Organic food is more expensive.
Homemade meals take more time.
Filtered water costs far more than free from the tap.
And buying stainless steel containers to avoid plastic is undoubtedly a significant upfront cost.
But, when it comes to our families, many of us are willing to sacrifice the extra time and money in the name of health. Here’s the problem. A lot of us miss the one thing that surrounds us 24/7 – the air in our homes.
And really, if our home’s air is making us sick, isn’t that diminishing the good work we’re doing in all those other areas like food, water, and environmental toxins?
Do I Need to Purify the Air in My Home?
Smoke from brushfires, windblown dust, emissions from factories and vehicles, burning fuel – sources of outdoor air pollution are well known. Most people will accept that our outdoor air isn’t as good as it could be, but our environment has natural air filters – rain and plants, among other things – that vastly improve our air quality.
But what about indoor air quality? Dirty air vents, pet dander, and hair, dust, pollution from cooking (which we do a lot of!), contaminants from the outside, plus anything that is sprayed or that is off-gassing in the house and all trapped in there in cozy little nooks. And let’s not forget bacteria and viruses. The sad truth is that even if you clean your home daily, you cannot out clean indoor air pollution.
In fact, the EPA says that indoor air can be up to 100 times more toxic than outdoor air, which is a scary thought! But think about it, indoor environments often face ventilation struggles, plus the indoor air doesn’t have the benefit of the natural filters existing outdoors.
I flipped open the Costco magazine the other day (seriously, there are still print mags in the world!) because Rachael Ray was on the cover with a new book. I want to be on her show someday, so I need to stalk her a little when I get the chance LOL!
But I got totally distracted (Squirrel brain: Did someone say there’s another tab open? Eleventy-seven tabs? 53 notifications? Are you still reading? You’re more focused than most!) by an article on air filtration called “The Air Apparent.”
I knew most of the info because I had the chance to learn from Peter Spiegel, the founder of AirDoctor, but nonetheless, I had to read it. Highlights for you:
“According to the EPA, health effects related to exposure to indoor pollutants may not show up until years later.“
Bottom Line – Cleaning up your air has to be part of your game plan to avoid respiratory illness, pulmonary problems, and cancer.
And on a personal note, now that we have at least two kids with dust allergies, and probably a third (maybe a fourth coming up here, sigh…), it’s incredibly important for me to take every precaution I can to clean the air.
How Can I Improve My Home’s Air Quality?
Air pollutants are ubiquitous, but there are several ways to help improve indoor air quality. Here are a few –
At the beginning of the school year, Leah’s sixth-grade teacher had one Post-It left on the wall for parents to help donate to the classroom.
“Green plants,” it said.
I was both apprehensive and happy to help.
Apprehensive because I knew I would have to choose the right air-filtering plant, which is a little more complicated than, say, buying Post-Its to replace the ones on the wall! But also, I was happy because I know that having green plants in the classroom improves air quality and can help bring a sense of peaceful feelings to the kids.
Indoor plants naturally recycle the air by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen for us to breathe. Choosing the right one CAN be a little tricky, but, lucky for us, NASA studied which plants are most effective at cleaning the air of toxins like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
Here is a list of the top 15 air purifying plants, along with some specific purposes that each of them can combat, and, for you science geeks, you can find the original study from 1989 here. (link opens as PDF).
Indoor plants can be grown in pots or special fabric pockets. Plants need abundant natural light to grow indoors but grow lights are a great option if natural light in your home or other indoor space is low.
Charcoal Filter Bags
Activated charcoal is a bit a favorite in the natural health community. You can find it touted as a natural teeth whitener and included as an ingredient in natural deodorants and cosmetics as well as face masks and cleansers. But it’s also known to support the natural filtering of indoor air.
A great way to harness the power of activated charcoal is to use bamboo charcoal bags. Charcoal bags can dehumidify the air, which would help combat mold and mildew. Other benefits of charcoal bags include absorbing odors, allergens, and pollution. The bags come in different sizes to meet various square footage needs. To refresh the bag, it merely needs to be placed in direct sunlight every 30 days.
