Mold exists everywhere in nature and is a common component of dust. Mold is a microscopic fungi with a size of 10-30 microns. Mold spreads through the air and can create serious health issues. An air purifier will not remove the source of mold and mildew. But they can clean the mold spores from the air to help you breathe and feel better.
Mold is a fungus. It is found everywhere.
Here is the definition of a fungus from dictionary.com. “... organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material." If you can see mold it means there is a lot of it. This is sometimes referred to as a mold colony. A mold colony is an interconnected network of this fungus called a mycelium.
So, what does this mean?
We will break it down for you.
The purpose in nature for a mold spore or a fungus is to break down things like branches or plants as part of the life cycle. In the natural world mold is a welcome participant and serves an important function. Think of an orange that drops to the ground. This later decomposes to fertilize the area around the tree. This allows the orange tree to receive nutrients.
What has changed is that we, at least the majority of us, do not live in nature. At least we don’t intend to live in places where things are broken down. We live in homes, often apartments or houses in towns or cities. We do not want our walls, carpets or clothing to be moldy. In this case, airborne mold becomes a nuisance and dangerous to our home and health.
The 3 most common types of mold spores include Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Stachybotrys.
It is important to note that per the CDC, "toxic mold" or toxic black mold is not an accurate term. They state certain molds can produce toxins. The molds themselves are not toxic.
Seems like a bit of a technicality. What they are saying is the mold is not toxic but it can produce toxins.
There are a variety of mold spore allergy symptoms related to coming into contact that mimic allergies. As well as some other medical issues.
The most common mold allergic reaction symptoms are:
According to the Mayo Clinic, mold spores can cause an inflammation of the lungs. A condition called “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” (HP). Sounds like pneumonia but it is not. HP cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Huffington Post reported on research from NC State. “Repeated episodes of hypersensitive pneumonitis can lead to bacterial pneumonia."
Mold is not something to be taking lightly and is considered a form of indoor air pollution.
Mildew is closely related to mold. Mildew tends to be white in color while mold is generally green, brown or black in color.
It gets confusing since mildew is often used to describe mold growth. Mildew is a fungus that has a thin series of tiny fibers that grow on plants or things like paper or clothing. It can appear as a powdery substance. Mold tends to have more a fuzzy appearance like you see on rotting fruit.
Mold and mildew can both cause allergic or asthmatic responses when breathed in. This is backed up from research at NIH (National Institutes of Health) where they state household molds are linked to childhood asthma. The bottom line is, mold has many effects on our health.
The testing for mold is best accomplished by a mold specialist. Mold remediation companies specialize in the testing and cleanup. They are often used when you have a serious issue.
It’s possible to buy a mold test kit and take samples yourself which are then mailed to a lab. There are different places to test such as the air, surfaces like walls and in many rooms.
All homes have some degree of airborne mold spores and testing is often conducted when a moldy smell is present. This could be from either mold or mildew. Testing should be considered if you experience the symptoms of mold allergies discussed above.
If you suspect you have a mold problem, it is important to understand the type of mold you have. You want to know whether you have black mold. This will influence how the mold is removed from your home.
Ok, so if you suspect you have mold or know for sure you want to know how to remove it.
As with all indoor air quality issues, the most effective action is to remove the source. In the case of mold this is often the presence of water or high humidity. In addition, you need to deal with the mold spores in the air that cause your allergies and asthma issues. So you also need to remove the airborne particles.
Here are the steps to get rid of mold and mildew:
A safe way is to wash your clothes in hot water with a 1/2 cup of baking soda. If this does not work you can try ammonia and bleach. Be careful not to mix these two, ever. Bleach can damage your clothes and change the color so be careful how much you use. Use no more than 1/2 cup of bleach in the washer with the hottest water setting you can use for your clothes. Here are some more tips.
The most common method to get rid of mold is to combine 1/2 cup of bleach with 1 quart of water. Be sure to wear protective gloves in the presence of bleach as it can irritate your skin. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask to prevent from breathing in the mold spores. The bleach should also not be breathed in. Another option is a cleaner like Concrobium.
