Dust mites, pet dander, smoke — of all these can pollute air in the home and cause health problems, but there’s another, often more insidious, airborne health risk: Mold. Because you can’t smell it or see it in the air, mold can be easily overlooked, however, it’s a common cause of indoor air pollution and one of the contaminants that contribute to sick building syndrome. Of course, eliminating the source of the mold is important but since that can be difficult, cleaning the air in your home is a key step. Choosing one of the best air purifiers for mold can go a long way toward helping you breathe easier.
It is AHAM verified with CADR ratings for dust (118) pollen (125) and smoke (108). It's also Energy Star Certified and CARB compliant.View Deal
What is Mold and How Did it Get in My House?
You’ve likely seen mold growing on something in your refrigerator and that’s the same sort of thing that can grow in your home. At the most basic level, any mold is a type of fungus, but there are thousands of different kinds that can grow outdoors as well as indoors, according to Medical News Today. All molds produce spores that they release into the air in order to spread and grow. They are present everywhere and can get into your home even if there’s no mold growing there. They can simply get in through windows, doors and ventilation systems, or hitch a ride in on your pets as well as your own clothes and shoes.
Most of the time, the concentration isn’t enough to cause health problems because they can’t grow unless the spores settle somewhere that supports their needs, which are moisture and a source of nutrients, writes Medical News. Mold growing indoors is most likely to happen in the fall and winter – exactly the times of the year when we are most likely to be closed up inside. Mold spores love warmth and moisture, so the most common places for them to grow are spots in the house that are constantly damp or that were wet from a leak or flood. Window condensation can be enough moisture to encourage mold growth too.
If there’s enough mold growing, you can see it and sometimes smell its characteristic musty odor. In fact, Bob Vila says that if you can smell the odor but can’t readily see mold anywhere, it’s likely you have a hidden source. The most likely places it can be hiding include Behind the refrigerator, Behind drywall in spaces that contain plumbing lines or in areas where flooding occurred, under sinks, and under carpeting that has ever been wet.
The Basics of Mold
As already noted, there are quite literally thousands of types of mold, however, not all are harmful. Certain types are quite useful and even desirable, such as those use to make blue cheese or penicillin. On the other hand, there are some that have been shown or are suspected to release harmful substances along with their spores, such as black mold.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, if you can see mold or smell its characteristic musty smell, you need to remove it and remedy whatever in the home is causing it to grow. It’s impossible to tell what kind of mold it is by looking at it and you don’t need to spend money to have it tested: In all cases, the mold problem needs to be addressed.
In general, there are three types of mold that are of concern:
- Allergenic mold, which may not make you sick but it can aggravate allergies
- Pathogenic mold, which can cause illness in people with compromised immune systems, and
- Toxigenic mold, which is actually toxic to anyone who comes in contact with it, including animals – like your pets.
This last category is most concerning because these are the ones that release mycotoxins, the chemicals that are released by the fungus that can become airborne along with the spores. Some studies have also shown that these chemicals can hitch a ride on other particles — like dust – as they float along.
This is the big bad one that is thought to hold the most potential danger in the home. Called black mold because of its dark color, the scientific name is Stachybotrys chartarum. It’s most likely to grow on things that are made from cellulose, such as wood, paper, fiberboard and drywall, but it can be anywhere that is constantly warm, and wet. This includes inside walls and underneath carpets or flooring.
The CDC points out that Stachybotrys chartarum, as well other molds, may cause nonspecific health symptoms. This is why it doesn’t matter what kind of mold it is because all types need to be removed.
The Health Effects of Mold
According to the National Capital Poison Control Center, hundreds of different studies have been done on allergies and mold, reaching a variety of conclusions. Part of this is because it can be nearly impossible to correlate the type of mold with respiratory effects and conclusively discount other irritants like second-hand smoke or oter airborne particles.
That said, most experts will tell you that spending time in damp and moldy environments appears to increase the risk of bronchitis and respiratory infections, although this has not been conclusively proven.
