When thinking about air purifiers in the context of pet allergies, we mostly look at this issue from the human perspective. That is, whether air purifiers can help humans deal with pet allergies. However, the other side of the story, which is whether air purifiers can help a pet that has allergies, is also important. So in this post, I look at both sides of the story.
But before I dive into the details, briefly put, Can air purifiers help with pet allergies? In short, yes. Air purifiers can help with pet allergies. The best type of air purifier that can help with pet allergies is a True HEPA air purifier. Pet allergens range in size from 0.3 to 100 microns and are well within the range of what True HEPA air purifiers can filter out of the air.
Air purifiers can help with pet allergies but not all types of air purifiers will work. There are several types of air purifiers you need to avoid when it comes to pet allergens. To ensure you pick the correct type, in this post I start by showing you the mechanism behind pet allergies and how air purifiers fit into the whole mechanism from an allergy prevention perspective.
Thereafter I walk you through specific air purifier models I have identified work well for pet allergies. Then finally, I take you through steps you have to put in place in conjunction with using your air purifier for you to get effective allergy relief.
By the end of this read, you should know pretty much everything worth knowing about air purifiers and pet allergies.
How Do Humans Get Pet Allergies?
The first step in understanding if an air purifier can help with pet allergies is knowing how we and our pets get pet allergies in the first place. I will start with pet allergies in humans.
There are a lot of misconceptions about our allergic reactions to pets. The main one is that pet hair and dander are the main culprits. However, if you look at things scientifically, what actually causes your pet allergies is protein allergens excreted from their skin.
These protein allergens are actually harmless, however, some people have overactive immune systems that see these protein allergens as a danger and so you find their asthma gets triggered, they break into a rash, they start sneezing, or get all itchy when they are in an environment with pets or that has been exposed to pets.
The way you come in contact with the protein allergens excreted by a pet is through the skin flakes, dander, fur, feathers, saliva, and even traces of urine left behind in your living or workspace by a pet. These particles shed and excreted from your pet are left behind both on surfaces and in the air.
The solid particulates like hair and dander are so tiny and light and easily float around in your air, protein allergens in saliva and urine get into your air in the form of fumes or vapor. Then the moment you inhale any of or come into contact with any of these pollutants through a surface or through the air, they trigger your pet allergies.
The worst part of all this is that you might not even have pets at home and the allergen carrying particles actually come into your space through the air from neighbors who own pets. Furthermore, as the tiny hair, dander or skin flakes (you name it) shed by pets are so light in weight, they remain floating in the air for ages and easily travel across homes with the wind. So this is how humans get pet allergies.
How Do Our Pets Get Allergies?
As for your pet getting an allergic reaction, the story is more straightforward. Whatever pet you own, they may have an allergy to food or something that’s not airborne and also things in your air. Similar to humans, some cats, dogs, birds, and other pets actually have seasonal allergies.
They react to pollen in your air, mold spores, and certain other organic allergens. Some pets even react to protein allergens excreted by other animals just as humans do. On top of that, you will find various pets also get asthma which is triggered by the same air pollutants that trigger asthma in humans.
Besides organic pollutants, allergies in your pets can be triggered by airborne chemicals in your home from common household cleaning products, perfumes, cigarette smoke, and even dust mites among other things. Like us, pets with allergies simply have an overactive immune system and if they come into contact with any airborne allergen, then it manifests as itchy skin, teary red-eyes, sneezing, and much more.
How Does An Air Purifier Help With Pet Allergies?
Now that you understand how humans get pet allergies and also how your pet itself gets allergies we can now look into how air purifiers can help. In our look at how allergies are triggered, we found for both pets with allergies and humans reacting to pet allergens, the allergies were largely triggered by airborne allergens and thereafter allergens on surfaces.
From our knowledge of how pet allergies work we can immediately see airborne allergens is where air purifiers come to the rescue for both humans and pets. As most air purifiers are designed to clean up and get rid of bad stuff in your air, they will help deal with pet allergies caused by allergens in your air.
On the other hand air purifiers, except for ozone generators, are useless for dealing with pet allergies caused by allergens on surfaces like sofa’s tables, clothes curtains, and carpets among others. I however do not recommend the use of ozone generators because of the dangers of ozone to humans and pets, though it's a powerful cleaning agent.
Also, air purifiers can be a trial and error solution. For instance, you might find you get one and you see no change in your allergic reactions.
Many times in such cases the problem may be that you do not react to allergens transmitted through airborne pet dander and the like but you are rather only reactive when you come into contact with saliva and urine from your pet.