Wash the mold area on the wall with a brush until it disappears. Keep this area well ventilated and allow to fully dry. Moisture is the friend of mold and mildew so you will want the area to be dry. You also want to maintain the humidity below 50% if at all possible. This will prevent mold growth.
Mold spores range in size from 3 to 30 microns in diameter. A micron is short for micrometer. A micron is one millionth of a meter. So, it is quite small. Too small to see unless there are hundreds or thousands of spores clump together. In comparison a human hair is 100-150 microns in diameter. This small size and weight allows a mold spore to stay suspended in the air and float throughout your home.
In the marketing of air purifiers, you will see a variety of names for pleated filters. The best are called true HEPA filters. Others are referred to as HEPA-type filters, or have HEPA and some other marketing term added. In most cases, the HEPA-type filter and related filters do not meet the HEPA standard. At the high end are commercial grade medical filters.
If you want to learn more about HEPA filter air purifiers check out this article on what a HEPA filter is. It's fairly technical and explains why should should buy a true HEPA air purifier or better for airborne particles like mold.
HEPA filters remove airborne particulates from the air. Here is a short list:
HEPA filters are rated based on the MERV rating system. The higher the rating the more efficient the filter. Therefore, a higher rating will remove more of the smaller sized particles.
If you have a musty smell from the mildew or mold you may also want to remove this odor. We see this often when you need an air purifier for basement use. The best way to safely do this is with a high quality activated carbon filter. If you activate carbon it has an amazing ability to absorb a wide range of odors. In it's natural form, carbon doesn't do much. You may be wondering what is activated carbon and how to activate it.
To activate carbon, it goes through a controlled baking process. Depending upon the size of the carbon and how it is cooked will determine the hardness and ability to absorb odors. If the carbon is very powdery and soft, we have seen great results. However the problem with this is that you do not want carbon dust in your home. So, the carbon needs to be harder while keeping much of it's odor removing ability.
To go a little deeper, not all carbon is created equal. On the low end there is the carbon pre-filter. This is commonly a foam filter with a coating of activated carbon sprayed onto it. We use this in our Finn air purifier. It provides some odor removal ability but it is mostly intended to protect the HEPA filter from the larger airborne particles. This includes things like dust from a litter box, dust pollen, dust mites, pet hair, pet dander, really any large particle.
To go one step up is our Max HEPA air cleaner which also has a separate filter with activated carbon. And at a higher level of performance is our EJ and Erik650A air purifiers with specially treated granular activated carbon. This is the highest quality of carbon filter and will produce the best results in the removal of odors whether from mold to things like tobacco smoke odors, formaldehyde and cooking odors. I don't typically toot our own horn, but the carbon in the EJ and ERIK650A is really special and the best air filters for mold and home odor removal that we have seen especially for cigarette smoke and air pollution. And it can remove ozone, but I digress.
The third part to choosing the best air purifier for mold is to ensure you have proper air flow. If you do not move enough air, it doesn't matter how good the filters are. You simply won't have the fresh, clean air you are looking for.
You may not remember but David Oreck the founder of Oreck air purifiers and vacuums used to say, "To clean the air you have to move the air." He was 100% correct.
While this statement is true you also need really good filters. So, assuming your filters are top notch then you need to make sure the motor and fan can move enough air for the room or rooms in your home.
One way to assess this is to look for the CADR rating. CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate. It is managed by an organization called the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, also known as AHAM. We are members of AHAM. The advantage of being an AHAM member is that we can state our CADR numbers and they are certified. We are providing the real air flow performance numbers.
Once you know the CADR you can determine how much air flow you will get. One caveat, is that this is on the highest fan speed. If you will run the air purifier on a lower fan speed, the air flow will be lower. So, this means you will not get a lower CADR.
Here's how the CADR works. Say, the CADR is 100. This means the air cleaner will provide 100 cubic feet per minute of filtered air. If the number was 200, then you would get twice as much filtered air flow.
So, what exactly does a CADR of 100 mean to you? Well, if the air cleaner provides 100 cubic feet per minute of clean air and the ceiling in your home is 8 ft high this means you will get 12.5 sq ft of fresh air per minute. Just divide the CADR rating by your ceiling height (100/8).
