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Pet Air Purifiers vs. Pet Air Filters: What’s the Difference?

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If you struggle with dog hair, cat hair, pet odor, or pet dander in the home, you aren’t alone. According to market research, US sales of pet cleanup and odor control products exceeded $5 billion in 2021. And allergy sufferers may spend even more to rid their homes of allergens produced by pets. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that Americans spend around $10 billion every year on asthma and allergy relief.

Yet, no matter how hard you sweep, scrub, spray, wipe, vacuum, and deodorize, fighting pet pollutants can seem like a never-ending battle. Even cleaning your home from top to bottom may still leave unwanted smells and invisible irritants in the air.

This is where pet air purifiers and pet air filters can offer a distinct advantage over traditional cleaning and deodorizing solutions. If you’re wondering how they work, what they offer, which ones are the best, and why…keep reading.

We’ll break down everything you need to know about how air purifiers and air filters can improve the air quality in your pet-loving home, so you can live better and breathe easier.

What are Pet Air Purifiers and Pet Air Filters?

Before we dive in to share the best air cleaning solutions to combat pet odors and pollutants in your home, let’s start with some basics.

Air purifiers are stand-alone machines made to remove airborne particles like dust, smoke, and pollen from the air in homes and office buildings. They are available in a variety of models with various features, functions, and methods of air purification. They tend to work best for cleaning the air in a specific room or space.

Air filters are basically screens made out of materials that remove impurities from the air that passes through them. There are air filters made for air purifiers, as well as air filters made for HVAC systems. No matter what kind of air filter you use, you must replace it or (in some cases) wash it regularly when it becomes too dirty or “full” to clean the air effectively.

While most air purifiers and air filters are designed to target a wide range of airborne pollutants and hazards, some are more effective than others when it comes to fighting pet-specific concerns, like pet odors, pet hair, and pet dander. Here’s what to look for.

Pet Air Purifiers

Most air purifiers are capable of removing larger particulate from the air. So even a standard air purifier is likely to make a noticeable difference in a household with pets by removing dust, pollen, and even dander.

However, an increasing number of air purifiers are being designed to target harder-to-fight pet pollutants, like microscopic particles and gasses that cause pet odors to linger, no matter how thoroughly you clean.

These models often employ high-performance filters, special odor-neutralizing materials, or features like UV lights designed to kill bacteria.

If you’re considering adding a pet air purifier to a room in your home, here are some things to keep in mind.  

Size: Consider how much space you want the air purifier to cover. Are your pets actually spending a large amount of time in the specific room daily? Household air purifiers generally cover between 150 square feet and 1,000 square feet or more. 

Price Point: Consider your budget and what you can afford. A super high-end air purifier can cost a few thousand dollars. Most high-performing, in-home pet air purifiers range between $150 and $800 on average. 

Noise Factor: If your pet is sensitive or nervous around new or unfamiliar sounds, it matters how loud the air purifier gets when working. Read reviews, check out our recommendations below, and look for an air purifier with a lower decibel level, such as “whisper quiet” or ‘white noise’ level. 

Pet Air Filters

Much like air purifiers, air filter technology is evolving. And some newer air filters, like Colorfil pet air filters, are designed to help rid your entire home of pet smells, allergens, and even pet hair…without you having to lift a finger!

Whether you’re shopping for an air filter for the air purifier near your cat’s litter box or an HVAC air filter to improve the air throughout your whole home, here are some important terms to understand.

MERV Rating: As you compare air filters, you’ll see the term “MERV rating” used a lot. MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting values,” and it’s based on testing developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to measure filter efficacy.

A MERV rating indicates, on a scale of 1 to 16, a filter’s ability to capture larger particles such as those between 0.3 and 10 microns, according to the EPA. The higher the MERV score, the more effective a filter is a screening even super-small particles.

HEPA filters: HEPA stands for high-efficiency air filter. You won’t find a MERV rating on HEPA filters because they exceed the ASHRAE testing standards. They are designed to target minuscule particles like mold, dander, and bacteria. However, this also means that larger particles may be more likely to clog a HEPA filter. Some manufacturers recommend pairing a pre-filter with a HEPA filter, which filters out the larger particles before they have a chance to hit the HEPA filter.

HEPA filters are often washable, re-usable, and may contain multiple layers — e.g., a charcoal layer designed to absorb volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like the ammonia fumes from a cat’s litter box. 

