According to a recent industry survey, 67 percent of American households own a pet. That’s 85 million families who include in their ranks a four-legged, furry member. Unfortunately, all that pet love can result in a lot of dander and unpleasant odors. Dander is composed of the tiny, often microscopic, flecks of skin pets constantly shed.
Almost any kind of pet—cats, dogs, birds, and rodents—can shed dander. This dander then causes allergic reactions in people who specifically have these triggers. Air purifiers can help reduce, or even eliminate, those side effects of pet ownership. Read on to learn about some of the best air purifiers on the market for pets and pet owners.
- BEST OVERALL: LEVOIT H13 True HEPA Air Purifier for Home
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier
- UPGRADE PICK: NuWave OxyPure Large Area Smart Air Purifier
- BEST SMART PURIFIER: RENPHO Air Purifier for Home
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Bissell Smart Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters
- BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Allergies and Pets
- BEST FOR ODOR: PARTU HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST FOR ALLERGIES: RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
Types of Air Purifiers
All air purifiers are made to refresh the air in a room, but they’re not all well suited for those who require a purifier for a pet-friendly home. Air purifiers use various methods for freshening indoor air; understanding each type’s unique benefits and considerations will help when choosing the right one to clean the air in a home with pets.
Some purifiers trap airborne pollutants, while others remove them from the air but not from the room. Many models are a combination of two or more of the following types and are therefore suitable for multiple purposes.
HEPA Air Purifiers
If an air purifier has an industry-standard HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air filter), it can remove up to 99.97 percent of airborne particulates at a size of 0.3 microns or larger, which includes pet dander. To put that into perspective, a micron is only 0.00004 of an inch in length, so HEPA filters will trap even microscopic particles that are too small to see with the human eye.
Be aware, because they’re so dense and efficient at trapping tiny particles, HEPA filters tend to clog quickly, and HEPA replacement filters are on the pricey side compared with other types of replacement filters. However, if the air cleaner has one or more prefilters to trap larger particulates, the costly HEPA filter will often last longer, up to 2 years or more, before replacement is necessary.
Activated Carbon Air Purifiers
Air purifiers with carbon filters keep odors down to a minimum. Activated charcoal, the filter’s main ingredient, can filter out whiffs of wet dog or cat litter box odors to help keep the home smelling fresh. Activated carbon air purifiers also can come with additional filters within the same unit, working double-duty to remove odors and trap airborne particulates.
A carbon filter often serves as a prefilter before a primary HEPA or other type. Depending on quality, a carbon filter also will remove smoke and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air and can get rid of cooking odors and many types of chemical smells.
UV Air Purifiers
Air purifiers with ultraviolet (UV) technology are designed to kill microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. They perform the task by drawing in the air past a strong UV light stream that destroys the microbes.
By itself, a UV purifier will not trap pet dander or fur; however, some UV air purifiers also feature a HEPA or other type of filter. If this is the case, they can trap and remove pet fur and dander, in addition to destroying airborne bacteria and viruses.
Negative Ion Air Purifiers
A negative ion is an electrically charged oxygen molecule with an added electron. Negative ions occur naturally after events such as lightning strikes or as a result of bright ultraviolet sun rays. A negative ion air purifier artificially produces negative ions, and rather than drawing in air and trapping contaminates, this type of air cleaner injects invisible puffs of negative ions into a room.
The negative ions are drawn magnetically to airborne particles, and they bond with the particles. As a result, they are too heavy to remain airborne, so they subsequently fall to the floor or furniture. While this process removes dander from the air, it doesn’t remove it from the room altogether, so sitting on the sofa or a chair can bring the home’s residents into contact with the contaminants.
Some people like the smell of ozone and associate it with thunderstorms, since lightning creates ozone in the atmosphere. Ozone generators emit ozone into a room. Often, they’re used in conjunction with negative ion purifiers, but the verdict is still out on whether they’re beneficial.
According to the EPA, inhaling ozone might be detrimental to the human respiratory system and can result in symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, and throat irritation. As is the case with negative ion purifiers, ozone generators don’t actually remove pollutants from the room; they just give the room a fresh rain scent.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Purifiers
Removing pet contaminants from indoor air will make the room smell fresher and can reduce the allergic symptoms associated with pets. Still, there’s more to getting the right one than just a quick search.