In this case, air purifiers are a waste of time for you. However, if you are sure it’s airborne allergens and your air purifier is not working, then either it’s not cleaning your air fast enough, your filters are worn out, or you are not using the right type of air purifier for pet allergens.
Often in some homes with pets, for an air purifier to work you will need to run multiple air purifiers at the same time and ensure you have an air purifier in every room. In a house with an HVAC system, you can look into getting a whole-house air purifier in addition to portable units around your home.
This way you ensure your home is free of airborne pet allergens rather than just a single room. The other thing is you have to run your air purifier 24/7. Fortunately, there are smart air purifiers now that can be programmed to run on your schedule.
If you can get your hands on one of these, you can then set it to run only when you are home and to switch on an hour before you are home so that you come back home to allergen-free air. You can also set your air purifier to simply decrease or increase its cleaning intensity automatically based on your schedule.
Set your air purifier on the highest speed when you are home and lowest when you are away. Other things that can determine whether an air purifier will work or not for pet allergies, include how you position your air purifier, whether you have chosen the correct size for your space, and your home cleaning routine.
All in all, air purifiers can be a great tool in dealing with pet allergies but on their own, they will not guarantee you zero pet allergies. As long as your living space is exposed to animals, and you continue to use common household chemicals there is always an opportunity for pet allergies to flare up for both you and your pet.
If you are looking to have zero pet allergies, based on all the scientific studies I have seen on air purifiers and pet allergies, the best approach is to ditch your pet. Using the same logic, if you want your pet to have zero allergies, you have to ditch the source of its allergies.
Keeping in mind that air purifiers will not completely eliminate your pet allergies but rather help reduce and minimize them, we can now take a look at the types of air purifiers that you should be aiming for, for pet allergies.
What Type Of Air Purifier Works For Pet Allergies?
Air Purifiers For Humans Suffering From Pet Allergies
There is a wider category of air pollutants that will cause allergies for your pets as compared to pet allergens that trigger pet allergies in humans. In this light, the type of air purifier you will need for the two will differ.
Of the two, you will need a more complex air purifier to deal with your pet’s allergic reaction to airborne contaminants. I will start with what type of air purifier we as humans require to reduce pet allergies.
There are many types of air purifiers out there. Personally, I have come across 17 different types. I won’t go over every single type but of the common types of air purifiers, when it comes to pet allergies don’t waste your time with ionizers, ozone generators, electrostatic precipitators, and pure activated carbon filter air purifiers. These simply won’t help.
Ozone generators will produce ozone that cleans allergens as far as on surfaces across your household but as I said before, most of the time using ozone to clean air in a home can be dangerous. Ozone is an irritant, and can trigger asthma symptoms, and cause respiratory problems with fatal consequences if not used properly.
If you are convinced about using ozone for pet allergies, rather get a professional to come and do it for you. Ionizers are also not a good idea as they do produce trace amounts of ozone but besides that, as part of their air purification process, they leave deposits of neutralized air contaminants across your home that you have to eventually clean up.
These deposits could easily be reintroduced into your air. For pet allergies, you want to go for something that cleanly sucks out solid particulates in your air and there is no better type of air purifier that does this than a HEPA air purifier.
All you really need is a good HEPA air purifier. A word of caution though is to go for HEPA air purifiers that are labeled TrueHEPA or that are proven to be better than TrueHEPA air purifiers. Stay away from anything purifier labeled HEPA-Type or HEPA-grade. These won’t be able to remove the ultrafine pet allergens in your air.
For an extra level of protection from other air contaminants like VOCs, bacteria, gases, and fumes you can get a hybrid TrueHEPA air purifier that comes with an activated carbon filter, UVGI filter, or PCO (photocatalytic oxidation) filter.
A TrueHEPA PCO combo is actually very ideal for pet allergies as the PCO part of the air purifier goes on to decompose and destroy the actual protein allergen that causes your pet allergies. The allergens are destroyed rather than just stored on your purifiers’ filters as is the case if you only have a HEPA filter.
The PCO filter therefore significantly decreases the number of allergens that are likely to get back into your air. Nonetheless, TrueHEPA air purifiers work great for pet allergies because they can easily filter particles down to 0.003 microns while pet allergens are much larger, ranging from 0.3 to 100 microns.
Air Purifiers For Pets With Allergies
Now, if you have a pet with allergies, you need an air purifier that deals with stuff like chemical fumes, VOCs and gases, while at the same time getting rid of solid air particulates like dust mites, pollen, and dander. So the ideal solution here is a hybrid activated carbon TrueHEPA air purifier.
You can also go for a hybrid PCO TrueHEPA here but it has to have activated carbon to deal with gases and chemical fumes. Now for both humans suffering from pet allergies and pets with allergies, there are certain things your air purifier must have irrespective of the type you get.