Pure beeswax candles release negative ions that have the unique ability to bind to suspended allergens in the air, cleaning the air. Burning beeswax candles can reduce contaminants like dust, dander, and other allergens.
Many local artisans make pure beeswax candles, so be sure to look for them at farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and festivals. They are also readily available online or you can even make your own. Here are some instructions for DIY beeswax candles.
Getting an Air Purifier
Getting an air-purifying machine is a bit of a bigger move and a more significant investment, but an indoor air purifier has many benefits. Simply put, air purifiers can catch a lot of the toxins and impurities that other methods can’t.
Several years back, when we first moved into our new home (which was around 20 years old at the time), I noticed my husband was dealing with persistent congestion and sneezing attacks – sneezing over a hundred times in a single day! His symptoms would subside at work but then return with a vengeance on the weekends.
My husband was having a crazy reaction to the air in our house, and it made me wonder what it might be doing to my kids. Because this seemed like a potentially significant air quality issue, I decided to go straight to an air purifier.
I didn’t know for sure how an air purifier worked, or what I could expect from it. I didn’t know how big it would be (about the height of a nightstand, but only 12 inches or so thick). I wasn’t sure if I would need to do maintenance or buy filters, or what. I just knew I wanted to do something.
Air Purifier Benefits – Do they Really Work?
For the first few weeks, we only ran the air purifier in bedrooms. My son’s room was newly painted about 6-8 weeks before, and I could always still smell the paint off-gassing, particularly when the door was closed at night.
Putting the air purifier in his room had a curious effect – I thought I could smell the paint (or something) more strongly than ever. Could the machine be cleaning the air so well it ends up pulling the chemicals off the walls? That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
We took the purifier out of the bedrooms and into the dining room/kitchen area, and that did end up teaching me some lessons and opening up a lot of questions.
Because I was around the machine more often, I noticed when it ran, such as:
- When Leah and I dusted the blinds in the adjacent living room, it responded immediately.
- When I ran the Nutrimill grain mill in the kitchen, the flour dust caused the air purifier to kick in.
- When we vacuum (you can see the air purifier in the background of the photo above).
- When I turned on my electric griddle to cook pancakes.
Within a minute of plugging in that griddle, which is unfortunately nonstick, the air purifier across the room kicked on and didn’t turn back off for two full hours after I finished cooking the pancakes.
You can read all you want about Teflon and canary birds and 500 degrees F and safety and hazards and everyone conjecturing about whether it’s dangerous and how dangerous and at what temperature and when it’s a big deal and not a big deal…but until you’ve had a machine that knows when you’re dusting, knows when you’re poofing flour into the air, and knows when you’re vacuuming kick on and clean your air vehemently for two-and-a-half hours, you don’t really understand much about Teflon.
We had another impressive display of the air purifier’s benefits when we moved a mattress from the basement to my little boys’ room. The whole room smelled like basement the next day, gross!
I put the filter in there, and it immediately smelled better, although I also was able to have the window open a full day, so I wasn’t sure what had made the impact. Two days later, when I walked in, it smelled like basement again! I was concerned. But then I discovered the boys had turned off the air filter!
As soon as I turned it back on, it did its job, and the room smelled fresh again. To me, that was a definite success and quite impressive.
Fun Toy Too…
As it turns out, our air purifier is also an excellent, although expensive, toy for little boys who like to play with balloons. They have discovered that one balloon can float above the filter for days if no one touches it. 🙂
Do Air Purifiers Remove Viruses from the Air?
An air purifier can be an effective way of reducing circulating virus particles in your household air. Air purifiers use HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to mechanically force air through fine mesh to trap harmful particles – including viruses.
When using an air purifier for this purpose, it is important to be sure the unit you select is large enough for the area you are using it in. Keep in mind that while an air purifier can trap a virus particle, the particle must make it to the air purifier first. The more rapidly the purifier can exchange the air in a room, the better.
