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Do air purifiers help with mold?

Air purifiers can help clean some mold particles from the air, but the source of mold is moisture.
By
Updated on February 17, 2024
Written by
Michelle Honeyager
Michelle started writing for HouseFresh in 2023. She is passionate about home topics and has been published in top publications, including CNET, Bankrate, Remodeling Today, Atlanta House & Home and Remodeling Today Triangle.
TL;DR

Air purifiers with HEPA filters are great at getting rid of some airborne mold particles. However, if the source of these particles is from mold growing somewhere in your home, an air purifier can only do so much. The mold will continue to grow and overwhelm the air filter. You’ll need to get rid of the source of moisture that’s allowing the mold to grow, as well as the mold itself. Ensuring good air ventilation, fixing plumbing leaks, and controlling relative humidity in the home are all good ways to stop mold at the source. 

Mold is a pain. It can live in or on any surface of the home, including drywall, carpeting, and furniture. Excess moisture in the home, even in the form of humidity, can cause mold to grow in the strangest places, even in air conditioning systems. Since it can be hard to detect mold, a mold allergy can also be hard to avoid. 

An air purifier might not completely solve your mold issues, but it does help clear up any airborne mold particles that can cause you respiratory harm. Learn more about the benefits of an air purifier, as well as tips for controlling mold in the home.       

Living with mold: how an air purifier can help

According to the EPA, air purifiers can help remove some mold particles from the air and tackle musty odors. However, they can’t fix the musty mold problem that causes airborne spores in the first place. Find out what an air purifier can do for your home below.

1. Air purifiers circulate air

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends promoting airflow as a way to prevent mold allergies. It recommends opening doors, moving furniture away from walls, and using fans. Air purifiers filter mold spores, releasing clean air back into the room and promoting airflow — a potent two-in-one tool.

2. HEPA air purifiers can remove most mold particles

If your air purifier doesn’t have a HEPA filter, it won’t do a good job at removing mold particles in the air. Those with HEPA remove 99.97% of mold, dust, pollen, bacteria, and other microparticles in the air, significantly improving air quality. Based on 60 performance tests, we have identified the best purifier for mold right now.

3. Air purifiers may help with the symptoms of allergic rhinitis in general  

One study in the Yonsei Medical Journal found that HEPA air purifiers helped patients with allergic rhinitis symptoms. Patients who used a HEPA air purifier for six weeks saw significant improvement in their allergic symptoms.

Air purifiers will not clean up all the mold spores or particles in the air. The EPA states that the cause of mold and musty odors is excess moisture in the building that can cause mold growth. Without addressing that cause, mold will continue to grow, hamper air quality, pose health risks, and potentially damage the structure of the building. You must remove the mold and the moisture that caused the mold.

The do’s and don’ts of mold removal 

Removing mold can be tricky and pesky if you don’t know how to test for mold in your house. When in doubt, we recommend hiring an expert to do the job for you. Keep the tips below in mind when removing mold.

DO this

Wear the proper equipment: The EPA recommends wearing an N-95 respirator, long and heavy gloves, and goggles when cleaning. Mold produces allergens, irritants, and toxic substances, so it’s important to reduce exposure as much as possible.
Act quickly: By taking action to remove any mold as soon as possible, you can mitigate damage to surfaces, furniture, or appliances.  
Call a professional with any health concerns or severe cases of mold growth: If the patch of mold is larger than 3×3 feet, we recommend calling a professional to help you.
Fix any moisture that caused the problem: Fix any plumbing issues and identify any potential sources of excess moisture in your home.
Scrub hard surfaces: Water and a detergent are enough to get mold off hard surfaces, but you might also want to use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice, too.
Throw away anything absorbent with mold growing on it: Materials that can absorb mold easily, like carpets, curtains, or other fabrics must go as soon as you notice mold unless a professional can help. It can spread easily on these materials and is almost impossible to remove fully.

