Many homes and offices suffer from mold. Sometimes you can see mold, but it often grows out of sight and can lead to health problems. An effective way to combat mold is to remove the spores from the air using an air purifier.
There are many types of products on the market to battle mold and in this article, we will help you identify the best air purifier for mold removal from the air you breathe.
What is Mold?
Molds are a class of fungus that are covered in small hair-like structures called hyphae. Individual mold spores are too small to see with the human eye, but when viewed under a microscope, they appear as small fuzzy microorganisms.
There are thousands of different species of mold, which adapt to different environments and dispersal mechanisms, such as wind and water. Most people think of mold as the fuzzy blue, black, or green clumps growing in cool damp locations, but these are actually colonies of billions of mold spores. When these spores become airborne they are circulated around buildings allowing them to spread to new areas and contaminate the air you breathe.
Where does mold grow?
Mold requires two things to grow, water and organic matter. Mold is one of a few species that do not require any sunlight to grow and spread. This makes any damp, humid, or wet locations inside buildings prime areas for mold to grow. Showers, basements, kitchens, bathrooms, and drains are places in most homes where mold can already be found, but it can grow almost anywhere in your office, house, or even car in some places you can see and many you cannot:
- Wallpaper/Ceiling Tiles/Paneling
- Plumbing Pipes Areas
- Air filters
- Car floor mats
Additionally, mold is an important and natural element to our world and many mold spores circulate in the air outdoors. These can get into your home or office through open windows, open doors, or vents. Furthermore, you and your pets can carry mold into your home on shoes, paws, fur, and clothing.
Health Risks of Mold
It is not possible to permanently remove all mold indoors due to the ubiquitous presence of mold spores circulating in the environment, more will naturally find their way into your home. To keep mold spores in the air at acceptable levels requires a constant effort.
Any mold visible to the eye is an indicator that there is a lot of mold spores circulating in the air, which is easily inhaled resulting in a number of detrimental health effects.
Mold can cause many health issues. Most molds can trigger allergic reactions resulting in symptoms commonly associated with allergies. Some types of mold also produce toxic mycotoxins, a class of metabolite, which are known to cause serious neurological complications and even death.
Symptoms from mold include:
- Watery Eyes
- Skin Rash/Itching/Dermatitis
- Runny Nose
- Nasal Congestion
If a person is asthmatic, mold exposure can trigger an asthma attack and other symptoms like chest tightening, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Some people with weak immune systems can develop serious reactions to mold exposure, such as a persistent fever or a lung infection. Studies by major health and science organizations have shown that healthy people can develop upper respiratory tract infections after being exposed to mold within an indoor environment.
Building dampness and mold were determined to be associated with a 30% to 50% increase in a variety of respiratory and asthma-related health outcomes. Moreover, having mold in the home can have costly consequences. Of the 21.8 people that have asthma in the U.S., 4.6 million cases have reported that it was due to mold and dampness exposures. The national annual cost of asthma resulting from mold exposure in the home is approximately $3.5 billion dollars.
Methods for removing mold from air
The best way to remove mold from the air is a HEPA based air purifier. While there are some other methods out there, they are only minimally effective at best and in most cases not effective against mold.
HEPA filters, which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance, are the best way to remove mold spores circulating in the air and remove a minimum of 99.97% of particulates in the air that is 0.3µm or larger.
Most mold spores are 3-40µm making HEPA filters a very effective tool for capturing them.
Other ineffective methods for removing mold from the air
There are many types of air purifiers on the market, but not all of them are effective at removing mold. The following four methods are sometimes advertised for removing mold, but are not effective and not recommended.
1. Activated Carbon
Activated carbon filters do not intentionally remove mold from the air. Their purpose is to remove odors from the air by absorbing volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). While activated carbon air purifiers sometimes have a HEPA pre-filter, it’s usually much more cost effective to purchase a larger dedicated HEPA air purifier when trying to remove mold spores.
We do not recommend ionizers for removing mold spores from the air. They work by applying a negative charge to particles passing through which causes them to “stick” to surfaces such as the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture, etc. The negative charge is only temporary, lasting between a few seconds and a few minutes.
3. Ultra Violet (UV)
UV air purifiers are not effective against mold. While UV light can kill mold, it requires several minutes of exposure. Since the UV only shines on the mold spores for a moment, it is not effective.
Some filtration-based air purifiers advertise UV lamps in the filter to kill micro-organisms in the filter, but this is not required and unnecessarily increases the cost of the air purifier. Spending that extra money on a larger HEPA filter would be a better use in the long run!
4. Ozone Generators
While ozone is toxic to mold, it is also toxic to humans, pets, and most other living organisms. The concentration of ozone needed in a space to kill mold is so high it is only used in special circumstances by commercial companies and renders your house unoccupiable for many hours until it is dissipated to safe levels. Any in-home air purifier using ozone is simply not effective against mold.
Choosing the Best Air Purifier for Mold
The single most important factor in choosing an HEPA filter is selecting an appropriate capacity for the room it will be in. Recommendations on ACH (air changes per hour) range from 3 to 12, with 6 being a reasonable amount for the average home.
Since most people do not know the volume of air in their room, most manufactures simply list a square foot estimate for their units. These are often conservative so always go with a larger unit if you have high ceilings or are unsure of the total room size. Using an undersized unit will reduce performance, require more frequent filter changes, and generally not be as effective at removing mold spores.
Below is a selection of the best air purifiers for removing mold from the air. We will sort them by room size (in square feet). Remember it’s critical to purchase an air purifier that’s rated for the size of your space or larger.
Giant Rooms (1100 square feet)
For giant rooms up to 1,100 square feet, you can not beat the BreatheSmart HEPA from Alen. There are several sizes of the BreatheSmart HEPA available from Alen which may look very similar in the pictures. However, some are significantly different size and capacities. This one is the largest of the sizes at 21 pounds.
Alen engineered the BreatheSmart HEPA air purifier for constant use. It’s “WhisperMax” technology minimizes noise, a great feature for use in bedrooms or other quiet areas. Another awesome feature is the “SmartSensor” technology that actually senses pollutants circulating in the air and adjusts the speed accordingly. Being energy star certified and coming with a lifetime warranty you can’t go wrong here.
Large Rooms (800 square feet)
The best HEPA air purifier for large rooms is the Alen BreathSmart FIT50. This is the smaller cousin of the larger BreatheSmart HEPA for rooms up to 800 square feet in size.
Medium Rooms (500 square feet)
The Whirlpool AP51030K is a very simple to use and efficient air purifier for medium sized rooms. It is very quiet and has easy to use electronic controls. Four fan speeds, including a turbo mode, help quickly clear a room of mold spores. This unit also features a carbon filter that will help reduce odors in your space if desired.
Small Rooms (390 square feet)
The Honeywell 50250-S is great for most small rooms. It is a compact and quiet unit that circulates air in a full 360 degrees. This unit is very simple to use, with the ability to select three different speeds based on your environment and preference. Like the Whirlpool recommended above, it also comes with a carbon filter to help reduce odors.For more information, read the detailed review of the Honeywell 50250-S air purifier.