Preventing Mold in your Home
The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure certainly holds true when it comes to mold. It’s generally much easier to prevent it than deal with it once it is growing in your home. Since molds of all kinds need moisture to thrive, keeping your environment dry is key, notes the CDC
- Stop any leaks as soon as possible. It’s also important to thoroughly dry out or replace any materials that got wet.
- Keep your home’s humidity at around 40 percent and not more.
- If you need to clean up mold from a hard surface, you can use soap and water, a commercial cleaning product or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup (8 ounces) of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
- Keep damp areas of the home well-ventilated, including kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
- If you have an area that is often damp, consider floor coverings other than carpet.
- If the mold growth is extensive, overwhelming or difficult to reach, call in an experienced mold-cleaning professional.
How Do I Know for Sure Airborne Mold Spores Are Present?
If you think airborne mold spores might be a problem in your home, it’s easiest to start with a simple mold test kits that you can buy online or in a home improvement store. According to Vila, make sure you get a viable mold test kit, which takes a few days in order to determine if spores are in the air. Many kits also allow you to send off the test for professionals to determine what kind of mold it is.
What Can Mold Do to my Health?
While certain toxic molds – such as black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) – contain high levels of dangerous mycotoxins, any mold that is not removed can grow and cause health problems. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explain that some people are more sensitive to molds than others and can develop allergy-like symptoms like a stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Severe reactions to high mold concentrations can include fever and shortness of breath. Anyone who has asthma or allergies or those who have suppressed immune systems can be more susceptible to mold. The CDC also cites studies that have shown healthy people can develop respiratory symptoms from mold exposure. It has also been linked to the development of asthma in some children.
Preventing Airborne Mold
As already noted, it’s impossible to keep airborne mold spores from entering your home, but there are things that you can do to prevent mold from becoming a problem. Obviously, rooting out the source of the mold and eliminating it is the most important step. Reducing humidity is another important step and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, levels below 60 percent are best. Medical News Today says that good ventilation is also an excellent preventive measure.
In the meantime, the next important measure is to filter indoor air to remove pollutants like mold spores.
Choosing the Best Air Purifier for Mold
The key element in choosing an air purifier for mold is to pick one with a true HEPA filter. HEPA – which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air — filters have a very fine glass mesh that can remove 99.97 percent of particles from the air down to a size of 0.3 microns in diameter. This generally includes mold spores, most of which range from 1-30 microns.
Look for certifications. Of course, you want an Energy Star rated device for cost and sustainability reasons, but there are other certifications you might want to explore. AHAM, which is the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, has a voluntary certification program that gives you the clean air delivery rate (CADR) of a particular purifier and provides some guidelines on the size of the room it can handle. While there are specific CADR figures for some air pollutants, like smoke, pollen and dust, there is no specific rating for mold.
Ready to go shopping? We have rounded up the best Air Purifiers for Mold for you:
The LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Allergies boasts 93 percent four- and five-star reviews. This purifier has an upgraded filtration system called the Core 300, which features three separate stages of filtration: An ultra-fine pre-filter, a Japanese-made true HEPA filter and a high-grade granular activated carbon filter. The company says that Vortexair Technology gives this purifier a stronger airflow, allowing it to clean the air faster and more efficiently. While your goal is to filter mold form the air, you don’t want it growing inside the purifier either, so an optional Mold Bacteria Filter is available with an extra antibacterial filter that kills harmful germs and prevents mold and bacteria from regrowing inside the filter.
Levoit’s purifier has is AHAM Certified with a CADR number is 230, which makes it suitable for a space up to 215 sq. ft. The HEPA filter along with the pre-filter and activated carbon filter will remove 99. 97% of fine particles as small as 0. 3 microns and large pollutants like pollen, dust, pet dander, and smoke and mold spores. It’s also compliant with California air resources board (CARB) requirements for indoor cleaning devices as well as Energy Star Verified, FCC certified, ETL listed and ozone-free.