Electronic Air Filters: As the name implies, electronic air filters are electrically charged to reduce airborne pollen and other contaminants from your air. A layer of “charged” filter media is used to help the filter perform. Electrostatic air filters are generally washable and can save you money in the long run.

Benefits of Air Filters and Air Purifiers for Pets

So exactly what can you expect from a pet air filter or pet air purifier? While neither can take the place of regular cleaning when it comes to dealing with muddy paw prints or spilled litter, here are three areas where the right air filter or air purifier can be a lifesaver for pet parents. 

Pet Odor Removal 

Some pet odor solutions simply cover up stinky pet smells. And even powerful cleaning products may not get to the source of pet odors embedded into your carpet or furniture.

Dr. Sehaj Grewal, known as The Melrose Vet, recommends air purifiers and air filters over deodorizing sprays and candles because they don’t just cover up odors, they clean them from the air.

“You can get rid of more different types of odors with air purifiers and air filters,” he advises. “Candles and sprays don’t last long and are therefore not cost-effective.”

Also, some scented candles can be toxic to pets. Grewal recommends pet parents avoid scented candles and sprays because they can irritate your pet’s skin and respiratory system. 

Pet Hair

If you’ve got a heavy shedder, you know how difficult it can be to keep dog chair and cat hair under control. Though the majority of pet hair tends to land on your furniture, clothes, and every home surface imaginable, it can also float through the air, which can lead to poor home air quality and even respiratory issues.

Pet air filters can help pull flying fur from the air as it circulates throughout your home’s HVAC system. Pet pair purifiers can target airborne pet hair in rooms or areas that get a lot of pet traffic in your home.

Pet Dander

Though pet hair often gets a bad rap among those who suffer from pet allergies, the true culprit is much harder to detect…and eliminate. The most common pet allergens are pet dander–super-small skin cells shed by dogs and cats–and equally small flecks of dried pet saliva.

Because these allergens are nearly impossible to see, they can be difficult to target with traditional cleaning methods. But some highly-rated pet air purifiers and pet air filters can capture and remove even these microscopic particles so they don’t trigger an allergic attack.

8 Best Pet Air Purifiers and Pet Air Filters

We chose our top pet air purifiers and pet air filters based on a number of factors, including price, customer reviews, performance, personal experience, and expert recommendations.

When it comes to neutralizing pet odors, improving air quality, and removing pet pollutants from your home, here’s what made our list of top recommended pet air purifiers and pet air filters:

Our Top Picks for Odor Removal, Pet Hair, & Dander

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Overall Best Air Purifier for Pets

Our pick: Rabbit Air Ultra Quiet A3 HEPA Air Purifier

This expansive pet air purifier covers a whopping 1,070 feet and filters 8,560 cubic feet of air in 30 minutes. We like the quiet mechanics of this unit which doesn’t skimp on air or pet dander filtration. The filter is pre-washable and offers four different custom filter options: germ defense, pet allergy, toxin absorber, and odor remover. Rabbit Air’s advanced HEPA filter features six stages of purification and deodorization so you and your pet can breathe easier. Though this unit comes with a pretty significant price tag, it’s backed by a five-year warranty and 24/7 lifetime technical support, making it a worthy investment.

Things We Like

  • Activated carbon filter reduces VOCs and odors, with a custom filter tailored to your needs
  • May be used on a tabletop, floor, or mounted to a wall out of the reach of prying paws
  • Whisper quiet so it won’t annoy or alarm pets
  • Energy-efficient design so it won’t run up your electrical bill
  • Programmable mood light
  • Five-year warranty with 24/7 customer service for technical help
  • Typical filter life is 12 months

Things to Consider

  • Price point is higher than most other air cleaning solutions
  • Some electronics running on the same wavelength may cause interference 

Overall Best Air Filter for Pets

Our pick: Colorfil Air Filters

Use the code LOVEMYPET to save 20% off fresh, clean air with Colorfil.

Very few HVAC air filters offer the level of targeted air cleaning that higher-end air purifiers can provide. But Colorfil air filters are a shining exception. These whole-home air filters incorporate NASA-backed, space-age tech developed to provide safe, clean air for astronauts. So pet pollutants are no problem! Colorfil gets rid of annoying pet smells five times more effectively than other pet filter brands. Plus, we love that Colorfil’s patented color-shift technology changes the color of the filter as it removes chemicals and odors from your air. So you can enjoy peace of mind knowing how hard it’s working as it changes from pink to yellow. Plus, you’ll know exactly when to change it to keep the air quality in your home fresh and clean.

