day cleaning, and low speed for the minimum noise possible.
HEPA filter is very effective at removing pet dander in small rooms
Main (HEPA) filter can be vacuumed and reused – low maintenance costs
Charcoal filters for pet odor are in expensive (near $15)
Can be used on its side for even more conenient locations
Simple 3-speed operation control
Limited room size coverage
No filter replacement reminder for pet odor filters
As one of the best selling products in its price range, the Levoit offer a good compromise of features vs. cost along with great performance and ease of use. Featuring a true HEPA filter it removes pet dander along with other allergens down to 0.3 microns in size, an activated carbon filter for pet odors, and a fine preliminary filter for pet dander & hair too. The LV-H132 produces no ozone with may irritate the respiratory system of those with health problems.
The electronic controls are very simple to understand and operate:
Nightlight button (features 2 levels)
Filter reminder reset button
3-level fan speed button (low,medium,high)
A built in night light provides extra convenience and helps you make the most use of it an night time, during which the quiet operation won’t keep you awake. Filters are simple to remove & replace by opening the top, pulling out the old filter, and dropping in the new one. A filter replacement is provided as well. It’s suited to small rooms around 89 square feet in size.
Buyer reviews are excellent overall and they are quite happy with the results for their money. A 2-year warranty is provided. Filters cost near $30 and are typically replaced around every 6 months.
Great performance for small rooms
Electronic controls are self-explanatory and simple to operate
Night light feature
Easy filter removal & replacement
True HEPA filter, removing down to 0.3 microns in size
Modern, good looking design fits in many places in your home
Smaller square feet coverage than some other lower priced products
No auto-off timer feature
Filters are not reuseable
Not auto-sensing for automatic fan speed based on air quality
For a few dollars less than the Winix AC9500, the Levoit actually outperforms the Winix in room size coverage and features most of the same great features. It doesn’t include a remote control, however.
Levoit air purifiers are well received, and feature great design & a modern appearance, too. The PUR131 is no different. Electronic controls are simple to use (similar to the smaller sibling, the LV-H132) and include an LCD display also for the auto-off timer function with very flexible usage – set the timer so shut off anywhere from 1 to 12 hours of operation.
An auto mode allows the unit to operate on demand as the air’s cleanliness drops and requires faster fan speed for improved cleaning right away. 3 filtration stages remove pet dander and odors with a true HEPA filter for the best possible air purification for your money. Filters are typically replaced about every 6 months and a replacement reminder will let you know when it is time. Expect to pay around $35 for a replacement, which still relatively economical when compared to the Winix WAC9500 filter replacement cost which is nearly 60% more expensive.
A quiet sleep mode ensures you’re not disturbed by noise as it provides a very low level of noise during operation. As it is only about 11.2 lbs in weight and 14.5 x 7.2 x 18.5 inches in size, the PUR131 provides more square feet coverage (322 square feet) than the WAC9500 but can be placed on many counter tops, shelves, and desks if needed. A 2 year warranty is provided.
More room coverage for the money (322 sq ft)
Auto-sensing mode can be set to adjust fan speed based on air quality demands
Sleep mode for very quiet operation
Electronic, simple controls
LCD display for auto-off timer
Auto-off feature is very flexible: set anywhere from 1 to 12 hours for “set and forget” operation
Great pet dander filtering with true HEPA filter and fine 1st stage filter; carbon filter removes pet odors
Excellent overall reviews and customer satisfaction
Lower weight and smaller size than the WAC9500 makes it suitable for use in more places
2 year warranty
Nice, modern appearance
Replacement filters are moderately priced (near $35 or so)
No remote control
Auto-sensing mode does not indicate air quality levels like the Winix WAC9500
Wrapping up – which air purifier is best for pet dander?
Based on its excellent 5-stage air purifying ability which beats nearly all the competition, the best choice for pet dander is the Winix WAC9500. It room size coverage is good at 286 sq ft, it features user stats indicators for the air quality it is cleaning, and even includes a remote control with batteries for additional convenience.
There’s not coincidence other buyers are extremely happy with it all overall and its ability to detect and adust operation by itself for both pet dander and odor is a feature I haven’t seen in other products.
If you’re looking for a great air purifier to give relief from pet dander and odors I highly recommend you check it out!
Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet True HEPA Air Cleaner with PlasmaWave Technology