First and foremost, you have to get the correct size air purifier. Always look for an air purifier with a capacity of at least 100 to 200 square feet more than the size of your room. If your room is 300 square feet. go for an air purifier that can cover an area of 500 square feet.
Next, you need an air purifier with a high airflow or clean air delivery rate for your given room size. Air purifiers for any sort of allergy need to be able to exchange the air in a room at least 3 times per hour. Technically this is referred to as an ACH (air change per hour) of 3 ( written 3 ACH).
You also want an air purifier with smart features or that can at least indicate when you need a filter change. This is not a train smash as some really great performing air purifiers don’t have this feature but if you have this option, go for it. You will thank me later. This takes out a lot of guesswork in running your air purifier.
Other things I would look out for are air purifier noise levels if you are sensitive about noise levels in your home, and whether your air purifier has a pre-filter or not. When it comes to pets, an air purifier with a pre-filter is a must to deal with the larger hair, fur, or feather particles and also prevent saturating your core HEPA filter too fast.
Lastly, I would say if you are not under any budget constraints and also if you suffer from other poor air quality-related conditions besides pet allergies, it's worth your while to go for a combo air purifier. Go for something that deals with both gaseous and solid ultrafine air pollutants like an activated carbon TrueHEPA filter.
Which Air Purifier Models Work Best For Pet Allergies?
When it comes to specific models for dealing with pet allergies and pets with allergies, you are spoilt for choice. There are just so many options out there. Some work better than others but to give you some guidance, below are some that I know work well.
I have gone with hybrid options to kill two birds with one stone but also because I am of the philosophy that if you are getting an air purifier for your home, you might as well get one that cleans more air pollutants than you need to.
You can never have too much clean air, and the cleaner your air can be it can only be good for your wellbeing. Let's get right to it then. Here are 3 effective air purifiers for pet allergies and homes that have pets with allergies.
1. Blueair Classic 680i
Do you have a large home with multiple pets and do you need a pet allergy purifier that can cover a large room area? Then look no further than the Blueair Classic 680i. It can clean air at 5 ACH in a room size of up to 800 square feet which is more than what's recommended for pet allergy sufferers.
What's more, this air purifier has amazing smart features. It is Alexa enabled and can work with voice commands. It can also be controlled through an app developed by Blueair but I have seen far too many complaints about the app. It just does not provide a great user experience.
The 680i will automatically adjust itself based on your air conditions to maintain healthy air quality. It will also warn you when you need to replace filters and it has a timer that allows you to turn it on and off on your schedule.
This air purifier has a TrueHEPA filter and activated carbon filter. So it covers you for both gaseous and solid air pollutants. It however has its shortcomings. You have to change filters every 3 to 6 months.
I have also seen a lot of complaints about it temporarily producing toxic smells but this goes away. Another issue is that this air purifier is quite bulky and heavy.
The other challenge I have seen is that their customer care is poor. In conclusion, the 680i device is an air purifier that does get the job done in dealing with pet allergies in homes with extra-large rooms. You can check out the Blueair Classic 680i here on Amazon.
2. Honeywell HPA300
At a much lower price point, another great option for pet allergies is the Honeywell HPA300. It has a much smaller capacity but is also capable of doing 5 ACH. It can clean the air effectively in room sizes of up to 450 square feet. This is ideal for medium-sized rooms.
The HPA300 has much needed smart features such as a filter change indicator and timer to automatically shut down your air purifier. However, it's not the smartest of air purifiers when it comes to smart features.
It has TrueHEPA filters that will last you up to 12 months depending on how often you use your purifier, but if you run it 24/7 your filters should last you at least 6 months. You will find the HPA300 activated carbon filters are quite unique as they are attached to the device's pre-filters rather than placed within its core.
As far as issues go, this air purifier has its host of problems. It's been reported to produce chemical odors from some people and customer support is also quite poor. There are many other technical issues with this model, but when it works it works well.
My take would be to buy it with insurance and watchful eyes. If it gives you any hustles be prepared to return it before the return period expires. The Honeywell HPA300 is available here on Amazon.
3. GermGuardian AC5250PT
The GermGuardian AC5250PT cleans the air in room sizes of up to 167 square feet. This is an ideal air purifier for your home if your rooms are of a smaller size. It comes with a UVC light filter, TrueHEPA filter, and activated carbon filter attached to its pre-filter.
With these filters, the AC5250PT can get rid of all the pet allergy-causing particles. The problem with this air purifier though is its lack of smart features. That said anecdotal evidence from numerous user reviews shows it is quite a powerful small room air purifier for pet owners.
