Can air purifiers help with mold?

This article talks about the efficacy of air purifiers against mold. Furthermore, it discusses how air purifiers keep mold in check, and conditions in which they can exacerbate the problem.

Can air purifiers help with mold

Yes, air purifiers can help with mold. Mold is defined as fungal colonies that grow in the form of multicellular filaments.

Most of them are harmless in nature and cause minor allergic reactions other than the odor, but some can have serious implications on health if inhaled.

Some of the most common species of mold in a typical household environment include Alternaria, Aspergillus Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium and Stachybotrys

Mold growth usually occurs in a dark, humid, and cool temperature condition. Under such conditions, the growth of mold and bacterial microorganisms is favoured.

Certain areas in the house, such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and so on, harbor such conditions, thereby being an ideal spot for mold growth to take place.

Additionally, mold growth can also happen in other parts of the house during seasons in which the relative humidity levels are generally high, such as in summer and spring seasons.

Mold itself does not cause any apparent harm to human health. However, the spores that emerge from mold, which are basically the seed, are the ones that can be harmful to health.

Mold spores typically have an aerodynamic diameter in the size range of one to forty microns. Most of these can get filtered out by the barriers in the respiratory tract.

However, the smaller mold spores can evade the protective mechanisms of your respiratory system, thereby adversely affecting your respiratory health.

Other than that, these spores are also responsible for generating a foul smell, which has a characteristic  damp and musty odor. 

Therefore, it is important to get rid of mold, as well as to keep the mold growth in check, in order to maintain the aesthetics as well as to ensure better health of the occupants.

Why do we need an air purifier

Over the previous decades, the rise in air pollution has been prevalent, especially in urban areas. Air pollution is caused by both natural processes as well as anthropogenic (i.e., human-based) activities, however, the latter is the main culprit.

Activities related to rapid urbanisation, such as traffic related air pollution, emissions from industries such as thermal power plants, brick kilns, factories, etc., and other such processes have significantly contributed towards the steady degradation of air quality.

An average individual spends more than 90% of their time within an enclosement, with more than 80% of this time in an indoor setting such as offices, residents, and so on.

There have been studies that have shown that in large cities, indoor air pollution poses a higher risk on human health than outdoor air pollution.

Indoor air pollution can originate from indoor sources, such as household items, furniture, combustion of fuels, smoking, and so on.

Indoor air can also get polluted when pollution from outdoors infiltrates through openings such as doors, windows, gaps, cracks, seeps, and so on.

Amongst these pollutants, the worst is particulate matter, or simply PM. PM refers to particles in the sub-micron range that are suspended in the air. 

There are two forms of particulate matter: coarse particulate matter (PM10) and tiny particulate matter (PM2.5). PM2.5 is a prevalent problem among them.

There are many sources of PM in the ambient air. Some of the main sources include factories, power plants, refuse incinerators, fumes from automobiles, construction activities, fires and natural windblown dust.

Indoor sources include burning of  fuels, smoking, and other hobbies, such as woodworking, painting, etc.

Numerous studies have shown that exposure to polluted air containing particulate matter have been shown to cause various issues, such as:

  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • irregular heartbeat
  • aggravated asthma
  • decreased lung function
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

Given the variety of PM present, they have various sources. These particles can originate from a variety of sources, which can be indoors, or outdoor pollution that enters through doors, windows, seeps, cracks, and so on.

This is where air purifiers come in the picture. Air purifiers mainly work on particulate matter, and rid the indoor ambient air of the PM pollution in the room, thereby cleaning the indoor air and making it safe for breathing.

They filter out particulate matter less than 0.3 microns, and the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters typically have an efficiency of more than 99%.

For people who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other illnesses, air purifiers can be a lifesaver. These ingenious gadgets function to remove dust, smoke, pollen, and other noxious pollutants from the air, which may cause discomfort and sickness.

How air purifiers help with mold

As we’ve stated earlier, the spores generated from a mold colony are the real troublemakers, as they are responsible for generating a musty smell, as well as causing respiratory issues in the occupants.

Since these spores have an aerodynamic diameter which lies in the cut-off range for an air purifier, these particles can be picked up from the indoor air, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

Not only this, but this also helps to keep in check the growth of mold and its spread to other parts of the house, since the spores that are responsible for doing so have been removed from the environment, thanks to the air purifier.

