Just like you I love animals – but 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.
Infographic – Pet allergies and pet dander facts
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 made up of skin flakes shed by pets. These in turn cause an allergic reaction in humans. It’s carried by the fur of pets and is also distributed by the air around you.
Pet dander, just like human skin cells we all shed, is what causes dust mites to thrive. This is another major source of allergies you’ll have to worry about! 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 it as dandruff but on a lesser 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!
Note: While it’s true that no animals are completely hypoallergenic (meaning they don’t cause allergies) the amount of hair they produce can vary. For example there are a number of dog breeds that don’t shed much or at all and can reduce the amount of pet hair in your home.
Why pet dander is hard to deal with
A microscopic image of pet dander and organic proteins produced by a pet which triggers allergies in humans.
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. Don’t underestimate how much difficult it is to deal with!
Opening a window lets in fresh air from the outside and can remove some odors and bring in clean air. The main problem with having allergens in an enclosed space is that they remain trapped there until removed.
Using an electric fan will not help and can actually trigger 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 they’ll simply increase and increase until you can’t stand it any more. The dust mite population with flourish as well because there’s so much pet dander for them to feed on.
A quality air purifier is what you need
As mentioned earlier, pet dander and other allergens are microscopic in size and permeate the air around you. The only true way to alleviate your allergies and keep you home clean and fresh is by removing the problem at it’s source.
HEPA filters are the answer
High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are designed to provide a standardized level of filtering quality. The standard was introduced in the 1950s in the United States. Filters claiming to be “true” HEPA in quality are proven to satisfy to 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 1/1,000,000 of a meter – incredibly small!)
HEPA filters are made of very dense material and they’re extremely efficient in removing nasty air particles. They’re so efficient that out of every 10,000 particles in the air that pass through them, only about 3 will be able to escape! The remaining particulates are permanently removed from your air forever.
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 or ozone generator purifier?
An ozone generator (shown here) can potentially produce high levels of ozone that may aggravate your breathing passages. Additionally, they don’t permanently remove particles like pet dander from the air around you. I don’t recommend them for pet dander problems. Stick with a proven and reliable filter-based product instead. You’ll be glad you did!
Other purifiers marketed work by generating ozone molecules from the surrounding oxygen molecules using a principle based on high voltage. The free molecules have an atomic charge which causes them to bond with particulates in the air.
Air purifiers sold as “ionizers” create electrical charges on air molecules to attract and trap airborne particles and kill airborne germs.
The problem is that while they do produce some clean air and can remove some pet dander, dust, and so forth, they aren’t even 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.
★ The best air purifiers for pet dander★
The best air purifiers for pet dander – reviews and recommended models
1. Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet – Powerful cleaning ability and great features!
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
- Washable pre-filter
- Filter replacement reminder
- Senses both odors and particles/dust/dander
- Sleep mode
- 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
- Auto-brightness control
- 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
If you’re looking for one of the best money can buy, this is it. Definitely head over to find out more about it at Amazon.
2. Levoit PUR131 – A great purifier and an excellent value.
For less money 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 or additional germ killing features, however.
Levoit air purifiers are well-regarded and feature great design & a modern appearance too. The PUR131 is no different. Electronic controls are simple to use (similar to its smaller sibling the LV-H132) and it includes a sharp-looking LCD display.
A lovely auto-off timer function with very flexible usage is built in: simply set the timer to 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 adjusts the fan speed automatically. 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 the replacement reminder will let you know when it’s time to check the filter. 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 that you’re not disturbed by noise as it provides a very low level of noise during operation. As it’s 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
- No remote control
- Auto-sensing mode does not indicate air quality levels like the Winix WAC9500
- No night light
- No 5-stage filtering like the Winix WAC9500
- Replacement filters aren’t the cheapes (near $35 or so)
- Warranty is shorter than some competitors
As it’s a fantastic compromise between cost, room size coverage, features, and performance it’s a purifier you can’t go wrong with. Not only that, but it's a #1 best seller with wonderful reviews!
3. GermGuardian AC5250PT with Pet Pure treatment, germ killer, and auto-timer. A great all-around pet purifier!
The GermGuardian AC5250PT is a 28″ tall more advanced version of its popular sibling the smaller AC4825. Additionally it’s easy to use and features the same great build quality that have made the company’s air purifiers an industry standard.
A 3-in-1 filter assembly includes a true HEPA filter, a pre-filter, and carbon filter to trap odors as well. The pre-filter is excellent for removing pet hair that carries allergy-causing dander as well. A Pet Pure anti-microbial agent is added to the filter for even more protection against mold, mildew, and odor-causing bacteria your pets produce.
The UV-C feature is an optional germ-killing bonus: when switched on, it safely bombards airborne microbes that pass through and render them inactive. It’s a great feature you won’t find on many competitor’s products.
The AC5250PT’s control panel is and straightfoward and features a nice status display with fan speed, UV germ killer on/off, and timer countdown. Electronic push button controls round out a nicely built and great-performing product you’ll be glad to own.
- 5-speed fan control (vs. 3 of many competitors)
- Great for pet odors and dander
- Pet Pure anti-microbial filter coating
- Electronic touch controls & status display
- 1-8 hour self-off timer
- UV-C germ killing technology
- Ozone-free operation
- 125+ CADR rating (Clean Air Delivery Rate)
- Carrying handle area on rear
- Easy filter replacement
- 193 sq. feet coverage for medium to large rooms
- Quiet fan speed operation on low settings
- Popular and proven quality – GermGuardian is a market leader
- Good value for its room coverage and features
- 5-year limited warranty
- Controls are less simple than the AC4825 and similar models
- 28″ height requires a bit more space
- Self timer is adjustable using 1-8 hours only, not minutes
- No auto-sensing fan feature
If you’re looking for relief from not just pet dander but odors too, it’s an excellent choice. Go have a look for yourself and find out why it's a great value and was awarded the Amazon's Choice label.
4. Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra – Affordable, compact, and quiet pet cleaning.
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 inexpensive (near $15)
- Can be used on its side for even more conenient locations
- Quiet operation
- Nice design
- Simple 3-speed operation control
- Limited room size coverage
- No filter replacement reminder for pet odor filters
- No sleep or auto-shut off mode
Although a lower-priced model, it’s an excellent choice. I recommend you go check out the many happy buyer reviews today.
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 in medium to larger sized rooms is the Winix WAC9500. Room size coverage is good at 286 sq. feet. The automatic cleaning feature is wonderful and the included remote control makes it even easier to use.
If you’re working with a more limited budget I highly recommend the GermGuardian AC5250PT. The GermGuardian AC family of purifiers are well-performing and are high quality. They’re also some of the best selling air purifiers available!
Have a cat? You may also be interested in my post about cat hair as well. If you’re looking for fresh air in your whole home here’s a post regarding whether or not you need air purifiers in every room.