DON’T do this

Paint over moldy surfaces: The EPA states that painting over moldy surfaces will just make them peel down the line. Don’t caulk over moldy surfaces either. 
Forget about restoration specialists: If you want to keep the item due to sentimental reasons or expense, you can contact a restoration specialist for help.
Try to handle contaminated water by yourself: If the source of the moisture problem is contaminated water from a sewer backup or other rancid source, call in the professionals. 
Forget to dry items completely: Get rid of as much moisture as possible by also drying items after you fix the moisture problem. Make use of a dehumidifier if you think it’ll help.
Think the mold you can see is all that’s there: The EPA also warns against hidden mold, which can live on the back side of drywall, wallpaper or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, and under carpets. People usually find these sources after noticing a musty smell with no visible mold or reporting health problems

The main point is that mold is caused by moisture issues that must be resolved. Mold can’t be covered up. It can hide in the sneakiest places and cover very large surfaces that might require the help of a professional.

How to prevent mold from growing, room by room

In general, keep areas clean and dry with good airflow. Below are some tips for each major room of the house.    

To reduce mold in the bathroom:

  • Keep the area dry. Bathrooms can build up mold quickly due to the obvious sources of moisture. Increase ventilation with the use of a fan or window and clean frequently.  

To reduce mold in the kitchen:

  • Avoid moisture from cooking and plumbing. The AAFA recommends using exhaust fans while cooking and washing dishes, and keeping an eye out for plumbing leaks. 
  • Clean up old food. Make sure to throw away food before it can develop mold.

To reduce mold in the bedroom:

  • Watch out for foam mattresses and old materials. The AAFA states that polyurethane and rubber foam can grow mold easily, so keep them in zippered plastic coverings. Also, throw away old books or bedding that might harbor mold.
  • Airflow is important. Keep steady airflow in the room by opening closet doors and windows, and use fans when able.

To reduce mold in the laundry area:

  • Take care of your washing machine. Remove clothing from washing machines as soon as possible and keep your machine clean. 
  • Try to ventilate the space as much as possible. Crack open a window or blow a fan in the room.

To reduce mold in the basement:

  • Don’t carpet your basement. There’s a higher chance of water and moisture existing in your basement. If you place carpets there, it would harbor a lot of mold.
Tip

Use a hygrometer to check the relative humidity levels in your home. That is the best way to prevent mold growth since it grows in damp environments. Try to keep your home at around 30-50% relative humidity.

Common questions about air purifiers and mold

Mold is a type of fungi. It’s a natural and integral (in moderation) part of our environment and grows wherever moisture and oxygen can be found. You may notice mold in green, black, white, gray, and even bright pink coloring. Out in the wild, mold plays the necessary role of breaking down dead organic matter. But at home, it can cause structural damage and release toxic substances.

Those with weak respiratory systems or existing allergies are at risk. If someone has a mold allergy or asthma, mold exposure can trigger allergic symptoms or asthma attacks. Even without an allergy, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, nose, skin, throat, or lungs. In the worst cases, mold can release dangerous mycotoxins.  

Dehumidifiers can help control moisture which contributes to mold growth. Dehumidifiers let you select the humidity level by percentage, so aim to keep your home at around 30-50% for the best results.

Detergent, warm water, vinegar, lemon juice, or specialty cleaning problems work for hard surfaces. However, porous surfaces will likely need to be thrown out since mold can easily grow inside them where they cannot be seen. Try to avoid bleach, as it changes the color of the surface mold, but does not take care of the roots.


Wrapping up

Mold is a natural and necessary part of the environment. It helps break down dead organic material and maintains life’s natural cycles. But when it invades your home, it can start breaking down wood structures, drywall, carpeting, furniture, and whatever else it can worm itself into. When we inhale it, it can cause allergic reactions and respiratory irritation. A good HEPA filter air purifier can remove most mold spores in the air, but you still need to tackle the source. A combination of a great air purifier and some elbow grease can help keep your home comfortable and free of pesky mold.

SOURCES

About the author

Michelle Honeyager

Michelle started writing for HouseFresh in 2023. She is passionate about home topics and has been published in top publications, including CNET, Bankrate, Remodeling Today, Atlanta House & Home and Remodeling Today Triangle.