Things We Like

  • Patented NASA technology with color-changing filter feature
  • Manufactured, packed, and shipped in the United States
  • Colorfil donates three percent of every purchase to their local humane society
  • Works on pet dander, pet odors, allergens, dust, and chemicals
  • Comes in three different thicknesses and a wide variety of sizes, including custom sizes
  • Received the Odor Remover Product of the Year in 2021 by ​​the Independent Innovation Awards
  • Helps restore the pH balance of household air
  • Certified asthma and allergy friendly 

Things to Consider

  • Be sure to follow the sizing chart for accurate ordering
  • Depending on chemicals and odors, filters generally last between two weeks and four months. Factors that affect this include the number of pets in the residence, temperature, humidity, etc. 

Best Multi-purpose Air Purifier for Pets

Our pick: Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link HP02 Wi-Fi Enabled Air Purifier

Get more features for your dollar with year-round air purification that features a cooling fan for the summer and a heater for the winter. This Dyson unit works in tandem with Amazon’s Alexa and includes features like auto mode, sleep timer, real-time air quality reports, and the capability to operate it from your smartphone. The HEPA filter removes 99.97 percent of allergens and pollutants as tiny as 0.3 microns. Ideal for both cat and dog dander, this Dyson air purifier delivers what pet parents are looking for…and then some.

Things We Like

  • Features heating and cooling mechanisms while it purifies the air
  • Concentrated airflow for personal use or diffused mode
  • The 360-degree vacuum-sealed glass HEPA filter captures ultrafine particles, including cat and dog dander
  • Connects to an app on your smartphone so users can monitor indoor air quality
  • Handy sleep timer with nighttime automatic mode
  • Easy to clean

Things to Consider

  • Battery-powered
  • The unit itself is pricey 
  • Dyson recommends changing the filter every 12 months

Best Smart Air Purifier for Pets

Our pick: smartmi Air Purifier for Home

Life can get pretty busy, and maintaining your home’s air quality may not always be at the top of your priority list. The small-but-mighty smartmi Air Purifier makes staying on top of such tasks super simple because it easily pairs and works with Apple HomeKit, Alexa, or Google Home. So if you’re busy feeding the dog, putting away groceries, or just enjoying your pet, you can use voice commands to control your air purifier. You can even control your purifier from afar using the smartmi link app for your phone. What makes this unit a must-have on our list is its functionality and size. The smart air purifier cleans a 180 to 320 square foot room in about 10 to 20 minutes. Real-time display and pollen icon displays keep you notified of the current air conditions and alerts you when the air quality dips into the danger zone.

Things We Like

  • Minimum noise level is designed for a nursery, so dogs won’t find the sound to be alarming
  • Three-layer H13 HEPA filter guarantees high efficiency to trap small particles 
  • Collects tiny particles down to 0.08 microns
  • Four speed levels with an 8-hour time cycle and LED mode adjustability (on/off)
  • Dual sensors to detect small airborne particles 
  • One step filter replacement 
  • Remote operation via smartmi app

Things to Consider

  • Manufacturer recommends a filter change every six months
  • Two color selections 

Best Pet Air Filter Subscription Service

Our pick: Filterjoy

These days, you can pretty much get anything delivered to your residence, and pet air filter replacements are no exception. But finding an air filter subscription geared toward pet parents is a little tougher to find. Luckily, there’s Filterjoy — an air filter subscription service that ensures you’ve got a fresh HVAC air filter ready to go exactly when it’s time to change it. So there’s never a gap in your defense against pet pollutants in your home. Filterjoy offers three different grades of air filters, so you can choose how frequently you’ll need to change them. Plus, they come in over 70 different sizes, so you’re sure to find the right size to fit your HVAC system. You can pause, modify, or cancel your subscription at any time. Best of all, Filterjoy takes the drudgery out of this dreaded task by adding a little fun to every shipment…including treats for your pet!

Things We Like

  • Large selection in sizes and delivery frequency
  • Can’t beat the price
  • Three different grades of filters (MERV 9, 11, 13)
  • Easy to set up, modify, and cancel your subscription
  • Free pet treats and surprise goodies with every delivery
  • Customer satisfaction guaranteed
  • Free shipping

Things to Consider

  • Getting the exact size you want can be confusing to some; check with customer service
  • It’s a smaller, newer company, so options are somewhat limited

Best Air Purifier for Your Budget

Our pick: Hamilton Beach TrueAir Air Purifier with Permanent HEPA Filter

This air purifier is easy on the budget and perfect for smaller spaces. The Hamilton Beach TrueAir air purifier uses a permanent filter that you clean with a vacuum. No more constantly throwing out the old filter to replace them with new ones! Hamilton Beach reports their HEPA-grade filter captures 99.7 percent of airborne contaminants like pet dander, mites, and pollen. Perfect for rooms up to 140 square feet, we envision this one on a home office desk, corner table, or small bedroom. You can position it upright or on its side, so it’s sure to fit any space.