This air purifier’s filters will last you 6 to 9 months. The unit will give you problems if you have an unstable power supply with reports of the UVC bulb getting fried or blowing up when operating without a surge protector.
Another issue is that it's not so durable. MY take though is that I have seen much worse quality at this price point. For an entry-level pet allergy air purifier, the germ guardian is worth a try. You can find out more about the GermGuardian AC5250PT here on Amazon.
So the above air purifier models are among the first ones I would go to for pet allergies depending on my budget. Other air purifiers I suggest you give a try include the Levoit Core P350 and Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier.
Both the Levoit and Winix purifiers are great options for dealing with pet allergies in small to medium-sized rooms in your home. For pet allergies in homes where you have extra-large rooms, you can also check out the Rabbit Air Minus A2.
6 Ways To Best Use Your Air Purifier For Pet Allergy Relief
As you might have picked up reading this through this post. Air purifiers, left to run on their own, are by no means your full-proof defense against pet allergies. You have to use them together with various other measures to see good results for your allergies.
There are quite a number of things you can do in addition to your air purifier. I found quite a number but the following six measures topped my list as the most important.
1. Clean & Vacuum Your Home Regularly
If your home is rarely cleaned and you live with pets, you can not expect air purifiers to provide you with some relief from pet allergies. Cleaning your home to keep it allergen-free largely entails damp dusting, and wiping all walls and surfaces.
If you have an HVAC, you also need to ensure your ducts are clean and your HVAC filters are up to date. Additionally, you need to ensure chairs, upholstery, and floors are kept clean. To deal with allergies at this level it's advisable to use vacuum and steam cleaners.
If you are serious about keeping your floors clean, you can even look into getting a robot vacuum like the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8. Such a vacuum cleaner will ensure your floor is kept clean 24/7 while you focus on more important things in your life.
2. Use Hypoallergenic Beddings and Upholstery
As your pet’s fur or dander commonly sticks onto surfaces around your home, an approach to minimize this is to use furniture, upholstery, and clothes made of hypoallergenic materials.
How this works is that hypoallergenic materials have surfaces woven together in such a way that pet allergens and allergens of any kind fail to adhere to them.
So if your dog, cat, or ferret jump on you your hypoallergenic bedding, their fur or dander will fall right off minimizing the chances of you coming into contact with them through your beddings and subsequently your incidence of pet allergies.
Combine this approach with an air purifier, you win against allergens on surfaces you often touch and against pet allergens in your air. It's also a good idea to avoid carpeted floors, which retain fur and dander.
To limit your contact with pet allergens through surfaces in your home, consider replacing your chairs with wooden or plastic ones, your carpet with a less polluting flooring , and getting rid of any unnecessary soft furnishings.
3. Train Your Pets & Create No Pet Zones
Another way to avoid pet allergens from getting trapped in common places like carpets, bedding, sofas, and clothes is to restrict where your pets can go in your home. You can train your pets to stay off the sofas and carpets around your home.
You can also create no-go zones for pets. Pets should definitely stay away from your bed and bedroom if you have pet allergies. If pet saliva gets your allergies going, you can train your cat or dog not to lick you.
4. Bath Your Pets Well
Bathing your pets properly is very important. You should not bathe your pets too often as this will dry their skin and they will shed more. Use lukewarm water and gentle pet shampoo so you don’t dry out your pet’s skin. You can actually get shampoos that minimize your pet’s shedding and dander and this will in turn minimize the volume of pet allergens in your home.
5. Get Pet Breeds That Shed The Least Fur
If you are battling with pet allergies with your current pet or you are planning to get a new pet and you know you have pet allergies, there are some allergy friendlier pet breeds out there.
With dogs, the breeds that shed less fur include terriers, poodles, and Schnauzers among others. With cats, Siberian, Siamese, Russian Blue, and Bengal cats come highly recommended.
6. Get Allergy Shots
Finally, if either you or your pet has allergies, you can both go for allergy shots. Allergy shots are formally called immunotherapy. Usually, you start by getting shots every 2 to 4 weeks then 4 to 5 months, and eventually every 3 to 5 years.
Now the thing is allergy shots do not work for everyone. Should they not work for you, my suggestion is if you cannot do away with pets, go for a pet like a turtle, fish, or reptile. Such pets are much less likely to cause allergies.
But the thing is, some people go through all of this and they still don’t get much relief from their allergies. These are usually the people who sadly have to find another home for their furry best friend.
If you insist on keeping furry and feathery pets, then to avoid and minimize allergies, I say do everything you can to adhere to the other measures I have recommended here in addition to using a reliable air purifier.