To get a suitable air purifier for a specific home and family, consider room size, acceptable noise level, and portability. Also pause to consider whether innovative technology would be helpful.
Air purifier labels might indicate the approximate square footage of the room that the units will treat effectively. Alternatively, they may be labeled as either small, medium, large, or whole-house purifiers.
- Small: A small air purifier will treat the air in rooms up to 300 square feet, making it suitable for bedrooms, nurseries, and other smaller spaces.
- Medium: Designed to clean the air in rooms up to 700 square feet, medium-size purifiers are often chosen for use in family rooms, combo kitchen/dining rooms, and rec rooms.
- Large: Suitable for use in spacious rooms of up to 1,900 square feet, large purifiers are well suited to homes with open floor plans.
- Whole-house: A whole-house purifier installs on the home’s HVAC trunk and purifies the air as it circulates through the system. This type of air cleaner should be installed by an HVAC professional. Not all HVAC systems accommodate a whole-house purifier; the system must be powerful enough to draw air through the filter without straining the HVAC system.
The EPA recommends the use of air purifiers to help clean indoor air, and some purifiers qualify for an EPA Energy Star rating. That means the unit adheres to strict energy efficiency guidelines, but it does not ensure the unit will clean the air effectively.
Selecting an Energy Star-rated purifier is an option for those wanting to conserve energy and reduce their carbon footprint. The EPA, however, does not certify any particular brands of air purifiers or air cleaners as being better than others. It does, however, suggest that purifiers with higher CADR ratings (see below) might be more efficient at removing particulates from the air.
Some air purifier manufacturers voluntarily participate in a program developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) that rates purifiers based on laboratory testing of how much they reduce airborne pollutants within 25 minutes. The results lead to a purifier’s clean air delivery rate (CADR) by multiplying the particle reduction with the amount of air that moves through the purifier in cubic feet per minute (CFM). For example, if the purifier operates at 300 CFM and reduces 80 percent of particulates during testing, its CADR will be 240.
In general, the higher the CADR number, the more pollutants the purifier will remove from the air. The CADR scale runs as high as 450. However, some of the best filters (HEPA filters) might have a reduced CFM airspeed due to their density, so they actually remove more airborne pollutants yet come with a lower CADR.
Air Quality Indicator
Purifiers with integrated air quality indicators clean the air in the room and monitor and display air quality with digital readouts, putting this type at the top of the list for allergy sufferers who want to know the status of the air in the home. The indicator might provide a simple bar graph indicating “good, fair, or poor” air quality or be more advanced to indicate the specific particulate matter present in the air, such as the amount of dust, pollen, pet dander, and more.
An air quality indicator helps allergy sufferers know how safe the room’s air is to breathe. Some air quality monitors adhere to the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI), which uses a color-coded system to alert residents to the quality of the air in a room. For example, green signals good air quality, yellow is moderate, and red indicates unhealthy air quality. Residents can turn the purifier speed up or down as necessary. Some models automatically adjust operating speed based on air quality monitor results.
Some, but not all, air purifiers list a noise rating in decibels. Manufacturers are not required to include a noise rating, but those who feel their purifiers are especially quiet might do so as a selling point. For reference, a purifier with a 50-decibel rating is approximately as loud as the sound of a modern refrigerator running. A decibel rating of 30 is closer to a whisper from across a room.
Noise levels typically depend on the fan’s quality, which is the element that produces sound. For the most part, cheaper units make more noise because they don’t contain the sound-insulating features that damper fan noise. Most purifiers range from around 30 to 60 decibels, with 30 to 40 being the average.
Many of today’s new small appliances come with the option of syncing to a smart-home system to allow the user to operate the unit remotely from a smartphone or tablet. A smart air purifier works in the same manner as its nonsmart cousins, but it offers the option of downloading an app where the user can monitor the filter’s status, receive alerts when air quality exceeds a predetermined range, or turn on the unit via voice commands. These usually require a home Wi-Fi network.
Bluetooth, another common smart technology, also allows the user to operate the purifier via a smartphone, with no Wi-Fi network necessary. However, the user must be within range (usually 75 to 150 feet) for the smartphone to connect with the purifier through Bluetooth.