This is where is gets a little squirrelly with air purifier brands. Some promote huge room coverage areas yet fail to tell you how many air changes per hour you are getting. At a minimum we suggest 2 air changes per hour. If you have strong allergies or asthma then it should be in the 4 to 5 air changes per hour.
Getting back to our example, the 12.5 square feet per minute can clean an area of 375 sq ft every 30 minutes (2 air changes per hour). For the 4 to 5 air changes per hour then the room coverage drops to a 150 to 187 square foot room.
Remember, this is on the highest fan speed. And for a room with 8 ft high ceilings. If the ceiling is 10 feet high, then the room coverage will decrease to 10 sq ft per minute. And 4 air changes per hour will be 150 square feet.
When you look at these numbers it's important to see that these are room air purifiers. They are meant to be used in specific rooms. To move air through a true HEPA filter is not easy. Now, given the size, most are portable and can be moved from room to room. We suggest running the air purifier in the room where you spend most of your time. Most often this is the bedroom. However, if you have a mold problem then it will be in the vicinity of the mold issue.
To learn more about making sure the air purifier can clean the size of your room, check out air purifier room size & square footage.
Dust comes in many sizes and the best solution is to use a true HEPA air purifier. This is because it will remove even the smallest of dust particles as well as larger dust particles, dust mites and mold spores.
A furnace filter protects your HVAC system and helps to keep your air ducts clean. However, a furnace filter is not designed to clean the air of the smallest dust particles. The small particle sizes are the most important to remove to keep your air clean of allergens.
For more information please see our Best Air Purifiers for Dust Removal. This article also includes practical tips for how you can reduce dust in your house.
Humidifiers add water to the air and therefore increase the relative humidity of the air in your room. Moisture is a key ingredient to dust mite activity so you will want to have lower humidity levels to have less dust.
Since humidifiers increase moisture levels, in general they are not a good solution. You should strive to keep your humidity between 35-50%. If you go much above 50% you are opening yourself up for mold and dust growth.
If your humidity levels are high then a dehumidifier or air conditioner is your best choice.
We have been in the air purifier business for many years. I have been doing this since 2002. In this time I have seen a number of technologies come and go. In this section I will discuss at a high level what they are and how effective you should expect them to be as they relate to mold spore removal.
UV-C ultraviolet light is commonly used in air ducts of the ventilation systems in buildings. You also see them sometimes in forced-air heating systems. I have looked and do not see these commonly in home HVAC ducting. It's probably overkill.
In a business or commercial environment where there tends to be standing water, a UV-C germicidal lamp can help to prevent mold growth. This is really important in a large office building since mold growth can cause awful problems like sick building syndrome. To eliminate the mold and mildew, powerful ultraviolet lighting systems are installed in the ducting where water is likely to accumulate.
This is typically from condensation from an air conditioning system or water penetrating from outside. Left to stand in a dark, humid environment like a ducting system is a recipe for mold growth issues.
Some room air purifiers like our Finn have an ultra-violet light. An air purification system like this is smaller than their cousins in the commercial building but operate with the same principle. They can be used to control bacteria but realistically work best at keep mold or bacteria from growing inside the HEPA air purifier.
To be effective at killing mold or bacteria you need sufficient contact time. It's questionable whether you get this in the air passing through a room air purifier. For an air duct where the ultraviolet light is constantly shining on the water, it's a different scenario. That's why I say a room HEPA air purifier with a UV light can keep the air purifier clean and offer some benefit. It's not not as effective as the super power UV-C lights that are used in the commercial office buildings. The UV lamp in a room air cleaner is often 5 or 6 watts while in an air ducting system can be 100 times more powerful.
Recently, we started to see ultraviolet light being installed at the air handler of home air conditioners. In a way this makes the air handler into fan that can serve as a whole house air purifier. For a UV lamp this may work since a light is not going to add to the air flow resistance like you might see with a thick activated carbon filter. Anyways, it can be helpful to have the UV light if there is a risk of standing water. Although there is a gap with the air ducts in that the uv light needs to be located where the water stands. We will continue to monitor this market to see if whole home UV systems are effective and become a trend.
