Can air purifiers remove dust?

This article discusses the efficacy of air purifying devices against dust particles. We further discuss the nature of household dust, and why it is important to remove dust.

can air purifier remove dust?

Yes, air purifiers can remove dust with relative ease. Air purifiers are devices which, as the name suggests, clean the indoor air. Air pollution is a prevalent problem, not just outdoors, but indoors as well.

Indoor air pollution is a serious issue, as the average human being spends more than 90% of their total time within an enclosure, with more than 80% of it being inside a building.

In a typical indoor environment, dust can emerge from dirt, skin cells, or fabric fibers, but could be more or less anything that could dry and flake off.

Books, carpet, rugs, upholstered furniture, fireplaces, and pets all contribute to the dust load. Dirt, pollen, smoke, exhaust, sand, and many other things may bring in dust from outside.

In addition, mold, bacteria, and dust mites are all likely to inhabit and often proliferate in dust. Hence, dust can also act as a breeding ground for infections.

Lastly, research has also shown that dust can contain carcinogenic compounds, which are substances that can cause cancer.

Although we will rarely live in a fully dust-free environment, there are several things one should be doing to effectively prevent and minimise the excessive levels of dust in one’s indoor air.

Using the air purifier is one of the most efficient ways to minimise household dust. Let’s see how air purifiers are the ultimate solution to your dust problems.

How do air purifiers remove dust?

The majority of air purifiers work by removing dust from the air. The True HEPA filter, which is a means of absorbing most pollutants, including dust, is found in many air purifiers. 

A True HEPA filter has a 99.97 percent efficiency value for capturing microscopic particulate matter as small as 0.3 microns.

Air purifiers pull in the indoor ambient air and pass it through the HEPA filter, which entraps the dust particles present in the ambient air.

Dust particles, owing to their relatively small size, get easily entrapped in the indoor air due to the motion of air. Once suspended, these can also be inhaled by the occupants.

However, air purifiers can easily remove the dust particles when they are entrapped in the air. 

Common constituents of dust

As mentioned earlier, dust particles arise from a variety of sources. In the indoor environment, some of the main contributors to dust are:

  • Outdoor sources
  • Dead skin and animal dander
  • Dust mites
  • Food debris
  • Insects and insect droppings
  • Toxic substances

Let us discuss these in more detail.

Outdoor sources

In a typical indoor setting, nearly 60% of the total dust arises from outdoors. This number can vary depending upon the location of the place, climatic settings, and other factors such as distance from road, combustion frequency in the area, etc.

Some of the main constituents of these are particulate matter (PM), which include pollen, soil, particulates from combustion activities and smoking, and other outdoor activities one can think of.

PM refers to particles, either solid or liquid, that are mixed and suspended in the air. They are a major part of air pollutants, and have a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources.

Some of these PM particles that are below 2.5 microns in size, known as PM2.5, have seriously adverse effects on human health, and long term exposures can cause serious health issues and even premature death.

The dust particles mainly act as allergens, and can also get trapped in one’s clothing and hair, from where they enter the home.

Thankfully, the typical size range of the dust particles generated from these sources get efficiently entrapped in the air purifying devices’ HEPA filter.

For people living in urban areas, or places near a road, air purifiers are a must have, since the pollution generated from traffic can easily enter the house, and if not removed, can adversely affect the health of occupants.

Dead skin and animal dander

It is a common misconception that most of the indoor dust is attributed to dead skin. However, dead skin particles only contribute a fractional amount to the total indoor dust.

However, these dead skin particles act as a magnet for other dust related particles such as dust mites, or even other serious air pollutants such as mold, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and so on.

Similarly, pet dander refers to the tiny flecks of skin that are generated from pet animals such as dogs, cats, birds, etc. Even if you may not have a pet of your own, visitors may bring pet dander into your home on their clothing.

Pet dander attracts dust and dust mites as it travels through the air and settles, thereby worsening the problem. 

Therefore, it is important to have an air purifier, especially if you have pets, or are regularly visited by people who have pets of their own, as dead skin and pet dander can act as allergens on their own, and even attract other types of dust particles.

Dust mites

Dust mites are tiny pests that live in humid settings and flourish. Even if your home isn’t excessively hot or humid, dust mites are likely to be lurking in your beds, carpets, and curtains.

The more dust you have, the more dust mites you have, because dust is made up of things like pet dander and dead skin, which are two of dust mites’ favourite diets.