Small, lightweight purifiers (under 20 pounds) are relatively simple to carry from room to room, as long as they feature a sturdy handle for carrying. Heavier units are more difficult to move, unless they come fitted with caster wheels to allow users to roll them from one spot to another.
Most of today’s purifiers weigh less than 30 pounds, but if moving the unit will be an issue, look for a lightweight model with wheels. Alternatively, plan on purchasing additional purifiers to keep in various rooms.
Remote controls, programming timer functions, and night modes with reduced fan noise are available on select air purifiers. Some come with filter indicator lights that tell the owner it’s time for a replacement. Other models offer the option of turning off the digital readout to conserve energy.
Our Top Picks
Included in this list are models for large and small rooms, purifiers that contain multiple filtration types, and some with advanced features. As a result, the top picks feature a selection of the best air purifiers in various categories for pets and their owners.
The LEVOIT H13 Air Purifier features an impressive three-layer filtering system, including an H13-grade HEPA filter to capture microscopic particles, like dander, in the air. The activated carbon filter absorbs odors from pets, smoke, and cooking. The washable preliminary filter traps hair, lint, and—most importantly—pet fur. This air purifier can handle both large and small rooms. It can purify the air in a 1,076-square-foot room in 30 minutes and a 538-square-foot room in as little as 15 minutes.
The purifier comes with a HEPA filter, three operating speeds, and an option to program it to turn off after a few hours. It comes with an auto mode that senses airborne contaminants and adjusts the fan speed as necessary. The LED display can switch off to save energy and create a darker room for sleeping. The LEVOIT H13 Air Purifier is a great all-around solution for cleaner air and emits just 25 decibels of noise when operating—less noise than a whisper makes in a quiet library.
The Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier from Guardian Technologies is a small but powerful appliance that filters odors and kills off viruses and germs. With the ability to plug into any household 120-volt outlet, this compact air purifier can fit in tight spaces where pet odors hang in the air, like near the litter box. It eliminates unwanted odors by drawing air through the purifier and killing the germs, mold, and bacteria that cause odors.
Unlike some budget models that come with just one or two filters, the Germ Guardian features ultraviolet light that kills bacteria and viruses, such as Covid-19, when the virus particles pass through the purifier. Although the Germ Guardian cannot filter out particulate matter like pollens or dander, with its compact size—just 4 inches by 3 inches by 7.5 inches—and reasonable price, this is an excellent choice for combating pet odors.
Even though the NuWave OxyPure Large Area Smart Air Purifier is pricier than some, its multi-filtration system is a game changer, especially since 80 percent of the system has a 20-year lifespan. The stainless steel prefilter collects large particles, like pollen and pet hair. The powerful five-filter unit effectively traps particulate pollutants as small as 0.09 microns. It also features an ozone-removal filter and a HEPA/activated carbon filter that traps particles like allergens, dander, household fumes, and odors. Both of these filters are washable and reusable.
The OxyPure also features a programmable air quality monitor that can adjust operating speeds when it detects different levels of pollutants in the air. As an added benefit, users can remotely monitor and control the purifier from anywhere in their home via a WiFi–enabled smart device. This energy-efficient purifier will effectively treat rooms up to 1,000 square feet, so it is a good choice for family rooms, recreation rooms, and kitchen/dining room combos.
Monitor and control the RENPHO Air Purifier for Home from a smartphone or another digital device. The RENPHO purifier syncs with SmartApp, Google Assistant, or Alexa to allow users to operate the purifier from another room or even from work. If you choose not to monitor your air quality via Wi-Fi, the built-in sensor will monitor it and automatically adjust the fan speed and the color of the unit’s indicator display light to alert you to changes in the air quality of the surrounding environment. The five-stage filtration system effectively eliminates 99.97 percent of all airborne pollutants in a room up to 301 square feet.
Additional smart features include a sleep mode for the bedroom that reduces the noise level to 28 decibels, comparable to the sound of a quiet library, meaning the RENPHO won’t interfere with quality sleep if it runs all night. The handy child-lock mode prevents curious children or pets from playing with the controls when no one is watching. And a replacement indicator signals the need to change the filters, which sell separately.
