Breathe Naturally - October 31, 2023

Air Purifier Filters for Pet Owners: What to Consider


Key Takeaways:

  • Pets like dogs and cats can produce dander, hair, and other allergens that pollute indoor air quality. Using an air purifier with the right filter can help capture these allergens.
  • The most important factors pet owners should consider when choosing an air purifier filter are the filter's efficiency rating, recommended room size, and whether it can handle pet hair and dander specifically.
  • Activated carbon filters adsorb odors and VOCs from litter boxes, accidents, and grooming. Pair them with HEPA filters for the best pet air purification.
  • Pre-filters and antibacterial treatments can help extend the life of HEPA and carbon filters by capturing large particles like hair and dander first.
  • Consider the size rating for filters and choose one suitable for the largest room the purifier will be used in. Undersized filters won't perform as well.
  • Replacing filters every 6-12 months is crucial to maintaining performance. Sign up for replacement reminders if available.

The Impact of Pets on Indoor Air Quality

While beloved pets like dogs and cats provide many benefits to their owners, they can also have a negative impact on indoor air quality. Animals naturally shed dander, hair, and other allergens that can circulate through home air systems (1).

For pet owners with allergies, this can cause sneezing, wheezing, and other irritating symptoms that make sharing space with furry friends a challenge. Using an air purifier is one way pet owners can continue to enjoy their pets while minimizing the adverse effects. But not all purifiers are designed the same when it comes to handling pet allergens and odors. Choosing one with the right filter is key to cleaner air.


Filter Options for Pet Allergens

Air purifier filters capture airborne particles through a variety of mechanisms from dense woven fabrics to electrostatic charges. The most critical factors for pet owners to consider when selecting a filter are:

Efficiency Rating - This measures what percentage of particles at specific sizes are captured. For pet dander and hair, True HEPA rated filters are best able to remove the most minute particles.

Recommended Room Size -Filter capacities are matched to how much space they can effectively clean. Using too small a filter in a large room decreases performance.

Pet-Specific Design - Some filters are designed with pets in mind including antibacterial treatments and denser weaves to capture more hair. These specialized options excel at removing pet allergens but come at a higher price.


HEPA Filters - The Gold Standard for Pets

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are considered the gold standard when it comes to trapping pet dander, hair, and other allergens. True HEPA filters are defined as removing 99.97% of particles sized 0.3 microns from the air (2). For comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns wide, making pet dander and pollen approximately 10-40 microns small. So HEPA filters excel at capturing these tiny particles.

The density of the filter fabric is what gives HEPA filters their elite trapping abilities. Yet because of this density, air cannot flow through them as easily. So they require more powerful fans to push air through the purifier system. HEPA filters also generally cost more than alternatives like Ionizers. But for pet owners suffering from allergies, the investment in a HEPA filter is worthwhile to breathe easier at home.

When selecting a HEPA filter, look at the recommended room size and aim to match or exceed that with the largest space you plan to use the purifier in. Undersized HEPA filters quickly become overloaded and lose efficiency. Replacing them at least every 12 months is also key to maintaining performance as filters wear out over time.


Activated Carbon for Odors

While HEPA filters excel at removing pet dander and hair, they do little for absorbing odors like from litter boxes, accidents, and grooming. For eliminating pet smells, an activated carbon filter is recommended.

Activated carbon works through the process of adsorption. The porous surface of the carbon material attracts and traps odor molecules and chemicals rather than filtering particles like HEPA (3). This makes it effective at capturing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other pet odors furry friends inevitably produce.

Look for the amount of activated carbon measured in weight when comparing air purifiers. More carbon means greater odor removal capacity before saturation. Periodically reactivating the carbon through heating can help extend filter lifespan but eventually they will need replaced as pores fill up. For optimal pet air quality, use an air purifier that combines both HEPA and activated carbon filters.

Specialized Pet Filters

Beyond standard HEPA and carbon filters, some air purifiers offer filters specialized for pets. These may include:

  • Pre-Filters/Filters - Added as a first layer, these can help extend the life of the HEPA and carbon filters by capturing larger particles like hair and dander first. Periodic cleaning or replacing of the pre-filter keeps the main filters working at peak performance longer.
  • Antibacterial Filters - Some filters are treated with antimicrobial substances like tea tree oil to inhibit bacteria growth. This helps reduce odors from accidents or litter boxes.
  • Dense Weave - Fabric with a tighter weave improves trapping of pet fur and dander in the filter fibers. But airflow may be reduced requiring a more powerful fan.
  • Electrostatic Charge - Some synthetic filters apply an electrostatic charge to attract and pull in particles similar to the technology used in some lint rollers. This further enhances the filters ability to capture pet allergens.

While these pet-specific filters can deliver cleaner air, the trade-off is they often carry a higher price tag. Evaluate whether the upgraded performance is worth the cost for your needs.


Keeping Up with Filter Replacements

Diligent filter replacement and maintenance is crucial to ensuring an air purifier continues removing those pesky pet allergens and odors. Filter capacities will vary by model and usage level. Most last 6-12 months before needing changed. Signing up for replacement reminders from the manufacturer takes the guesswork out of when to swap dirty filters for fresh new ones.

Following the recommended filter replacement schedule is important even if the filter looks clean. Performance degrades over time as the small openings get clogged by particles or odors saturate the carbon pores. Don't let a filter overstay its welcome if wanting to enjoy the cleanest air possible.

For pet owners, air purifiers present an opportunity to clear the air of dander, hair, and odors that their furry friends naturally produce. But not all filters are specially equipped to handle these unique pet-related air pollutants. By choosing True HEPA filters matched to room size along with added activated carbon, pet owners can find welcome allergy and odor relief with the right air purifying system.

Maintaining it with timely filter changes ensures the fur and fun can continue without fans and filters slipping up on the job. With a little research, pet owners can find an air purifier up to the challenge of dog and cat life.


1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Biological Pollutants' Impact on Indoor Air Quality.

2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What is a HEPA filter?

 3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Adsorbent Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers.