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Do Air Purifiers Reduce Dust? A Comprehensive Guide

Dust is an everyday problem for many of us. I used to have coughing fits because of it at work due to dust blown into my work area from the ventilation system in my old job. It was terrible! I really suffered a lot. As I learned later, dust can contain a wide variety of debris, pollutants, and allergens that can be unhealthy to breathe.

Without a real solution, it won’t ever get better. One of the best things I’ve ever done is to invest in a high-quality air purifier. But what if you’re not convinced yet? Do air purifiers reduce dust? That’s a great question I’m going to answer for you.

I’ll even tell you about my personal experiences as well!

Infographic – Air purifier and dust facts

Do air purifiers reduce dust infographic

What is in dust?

Image of household dust under a microscope

A microscopic image of common household dust. It’s not made of any one element. However different dust sources may generate higher levels of some particles than others. These microscopic particulates are not just a cleanliness issue but can aggravate your respiratory system, cause allergies and sickness, and even cause cancer. Without a good means to eliminate dust, you’ll constantly breathe in more and more.

It’s helpful to understand exactly the problem you’re dealing with. Why? Because common household dust isn’t often made of large, visible elements that are easily vacuumed or swept away permanently.

Many dust particles are actually microscopic in size which means ordinary cleaning and vacuuming won’t capture them. Additionally, different dust sources can contribute toxicity and potentially other harmful effects due to chemical elements.

Sources of dust

As you might have already guessed, there are many ways dust is introduced into your home:

  • Dust mite by-products (dust mite feces and body parts)
  • Pet dander & human shed tissue/skin
  • Home construction materials
  • Carpet dust fibers
  • Fabric & clothing fibers
  • Plant materials
  • Central heating and cooling system dust blown in
  • Outdoor elements
  • Hair fibers

…and the list goes on and on. There are simply too many to list. Additionally, it can come from nearly anything that breaks down into small enough particles to be moved by air currents inside or outside.

A surprisingly large number of dust actually comes from the outdoors. Tracked-in dirt from outside is one great example of how you bring these types of particles into your home unknowingly.

Toxicity and health dangers

Image of human respiratory system
Respiratory and other health problems are increased greatly when dust is constantly inhaled. Microscopic dust particles are more easily brought into our respiratory passageway. Coughing, allergies, nose problems, and more are some the symptoms caused by the problem.

Because most Americans spend up to 90 percent or more of their day indoors, it’s easy to see why dust is a health risk. Dirty, trapped air increases in dust content over time and you’re constantly breathing it in.

As dust settles, it’s a bit less of a risk but once disturbed and airborne again you’re potentially inhaling more and more. People suffering with asthma, emphysema, and other health issues can suffer more from even a small increase in dust levels.

Man-made materials like fabric, home materials, and carpet distribute particles which break off and enter your air. Many are potentially toxic and contain chemicals like formaldehyde. In a 2016 study up to 10 household chemicals were found in it.

Some are known carcinogens (cancer causing agents) and you’re at risk for these as well.

Dust cleanliness problems

Image of dusty table being cleaned

I truly hate having to dust every so often! It’s a boring, tedious chore and just feels like time I could be spending elsewhere.

I’m sure nearly everyone knows how that feels – periodically walking in and seeing cabinets, table tops, and shelves coated with that same old dust we hate.

The thing is if it’s left untreated you can expect to continue doing this. Additionally, as long as you’re in your home, room, or where ever the problem is found, don’t expect it to stop.

I finally had enough of the dust particles that were constantly building up from fabrics and my bathroom towels. Vacuuming helps, but it definitely isn’t the easiest or most efficient way.

So I decided to try an air purifier and I’ll share my experiences below.

Do air purifiers reduce dust?

The short answer is yes, air purifiers reduce dust and help eliminate the problem.

The critical reason why is that they eliminate dust particles – both visible and microscopic – from the air. Airborne particulates pass through them and are caught permanently in filters. Larger dust elements like hair and fabric fibers get trapped in a front section called the pre-filter.

It’s important to note that I’m referring to filter-based purifiers, not ionizers or ozone generators. The reason why is that while those have a place under certain conditions, they’re not nearly as effective as a traditional (filter-based) purifier.

Note that they’re not a 100% solution – it’s impossible for them to remove all of it, like dust that has settled on surfaces. I’ll cover the other steps you should take for maximum benefit below too.

How air purifiers reduce dust

How air purifiers reduce dust diagram

Diagram showing how an air purifier circulates air and removes dust in a room. Shown here is the AC4825 air purifier, a great example of an effective product. I’m an owner and also have had great success with it keeping dust levels down where I live! 

As I mentioned above, a good purifier is the answer for reducing dust.

Purifiers do so by using internal electric fans to create a circulating air flow within a room and process the air in its filters. Dusty and dirty air is drawn in and forced through the filters, trapping dusty permanently.

Clean air exits the exhaust side of the purifier and the process continues. It typically takes a few hours with an appropriately sized purifier to clean a room. The time required varies by product and the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) rating.

HEPA and pre-filter sections

A pre-filter section contains a thin, more coarse material which is helpful for trapping larger elements like household dust particles before they reach the HEPA filter. This is especially helpful because with dealing with air quality problems like this the pre-filter will likely become dirty relatively soon.

In that case the pre-filter will prevent the HEPA filter section from becoming dirty too rapidly and will extend its life. Many purifiers sold today allow the pre-filter to be replaced separately at less cost than both.

You may be able to vacuum the dust trapped in the pre-filter section as I’ve done before.

The High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) section is made of very dense material. The HEPA standard ensures it can trap 99.7% of the unwanted particles entering it, down to 0.3 microns in size. (A micron is 1/1,000,000 of a meter).

Working together they form a highly effective way to capture dust both large and that which you can’t see.

My experiences with an air purifier and dust

GermGuardian AC4825E dust on filter image

My air purifier’s dust cleaning ability (top photo) after only a week or 2. I was amazed at how much dust it trapped! Truly wonderful, and it helps a lot to keep my place cleaner and the air healthier. Bottom photo: after it became nearly used I vacuumed the pre-filter to get more life out of it.

I bought the highly recommended GermGuardian AC4825 to try out in my own home – the results where excellent! The amount of dust it captured was more than expected.

After about 2 weeks or so I opened the rear filter cover to check it out for curiosity’s sake. I was almost shocked how much dust was on the pre-filter. How much dust had I been breathing in all this time?

Now I normally leave mine running for a least several hours per day and longer if I’m inside working all day.

My problem with needing to clean so often has been reduced and I’m much happier. You can’t go wrong with a good model in your home too.

I was so pleased with mine that I wrote an extensive review here.

Additional steps to take

Ultimately, while an air purifier is the most practical and simplest remedy it can’t work magic. Once dust settles the purifier cannot remove it. Purifiers treat airborne particles and odors.

There are several more steps I recommend to minimize dust levels in your home:

  • Use a high-quality, dense filter for your central heating & cooling system
  • Clean surfaces using a vacuum cleaner with a good bag
  • Clean you ventilation system or air vents occasionally
  • Avoid bringing dirt and materials from indoors
  • Remove older and deteriorating materials when possible

It’s crucial to buy a quality product with sufficient room size coverage in order to most effectively reduce the dust where you stay.

I’ve got several great recommendations here although I can personally vouch for the GermGuardian AC4825. See my detailed review here to learn more.

Hopefully I’ve answered your question well. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me if I can be of any help.

Your comments are welcome!

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