Running this purifier at night is not an issue thanks to a “nearly voiceless” sleep mode that ranks only 24 decibels using the QuietKEAP Technology to allow for restful sleep. The display light on this model can be turned off at night and a timer can be set for 2, 4, 6, or 8 hours of run time. An indicator lets you know when it’s time to replace the filter.
- Reviewers rave about the effectiveness of this purifier in reducing allergy symptoms.
- This Levoit model comes with 90 days of Amazon support and a one-year manufacturer’s limited warranty.
- The few unhappy reviewers note issues with the filter fitting flush inside and one case of the purifier mot working at all.
- The cost of replacement filters is a concern for some buyers.
Buyers love the Alen BreatheSmart Classic Large Room Air Purifier for many reasons and the optional HEPA Silver filter specifically for mold is one of them. the company says that unit cleans 1,100 square feet every three times faster than normal on a 30 minutes cycle. It is designed for large spaces like open concept areas, living rooms, basements and apartments. The HEPA Silver filter is meant for those who are looking to eliminate dust, mold, mildew, bacteria, and/or light odors? This particular filter has four layers: a pre-filter that traps pet hair and larger particles, a second line of filtration is the Silver Filter, which traps and kills bacteria and mold spores, the third is the HEPA Pure layer for dust, dust mites, dirt, pollen and other airborne allergens, and the fourth is a carbon layer, which absorbs odors.
Designed by NASA airflow engineers, the BreatheSmart Classic is super quiet, using “advanced WhisperMax technology” that also produces a pink noise to promote better and deeper sleep. The unit has an air quality sensor to let you know when higher concentrations of indoor air pollutants are present and four fan speeds for optimal operation. The purifier includes an ionizer that is ozone-free and produces negative ions that cause particles to clump together, allowing the HEPA filter to trap them more easily.
- Happy reviewers say that this is one of the best air purifiers for mold and that it relieved many symptoms.
- The BreatheSmart offers a lifetime warranty along with Amazon’s 90 days of phone support.
- Some buyers reported receiving units that did not work, while others questioned the unit’s effectiveness in a large space.
- Warranty support was rated poorly in some cases.
With more than 13,000 reviews on Amazon, the Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier is definitely a popular choice and for good reason. More than 70 percent of those reviews call this purifier marvelous and life-changing. This particular model uses three methods to clean the air. First, a true HEPA filter clears out as much as 99.97 percent of the dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and other allergens as small as .3 microns from the air. Second, an optional UV C light helps kill airborne viruses such as influenza, staph, rhinovirus, and it uses Titanium Dioxide to reduce volatile organic compounds. A pre-filter traps pet hair, and other large particles before the air gets to the HEPA filter and a separate activated charcoal filter eliminates odors.
The Germ Guardian filters the air four times per hour at its maximum speed and is recommended for medium to large rooms of up to 167 square feet.
This purifier has three speeds, and the lowest setting is at the level of a gentle white noise, perfect for nighttime use. As with other air purifiers, the filter will need to be changed every 6 to 8 months and the UV bulb every 10 to 12 months.
It is AHAM verified with CADR ratings for dust (118) pollen (125) and smoke (108). It's also Energy Star Certified and CARB compliant.View Deal
- Happy reviewers love the effectiveness of this unit.
- The company offers a three-year limited warranty and US-based tech support.
- A number of buyers noted burnt-out circuit boards and a fire risk from the defect.
- A few reviewers noted problems with durability.
As Amazon’s Choice for an air purifier for a large room, the AeraMax 300 is effective for all the usual indoor air pollutants and also offers four-stage purification. This particular purifier is recommended for larger rooms that range from 300 to 600 square feet. In addition to the true HEPA filter, it includes Aerasafe antimicrobial treatment and a carbon filter, which altogether are said to remove 99.995 percent of airborne particles including pollen, allergens, viruses, germs, dust mites, mold spores and cigarette smoke. The built-in antimicrobial technology helps prevent odor-causing bacteria, mildew, and fungi from growing on the True HEPA filter.