Other methods to prevent mold infestation

It is vital to practice habits that would help to prevent the spread and growth of mold from forming in your house in the first place. This can be done by the following methods:

  • Improve ventilation
  • Use an air dehumidifier
  • Regularly cleaning the basement
  • Check for leaks and seeps

Improve ventilation

Opening your doors and windows for some time during the day helps to increase the air exchange rate with the outdoor air. As mentioned earlier, this helps to remove the indoor pollutants as well as the odor, while introducing fresh air.

However, it is important to check the outdoor pollen and mold count, since on days of high concentration levels, the smell will get further exacerbated.

For places which do not have proper sources of natural ventilation, such as basements, HVAC systems are especially helpful. 

However, one should also ensure that the HVAC systems are being maintained on a regular basis, since faulty systems as well as older units may sometimes contribute to the stale air smell.

Use an air dehumidifier

As seen from above, high humidity levels play a major role in the generation of stale air smell indoors. Therefore, it is important to regulate the indoor moisture levels.

This is where air dehumidifiers come in the pictures. These devices, as the name suggests, lower the humidity of the indoor environment, therefore keeping the air dry and hampering the growth of mold.

Some devices come with a monitor that helps you to set the humidity level according to your need. The ideal range of humidity is thirty to fifty percent, as mold growth would not occur, while the air isn’t too dry, which can irritate the respiratory passage.

Regularly cleaning your house

It is important to keep your house clean, especially surfaces such as beddings, carpets, or places where people usually are present.

Studies have shown that nearly 60% of total dust accumulated in the indoor air originates from outdoors. Within these dust particles, mold spores and other substances can be present, which cause indoor stale odor.

By regularly dusting surfaces and cleaning the house, there are lesser chances of accumulation of substances that give rise to mold.

Fix leaks and seeps


It is vital to check for any source of leaks or seeps occurring within the basement, as they could cause the problem to spread to other rooms of the house as well.

Such sites are the ideal place for mold to grow, and provide the high humidity conditions molds require to grow and produce spores.

In such cases, it would be wise to hire a technician who can help fix leaks and seeps, and resolve the issue for basements.

Other FAQs about Air Purifiers and Filters that you may be interested in.

Should I turn on the ionizer on My air purifier?

How air purifier towers work?

Air Purifier vs Dehumidifier for Basement

Conclusion

Air purifiers are effective against mold, as they help to get rid of the spores which are responsible for the propagation of mold in favourable conditions.

Mold spores also have an unpleasant musty smell, while some species of mold can also have serious implications on human health if inhaled.

Apart from this, there are other ways to prevent as well as get rid of mold. You can improve the ventilation within your house, clean your house regularly, and fix any leaks and seeps present in the house.

Air purifiers to consider

FAQs

Can air purifiers get rid of odors?

Yes, air purifiers can get rid of odors. Most of the air purifiers, such as the one by Hathaspace, come with an activated carbon filter, which gets rid of unpleasant odors present in the air.

Can appliances that regulate physical parameters of the air also have mold?

Yes, appliances that regulate physical parameters of the air can also have mold and spread it in the house. This can be seen particularly in appliances such as air conditioners as well as HVAC (HEating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) systems.

If the filters are old, chances are that they are overloaded with pre-existing dust deposits. This causes a decrease in the air inflow rate for the device, due to which the air circulation gets impeded.


Furthermore, these devices can also develop dark and humid conditions, which help mold and other microorganisms to thrive. Therefore, these appliances may end up exacerbating the indoor air quality and will give rise to the unpleasant odor as well.

How long does it take for an air purifier to clean a room?

This depends mainly on the coverage area of the air purifier, as well as the size of the room. For small rooms, a typical air purifier will clean the air in about 30 minutes.

However, for larger rooms, it can take upto 2 to 3 hours to completely clean the indoor air. But, air purifiers also have an option to vary their flow rates, which could help in getting the job done even faster.

Do humidifiers help in the case of mold and mildew formation?

No, humidifiers do not help in the case of mold and mildew formation. Rather, they can exacerbate the condition even more.

Mold and mildew only grow in humidity levels of more than 50 percent. However, using a humidifier will further provide the humidity levels required by the mold and mildew to proliferate, and also spread to other areas of the house.

References

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