Dust mites and their waste products are relatively weightless. Therefore, they can stay suspended in the indoor air for a long time, and affect one’s health if inhaled.

Therefore, to prevent the proliferation of dust mites, it is important to get an air purifier which gets rid of dust mites as well as their waste products.

Food debris

Food debris refers to the tiny crumbs of particles that fall off from food stuff. These can include crumbs from bread, biscuits,  etc.

These tiny food particles on their own become a natural component of indoor dust, and also provide nutrition to other microorganisms such as dust mites, mold, bacteria, and so on.

These microorganisms in turn proliferate and generate waste products which become a component of indoor dust as well, further worsening the situation of household dust.

While larger food debris can be simply cleaned away, the smaller ones can be suspended in the air. Luckily, these particles are easily picked up by air purifiers, which remove them with relative ease.

This helps to further keep in check the contribution to house dust done by organisms, and prevent them from getting nutrition required to proliferate.

Insects and insect droppings

No matter how spotless one tries to keep their home, there are always certain insects lurking around in the corner. Dust mites are also one of them, and we have already discussed their contribution to indoor dust in great detail.

However, there are other types of insects, such as flies, bugs, and one of the most notorious, cockroaches. Cockroaches can easily infest homes, and hide in some of the most obscure places in the house.

Cockroaches can also trigger allergic reactions in some individuals, and their droppings can further aggravate those allergies.

Moreover, cockroaches can easily enter the household from multiple areas, so it is almost impossible to get rid of them, especially for people living in apartment complexes.

Therefore, it would be better to get an air purifier, which would help to remove dust particles associated with insects, which are suspended in the air, to prevent triggering of allergies in individuals.

Toxic substances

There are various sources of toxic substances in the house. These can include common household items, pesticides, paint containing lead, asbestos, and so on.

These particles pose a serious threat to human health, as they have been shown to seriously affect organs such as lungs, kidneys, etc., and can even cause cancer.

A survey on composition of household dust reported in 45 studies found out that more than 90% of reported dust contained compounds that are toxic or carcinogenic in nature.

These compounds can have a more pronounced effect on certain groups of individuals, which include:

  • Children
  • Older people
  • Pregnant mothers
  • People with pre-existing illnesses

Therefore, it is vital to have an air purifier, so that these substances are removed from the indoor air, making it safe to breathe.

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

How air purifiers can be harmful

How air purifiers help

How air purifiers work at home


Air purifying devices are effective against dust particles, which originate from multiple sources, such as outdoor air pollution, dead skin and animal dander, food debris, insect and insect droppings, and toxic substances.

Best air purifiers for dust removal


Should I keep my air purifier on at all times?

Yes, you should keep your air purifier on at all times. This is because the pollution is more or less continuous in nature, meaning that as long as a source is present, so is air pollution, including dust.

If you turn off your air purifier, the dust particles start aggregating in the indoor air once again, which would eventually affect the health of the occupants adversely.

Furthermore, air purifiers do not consume a lot of electricity for operation, therefore making it feasible to be kept on at all times.

Do air ionisers help with dust as well?

Unlike the air purifiers with HEPA filters, air ionisers do not help with dust present in the house. On the contrary, they would contribute even more to the dust generated indoors.

Air ionisers interact with the charged pollutant particles by sticking to them, causing them to become too heavy to stay suspended in the ambient air.

This would in turn cause deposition of dust on surfaces such as carpets, tables, etc., which in turn would exacerbate the effect of dust already present indoors.

However, it would be ideal to pair it with an air purifier containing a HEPA filter, as it would increase the efficiency with which the indoor air gets cleaned.

How long does it take for an air purifier to remove dust?

This depends on mainly three factors – the amount of dust present indoors, the size of the house or room in question, and the coverage area of the air purifying device. Let us discuss these one by one.

Higher the volume of dust in a room, more time would be taken by the air purifier to clean the air. This is because air purifiers have a low flow rate. However, certain air purifiers have an option to increase the flow rate, which helps to speed up the process.

Similarly, the wider the room or house, the more time taken by the air purifier to clean out the air, since the volume of air in an enclosure would increase with the increase in the size of room.

Lastly, air purifiers have a coverage area, within which they can efficiently clean out the air. For air purifiers with a larger coverage area, there would be lesser time taken to clean out the room, and vice versa.


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