Perhaps most significantly, the AeraMax is certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It includes a smart sensor that monitors air quality so it can automatically adjust the fan speed for optimal purification. The company says it uses PlasmaTRUE Technology to create an ionized field and help safely remove airborne pollutants.
- Positive reviews note how well the AeraMax cleaned the air and alleviated breathing issues.
- It is possible to turn off the ionizer for those who are concerned about the small amount of ozone produced.
- Some buyers noted a problem with noisy units.
- The limited three-year warranty only covers defective parts and workmanship.
More than 90 percent of the Amazon reviews give the Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier four or five stars. Buyers say it is very effective against allergens and removed mold spores from the air. This unit uses a True HEPA filter to capture 99.97% of airborne pollutants and an advanced odor control carbon filter to cut down on VOCs and household odors. It also includes an optional PlasmaWave technology to counteract odor, allergens, chemical vapors and other pollutants without producing harmful ozone.
This Winix model is CADR rated for 360 square feet, which makes it good for medium and large rooms, including bedrooms, nurseries and offices. It has a smart sensor to assess the air and an LED indicator displays the indoor air quality on a scale of good to poor. In Auto Mode, the unit adjusts the fan for the best filtration. A sleep mode makes the unit nearly silent for a restful night and automatically dims the indicator lights. Manual mode lets you run it continuously at your desired speed.
- Buyers love how effective this purifier is at alleviating respiratory symptoms from poor indoor air quality.
- Many noted how quietly the unit runs.
- The plasma technology can be switched off.
- Some unhappy reviewers did not feel the unit cleaned the air well.
- Customer support was reported to be disappointing in some cases.
Air Purifier for Mold FAQ
What kind of air purifier do I need for mold?
To make sure that you are removing mold spores and their toxins from the air, be sure to choose air purifier that uses a true HEPA filter. HEPA – which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air — filters have a very fine glass mesh that can remove 99.97 percent of particles from the air down to a size of 0.3 microns in diameter. This generally includes mold spores, most of which range from 1-30 microns.
Where should I put the air purifier?
The most effective location for an air purifier is the area where the mold is present, or where there is excessive dampness. Additional purifiers can be placed in bedrooms for those who want more filtration.
What size of air purifier do I need?
Each model of air purifier has a specific size of room for which it is designed. To get the most effective performance from any air purifier for mold, choose one that is at or less that the recommended square footage. It’s fine to place an air purifier designed for up to 300 square feet in a room that is only 200 square feet, but not the other way around, otherwise it will not be as effective in cleaning the air.
What certifications should an air purifier for mold have?
For electricity cost and sustainability, an Energy Star rated device is key, but there is no mold-specific certification for an air purifier. AHAM, which is the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, has a voluntary certification program that gives you the clean air delivery rate (CADR) of a particular purifier; but, while there are specific CADR figures for smoke, pollen and dust, no such rating exists for mold.
What is CADR?
CADR stands for “clean air delivery rate.” This number much of the specific particles to be removed from the air. In other words, CADR rating tells you how fast an air purifier can clean the air in room of a given size.
How long should I run the air purifier?
You can run an air purifier constantly, however you should definitely have it on while you are in the room. If the purifier is in the bedroom, you should have it on overnight while you are sleeping and most models have a nighttime setting that makes it extremely quiet or even inaudible.
How often do I need to change the filter?
Every air purifier is different and the manufacturer’s documentation will indicate how often to change the filter. Most HEPA filters will last 12 to 18 months and many of today’s air purifiers have an indicator to let you know when it’s time for a replacement. Some air purifiers have a prefilter that captures the biggest particles from the air and these must be cleaned every 30 days and replaced if worn out. Finally, some purifiers will also incorporate a carbon filter, which has to be replaced every three to six months.
Does an air purifier require any maintenance?
Other than maintaining the filters, an air purifier requires no other maintenance.
Many air purifiers will be able to help keep your home’s air healthy. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the keys to dealing with mold successfully include prevention and remediation too. Choose one that’s right for your budget and the size of the room and you’ll definitely be able to breathe easier!