We have also started to see the air probe sanitizer being marketed. In most cases this is wand with a uv germicidal lamp attached to it. Given that you want to place this where water may stand, this gives you some flexibility if it's portable.
A negative ionizer works by sending out a negative charge into the air. The idea is that this charge will attach to things like mold spores or pet dander and then those airborne particles will be attracted to something else. In a sense, removing them from the air.
When it comes to removing mold spores this can be a problem. I say this because you want to clean the air by catching the particles in the air filter. Not by having them attach to walls, carpeting or other areas where mold may grow.
The one exception would be if the negative ions of the air ionizer are created inside the air purifier and then the particles passing through the air purifier may have a better chance of getting caught in the HEPA air filter. This is the principle we use in the Finn and Max air purifiers. With the OV200, EJ and Erik there is no ionizer. Just mechanical filters to clean the air.
Some air cleaning products are sold where the only technology is the negative ion generator. This is something you want to avoid, especially with mold. While these are silent air purifiers, you will not get the results you are looking for. Regardless of whether you choose Oransi or another brand like Austin Air or IQAir Healthpro, you will benefit from a room air purifier that works based on high efficiency filters.
The negative air ionizers without HEPA filters are called ionic air purifiers. If you want to see a comparison of ionic and HEPA air purifiers be sure to check out this article.
Other technologies that are electronic in nature include Plasmawave air cleaners, Plasmacluster and something called PCO or Photo Catalytic Oxidation. These systems use a charge like the negative ion systems and in the case of Plasma also use a positive charge. Again, for the removal of mold spores you want to catch them in the air filter. It's unclear to me how charging particles without knowing that they will collect in the filter is a good thing.
Photo-catalytic oxidation is a newest technology in the air purifier market. If you are a nerd like me and read research reports from Universities and the CARB (California Air Resources Board) you will see they do not encourage the use of this technology. If it was good we would use it. The problem is it can create ozone and other dangerous gases. I don't know how to say it other than it can create an indoor air pollutant. The idea behind making air purifiers to provide clean air and not introduce air pollution. With PCO, you cannot ensure you will not create secondary pollution.
Another indoor air quality product you may see is the plug-in air purifier. Most often these are ionic air purifiers. In other cases they emit a fragrance to make your home smell fresher. Either way, the plug-in air cleaners will do nothing to help with mold spores or mildew. They just emit either a negative charge or fragrance. To kill mold you need something like ultraviolet light (uv air purifier) or a dehumidifier or air conditioner plus a high quality HEPA air purifier filter.
In extreme cases, a mold remediation specialist may use an ozone generator. This is often done in commercial settings but could be done in the home in conjunction with repairs to drywall or other places where mold has accumulated. Ozone generators create ozone which is a lung irritant and not something that is commonly sold as a consumer product.
In summary, mold is a serious issue and can cause a variety of allergic and respiratory issues.
In this article we presented the top 3 air purifiers for mold spores. In the guide to mold and mildew we covered topics like what mold is, the three most common types of mold, and allergy symptoms of exposure to mold. We also described the difference between mildew and mold.
Most importantly we gave tips on how to remove mold spores from the air. We gave detail on how to choose the best air purifier for mold.
Mold is an airborne particulate. The best way to clean the air of mold is with a true HEPA air filter. With HEPA filtration you get the highest efficiency. This means the HEPA filter removes the most and smallest sizes airborne particles. In addition, you will want to a strong fan to move the air. If the fan is weak you will not get enough air flow through the filter.
Activated carbon is a must if you are looking to remove mold odors. A thin carbon pre-filter will do little to help with mold smells. For this you should have at least a few pounds of granular activated carbon.
A good way to make sure your air purifier is effective is to see the CADR. The Clean Air Delivery Rate will let you know how much air flow you are getting through the air purifier. The higher the number the larger the room size can be.
We also reviewed some other air purification technologies. We go into some depth on UV-C germicidal lights. Both for home and commercial air cleaning. Some of air filtration technologies include negative ions, plasmawave technology and PCO.
We hope you found this guide helpful and informative. Our goal is to provide you with information so you can live in a clean, healthy environment.
To learn more be sure to check out our 5 reasons to buy Oransi.