Owning a pet can create pet-specific indoor air quality issues, especially if someone in the house has a pet allergy. An air purifier can help, but it has to be the right kind for the job—pet dander, fur and unpleasant odors can all be difficult to remove from the air. We will analyze indoor pollutants related to pets and determine which air purifier is the best air purifier for pets.
Pets and indoor air quality
Cats, dogs and other pets bring a lot of joy to your home, but they also bring a host of particles that can affect your indoor air quality. The most significant is pet dander—a blend of pet fur, skin flakes and skin oils. The proteins in pet dander can trigger an allergic reaction in people with pet allergies, making this pet pollutant especially problematic.
Pet hair and fur, while not directly an allergen, can collect and trap dust and pet dander, along with being unsightly and messy. Like dander, pet hair is a particle pollutant, so an air purifier needs to be able to deal with particulate pollution to be effective against it.
If your pet has an accident in the house, that can leave behind an unpleasant smell. Cat litter boxes can also have an unpleasant odor. The best solution to these odor problems is source control, but an air purifier that can remove gaseous pollutants from the air can also help deal with pet smells.
The best air purifier for pets (and others that work)
Because of its revolutionary patented filtration technology, the best air purifier for pet dander, pet hair and pet odors is a Molekule air purifier.
Molekule air purifiers (Molekule Air, Molekule Air Mini)
- Pre-Filter and PECO-Filter in the original Molekule Air and the integrated PECO-Filter in Molekule Air Mini. The first stage pre-filter traps large particles of dust, hair and dander. In the second stage, pet allergens are destroyed by PECO technology at a molecular level. Pet odor molecules (VOCs) are also destroyed.
- Cleans the air in a 600 sq. ft. room (Molekule Air) and 250 sq. ft. (Molekule Air Mini).
- Portable, can be moved from room to room as needed.
- Auto-refills program provides convenient filter replacement.
Molekule is the best air purifier for pets because the pre-filter in the original Molekule air purifier, and the outer layer of the PECO-Filter in the Molekule Air Mini, traps larger dust particles and pet hair, while the PECO-Filter destroys microscopic allergens in pet dander. Molekule can destroy pet allergens instead of simply trapping them on a filter surface. The PECO-Filter can destroy VOCs (as verified by third-party lab data), which is what makes up odor molecules.
Alen Breathesmart 45i
- 3-stage filtration using a true HEPA filter, an antimicrobial layer and a lightweight carbon layer.
- Weighs 27 lbs.
- Clean up to 1,300 sq. ft.
While only one filter needs to be changed on this purifier, the filters cost between $99 and $139. The typical filter lifespan is 12 to 15 months, but a pet puts heavier demands on an air purifier, so a pet owner would likely need to change filters more often. On the positive side, this unit can cover a large area, so it would work well in larger homes or homes with multiple pets. The turbo setting emits “pink noise” which can be more pleasant if the unit is operated in the bedroom while you are sleeping.
IQAir HealthPro Plus 250
- Pre-filter, HyperHepa filter and V5-Cell™ Filter for VOCs.
- Cleans 1,125 sq. ft. room.
- Weighs 35 lbs.
The HyperHEPA technology claims to allow for better filtration of ultrafine particles (down to 0.003 microns), to help with smaller allergen particles found in pet hair, dander and dust. However, HyperHEPA is not regulated by any government standard, so there is no way to know for sure if it as effective as it claims. Even if it is, that level of filtration is not necessary in most homes, even with pets. The V5-Cell™ Filter contains granulated activated carbon, which will be effective for removing pet odors. However, pet owners may need to replace the pre-filter for larger particles like pet hair, and the V-5 for pet odors, more frequently. With both filters averaging $175 for replacement, filter maintenance could get expensive.
- Includes carbon pre-filter and true HEPA.
- Covers up to 1,250 sq. ft.
- MERV 17 for ultrafine particle capture.
This purifier uses a 1-inch deep carbon filter, using coconut shell charcoal treated to remove a variety of gases and odors. It also claims that the HEPA filter meets the MERV 17 standard, removing more, smaller particles than a regular true HEPA filter.
On the downside, the Oransi EJ120 lacks some key features like a timer and air quality indicator, and some users may find its price point to be too costly.
The “adequate” purifiers that are effective for pet owners, but have drawbacks
Whirlpool Pro 200
- Includes true HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter.
- Cleans up to 508 sq. ft.
- Contains an Air Quality VOCs sensor.
While a hybrid filter like this can remove both particles and VOCs, this unit covers a limited area and may struggle with the heavier pollutant load caused by pets. Some user reviews mention the VOC sensor being slow to register correct VOC levels.
Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0
- Covers up to 550 sq. ft.
- Includes 4-stage filtration: pre-filter, activated carbon, BioGS HEPA filter and a negative ion generator.
- Runs on as little as 5 watts of power.
This air purifier has one of the least expensive maintenance costs around, with only two filters that need to be changed every three years. The benefit of the low power draw is offset by the small area it can clean, and the ion generator will create ozone as a side effect, which is itself a pollutant that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system.
Winix HR 900 Ultimate Pet
Price: $203.73 on Amazon
- Includes 5-stage filtration: Ultimate Pet pre-filter, a washable pre-filter, odor control carbon filter, a true HEPA filter and Winix’s Plasmawave technology.
- Uses smart sensors to detect odor and dust pollutants.
- Cleans 300 sq. ft.
The extremely small area covered by this purifier is a major drawback. The Ultimate Pet pre-filter seems like it would be great for pet owners, but it needs to be replaced monthly, and with two other filters needing replacement, maintenance costs could soar. The Plasmawave is an ionizer, which in our opinion is not a great option.
Air purifiers we think you should avoid if you have pets
Some air purifiers are not going to be effective against the kinds of pollutants caused by pets, including allergens and dander, hair and dust and pet odors. This is why we think pet owners would do best to look at options other than the ones listed below.
Sharper Image Filterless Silent UV Air Purifier
- Uses AHPCO technology (advanced hydration photo-catalytic oxidation).
- Claims to eliminate odors through AHPCO technology alone.
- No filters, but must the AHPCO cell must be replaced every 3 years.
- Countertop size, uses less energy than a 45W bulb.
- Claims to clean the air in rooms up to 1,000 sq. ft.
Although it is small and quiet, fanless units like this one do not have a great track record when it comes to cleaning a large volume of air. It might be able to clean 1,000 sq.ft., but it will take a long time for that much air to move through a unit that does not have a fan. This technology may not be effective against large particles like dust or pet hair.
- Cleans rooms up to 3000 sq. ft.
- Ozone generator, primarily for VOCs.
- User must vacate the premises during treatment.
The Villa 3000 is an ozone generator, and while ozone can be used to remove odors and VOCs, it is only effective at high concentrations that are dangerous for any people or pets. You would have to vacate the room while this is in use and ventilate it before returning. Because you can not use it continuously while the pet is present, odors would return as soon as the pet returns to the room. Plus, this purifier has no filter media, so it would not be effective at removing dust, hair or pet dander.
Other ways to reduce pet exposure in your home
You can reduce your exposure to pet dander and hair in other ways, including regular bathing and grooming of your pet and limiting the areas of the house where your pet is present. In particular, a pet should not be allowed in the bedroom of someone who is allergic to pets. It is also advisable to regularly clean your carpets and rugs, if not getting rid of them entirely, as well as doing regular maintenance on your home’s HVAC system to reduce build-up from pet dander and other particles.
Combined with the use of a quality air purifier for pet owners, these tips can reduce the impact your pet has on your indoor air quality.