Things We Like

  • Features a permanent HEPA-grade filter plus two replaceable carbon zeolite filters and a pre-filter for pet dander and larger particles.
  • Quiet but powerful with extra quiet operation feature at night
  • Nicely priced for budget-conscious 
  • No replacement filters to buy, as the HEPA-grade filter can be vacuumed clean
  • Timestrip cartridge counts down as a reminder when it’s time to replace the filter
  • Perfectly sized  for a nursery, desk, home office, or small bedroom
  • Ideal to place near a litter box for odor control

Things to Consider

  • Compact design not suitable for larger rooms over 140 square feet
  • Relatively mild low hum on high setting

Best Air Purifier for Pet Allergies

Our pick: BLUEAIR Blue 211 + HEPASilent Air Purifier for Large Rooms

If you have pet allergies or your pet has environmental allergies, the BLUEAIR Blue 211 is designed for you both. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers verified that it can clean up to 2,592 square feet in one hour on the high setting. It actively removes 99.97 percent of airborne particles down to 0.1 micron. Consumer Reports indicate it is especially effective at removing dust, smoke, and pollen at its highest speed. 

Things We Like

  • Filter indicator lets you know when its time to change or clean the main filter
  • Energy-efficient model
  • Washable pre-filter for large particle capture
  • Designed in Sweden with a variety of colors from which to choose
  • Lower fan speed setting ensures a good night sleep 
  • One button control for easy fan adjustment
  • Aesthetically pleasing design fits in with any decor

Things to Consider

  • Higher than usual filter costs
  • Somewhat loud on its highest setting

Best Air Purifier Pet Odor Removal

Our pick: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home

Guests will never know you have a dog or cat with the LEVOIT Air Purifier working to control pet odors. Start the unit and begin enjoying fresh air within 30 minutes in rooms as large as 1,150 square feet. Monitor real-time air quality within your home at a glance. The LEVOIT display features an allergen level ring to indicate current conditions (from bad to very good.) The activated carbon filter neutralizes odors and VOCs while the H13 true HEPA filter has a large dust capacity. Topped with the nylon dust filter, pet odors and dander don’t stand a chance.

Things We Like

  • Built-in infrared sensor detected air quality and adjusts fan speeds to the ideal level when on auto mode 
  • Three-dimensional loop circuit designs increase ventilation efficiency so clean air is spread to every corner of open-floor plan rooms.
  • Check filter indicator tells you when its time for a replacement
  • Bionic shock absorption designs prolongs the life cycle of the engine
  • Ideal for pet-friendly households where odor or dander is an issue
  • Filtration rate up to 99.97 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns in size 

Things to Consider

  • Only use genuine LEVOIT replacement parts for best performance and longevity
  • Some reviews indicate the sound is “slightly loud”

Air Purifier and Filter Buying Guide: Top Tips

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to choose the best air cleaning solution for your specific needs and pets. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best decision.

  • First, determine what you can afford to spend and stay within your budget. Remember to factor in additional costs — such as the cost of replacement filters, electricity, maintenance, and upkeep. A lower-end model that may, at first, seem like a better deal may end up costing you more once you factor in all the extras.
  • If you’re planning on running an air purifier constantly, look for energy-efficient models, which often feature the Energy Star logo on the packaging.
  • Prioritize the features and benefits that are most important to you before you shop around. Is a carbon filter a must-have? Are you looking to improve the air quality in your entire home or just one room? Do you need a unit you can control with your smart phone? One with a timer? A nightlight?  You may not find a solution that will give you everything on your list, but try to narrow in on options that will deliver what you need most.
  • Pay attention to product claims and know what you’re really paying for. A “HEPA-like” filter is not as efficient as a true HEPA filter.
  • When comparing air purifiers, look for each unit’s clean air delivery rating, or CADR number. It measures the volume of air purified in cubic feet per minute with separate scores for in-home issues like pollen, smoke, dust, and more. 
  • Finally, understand that even the best air purifier or air filter can only capture allergens and particles while they are floating in the air. Once they hit the ground, you’re better off using a quality pet vacuum to rid your home of pet pollutants.
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