Air exchange rates are measured and reported on the packing of an air purifier. The measurement is called the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and the higher the number the better. In general, it’s best to look for a purifier with a CADR of 240 or higher.
Which Is the Best Air Purifier?
While we started with another brand that is no longer on the market, we now have 5 AirDoctor air filters – one in each of the bedrooms and one for the main floor.
The AirDoctor is very quiet – they claim up to 30% quieter than other air purifiers. I appreciate the air quality monitor, which lets you know if your air quality is good, moderate, or poor and then automatically adjusts the filtration level based on air quality.
Air purifiers that use regular HEPA filters are able to capture particles that are 0.3 Microns – the AirDoctor has an UltraHEPA filter to capture particles down to 0.003 Microns – 100 times small than regular HEPA filters.
Each AirDoctor is powerful enough to filter all the air in a 2400 square foot room once every hour. It eliminates 99.97% of particulate pollution (dust, mold, pollen, etc.) and virtually all the chemical pollution too (personal care products, air fresheners, off-gassing from paint and furniture, and more) as well as bacteria and viruses.
The CADR is 326 for smoke, 343 for dust, and 373 for pollen – so well above the guideline of 240. Plus, there’s an indicator showing when it’s time to change the filter. Now, I know this may not seem like a big benefit, but let me explain.
Sometimes I get my undies in a bunch if a new appliance or machine I’m considering needs any of my time…like cleaning or changing the Berkey filters or switching a filter on an air purifier every six months.
But, I realized there’s an efficiency to letting machines clean my air.
I have a brown thumb – no really, the brownest. My track record with keeping plants alive is dismal. And It only takes a few minutes of my time once a week to water a poor little plant, which hardly could clean any percentage of the air in our house.
So I think that a few minutes every six months to do maintenance on the AirDoctor is quite a good deal as far as time efficiency.
The ‘change filter’ indicator reminds me it needs to be done every time I see it, so I don’t have to try to remember when the filter was changed last (not gonna happen) plus that little light makes it harder to ignore.
And, unlike my indoor plants, the air filter won’t die in a month and make all my minutes worthless. #facepalm
Learn more about the Air Doctor and check on the current special here.
Because an air purifier is a larger investment, I didn’t get to test out 26 different brands as I did with the the best natural sunscreen review (you know I would if I could!). Still, I feel comfortable saying that if you are concerned with the air quality in your home the AirDoctor is a great find and one of the best!
I’m well known for honest, thorough product reviews…
…and you can always tell a real family has run these products through the gauntlet.
When I review a type of item, I try to review a LOT of different brands! From over a dozen reusable sandwich bags to over 120 natural mineral sunscreens, I’m your girl for straight-up info about natural, real foodie items you’re considering buying.
Click here to see more product reviews and you’ll also love my resources page, with REAL products that have passed my rigorous testing enough to be “regulars” in the Kimball household, plus some other comprehensive reviews. Updated at least once a year to boot the losers and add new gems!
24 thoughts on “Benefits of Air Purifiers – Why and How to Clean Your Indoor Air”
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I agree that nonstick isn’t the best for us… I’m curious, though, how the purifier responds when you fry on other types of surfaces. I was just thinking that when I make pancakes, the pancake smell tends to “hang” out in the kitchen and surrounding areas for quite a while, kwim? So fry something in cast iron and let me know how it goes. :>)
My husband and I are allergic to our home, we need a purifier bad! He is also relieved when he goes to work. Our attic is the worst because there are no windows and that’s our home office where I work-from-home with kids!
Healthier indoor air is critical – especially for those who are susceptible to respiratory ailments, colds, viruses and bacteria. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that billions of dollars are spent every year on medication to help Americans breathe better or cure their respiratory illnesses, including such ailments as asthma, hay fever and other allergies. Many times it’s the imbalance between negative and positive ions found in most indoor environments, particularly where homes are insulated to save energy or winter cold. Ionizers and ozone machines are effective and will improve indoor air quality and also remove odors. Air-ReNu a paint additive works 7/24 and you only have to apply it once. www.air-renu.com
Here’s the deal – the FTC or FDA or somebody has really weird strict rules about making health claims for non-medicine items…so Oreck says I can’t actually say that it helped my husband stop sneezing! That’s why it wasn’t in the post.