The Bissell Smart Purifier’s three-layer filtration system, which includes a fabric prefilter, a HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter, can remove more than 99 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns from an 800-square-foot room. The manufacturer’s CirQulate System monitors and provides colored-coded air-quality feedback and then adjusts to the appropriate fan speed.The Bissell purifier will refresh all the air in the room within an hour and will eliminate pet dander and odors, smoke, dust, pollen, hair, and general household odors.
The filters are easily accessible from the front of the machine, so the appliance can rest directly against a wall and out of the way of foot traffic. A rear cord storage and concealment feature keeps the cord out of the way. An automated feature will set the fan to whisper-quiet operation and dim the display to create a peaceful environment for sleeping people and pets. As a bonus, its stylish design, with a midcentury exterior and retro wire stand, can fit into just about any home’s interior theme.
A smaller air purifier intended for smaller spaces, this LEVOIT model can purify the air five times an hour in a bedroom or studio-size apartment. It features an H13 True HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter to trap 99.97 percent of fine particulate matter, like pet dander and allergens as tiny as 0.3 microns.
At only 24 decibels, this unit’s sleep mode is whisper-quiet and suitable for bedroom use. A compact model, like the LEVOIT air purifier, is an effective and affordable way to remove mold, pollen, dust, and pet dander from smaller home environments. With the air recycle rate of five times per hour up to 219 square feet, this purifier suits bedrooms, home offices, and nurseries.
Pet odors can be challenging to remove from the air in a home. Like most capable air purifiers, the PARTU HEPA Air Purifier offers a three-stage filtration system that includes a prefilter, a HEPA filter for capturing particles as small as 0.3 microns, and an activated carbon filter for removing smoke and odors. However, what makes this air purifier unique is the ability to impart a chosen scent throughout the room. The PARTU purifier comes with a sponge that holds a drop or two of essential oil (not included) and infuses the air in the room with the scent at the same time the purifier reduces airborne pollutants.
This appliance is small enough to fit on a desk and can purify and deodorize a room of just over 100 square feet. While it’s not powerful enough for larger areas, it should do the trick for an office or bedroom.
Allergy sufferers needing relief from airborne pet contaminants can look to the RabbitAir MinusA2 Air Purifier, which comes with a HEPA filter plus six filtration stages. The RabbitAir cleans the air of up to 99.97 percent of pet contaminants and other airborne pollutants twice an hour in rooms as large as 815 square feet.
The six filtration stages include a washable prefilter that traps dust and large particles and a medium filter that traps contaminants up to 0.1 microns. It also features a BioGS HEPA filter that traps particles as small as 0.3 microns, a customizable filter (choose from pet allergy, germ defense, or toxin absorber), an activated charcoal filter for odor removal, and a negative ion generator. The unit operates at no more than 45.6 decibels and boasts a light-activated sleep mode. Users can choose from six decorative panels to give the air purifier an artistic flair.
FAQs About Air Purifiers
Reducing pet dander, dust, and other contaminants leaves a home smelling and feeling fresh. The best air purifiers can significantly reduce the airborne pollutants commonly found in pet-friendly homes. Those buying an air purifier might naturally have a few questions.
Q. Do air purifiers help with pet hair?
Yes, depending on the type. A purifier that draws air through one or more filters will trap any pet fur that’s floating around. Note that negative ion, ozone, and UV purifiers will not, unless they feature additional filters.
Q. Do air purifiers help with pet smells?
Activated carbon air purifiers will neutralize pet smells and other disagreeable odors.
Q. What are the different types of air purifiers?
The five most common air purifiers are HEPA, activated carbon, UV, negative ion, and ozone.
Q. What type of air purifier do I need if I have problems with asthma?
People living with asthma should opt for a high-end HEPA purifier, such as the RabbitAir Air Purifier, which features six stages of filtration to remove a maximum amount of pollutants. Before buying, asthma sufferers may want to consult a doctor to see whether a different purifier might be better suited to their needs.
Q. How long do air purifiers last?
An air purifier can last 3 to 5 years, or longer if it’s well maintained. To get the most life out of the unit, change filters as soon as they become clogged or within the time period recommended by the manufacturer.