The sneezing more or less subsided before the machine arrived, but congestion was evident every morning. Post-purifier, that went away, but it could have been for any of a zillion reasons, you know? He did get a cold after we moved the machine to the main floor and was congested again, so it’s really hard to pinpoint whether the allergenic quality of the air has changed. I wish it could be black and white, but physical ailments so rarely are!
Hope that helps… 🙂 Katie
No, he does not…that went away before the air purifier arrived, although he was still congested constantly. That is also gone, but as with most health things, it’s impossible to determine the cause. We also removed some of the offensive boxes to the garage… 🙂 Katie
Yeah, did you husband stop sneezing? I had allergy-like symptoms every morning for a while there. Until we finally had the money (and had our house on the market since we thought we had to move) and replaced the carpet [I would’ve preferred hardwood, but we didn’t have the money] and all the windows that had fun condensation and a little bit of mold I kept scrubbing off.
So does he still sneeze?
I’ve been wanting to replace all my non stick cookware with SS, but just haven’t done it. This post will spur me on! Waiting to see the answers to the other reader’s questions too.
And I LOVE your research posts. Saves me all that time!
What did you cover your mattress and box springs with?? Can you explain please??
Kind of annoyed that I didn’t see that Oreck donates money to Susan G. Komen when you sign up to receive their emails until after I signed up for their email list. This definitely strikes them from my list of businesses from which to purchase products. Maybe you should mention this to them, Katie. Maybe I should, too.
Oooh, I totally didn’t look into that. BUT – did you see in the news recently that Susan G. Komen is ceasing giving to Planned Parenthood? That was my big beef with them, so I think maybe they’re back on the “ok” list? Thank you – Katie
Sorry, I didn’t mean to come across as angry if I did. This can happen when you are typing instead of talking face to face.
Actually, Komen did “defund” PP but then reversed their decision 48 hours later because of the uproar. Trust me, I got pretty entrenched in the debate when it was all going on. Ugh!
But as this is not a political blog, I will not mention it again.
I am learning so much about real food and good nutrition. Thanks for all you do!
No, you didn’t sound angry, and I absolutely stand with you on that. I forgot that I did hear they reversed…what a– there, now I’m getting angry! 🙁 Glad you’re enjoying the blog!
wow! the nonstick griddle thing really surprised me! 2 hours after it was unplugged!!! crazy. makes me glad that i don’t cook with non-stick.
my recent post: dreaming of a getaway
My son has chronic sinus infections from dust and mold allergies. My husband and I were willing to install an expensive filtration system on our furnace, but our allergist recommended a freestanding hepa air purifier. I purchased a mid-range one and have noticed an immediate improvement in the smells and the dust in our home. However, the biggest improvement was found after covering our mattresses and box springs. Were your mattresses in storage?
Good question – no, the one we sleep on was not, although my son’s was. Come to think of it, he’s had a random cough that doesn’t bother him but won’t go away since we moved in…holy cow…maybe? It’s time to look into getting him a mattress that’s not 30 years old! TU! 🙂 Katie
Look for an allergy mattress cover, too. This kind should wrap around the entire mattress and zip up. I use one due to allergies!
Thanks for this post, it’s really interesting! We do not have an air purifier and I hadn’t seriously thought about one until now. I do have a lot of houseplants, though- that might be an interesting experiment for you, to check the air purifier “color” in a room with plenty of air-purifying houseplants :).
ha, my question too – did your husband stop sneezing?
I am looking forward to the “nonstick and other cooking surfaces” series… 😉
I was just thinking about that topic today and trying to figure out what a good replacement for Teflon would be! I only have one pan like that but I’d rather not have any.
So – did your husband stop sneezing after using this?