These are my recommended filters for pet hair and dander:
- The best super high efficiency filter: IQAir HealthPro Plus (costs about $900-$1200)
- The best long-term filter: Austin Air Pet Machine (costs about $700)
- The best mid-level filter: Alen BreatheSmart Air Purifier (costs about $480)
- The best budget filters: Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet Air Cleaner (costs about $180) or the Winix 5300-2 (costs about $120)
How To Filter Pet Hair and Dander
Pet dander is not the hair or fur of the animal, but is old skin scales which are constantly shed. Animal dander is extremely light weight and tiny in size (approximately 2.5 microns). It can stay airborne for hours.
Pets tend to shed a lot of dander, so you want a machine with a good pre-filter to stop pet hair reaching the main HEPA filter.
HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air” and is commonly found in most modern air purifiers.
So for the main filter you want a reliable HEPA filter that can effectively trap all micron-size irritants such as pet hair, dander and dust mites. The pre-filter reduces the workload of the HEPA filter, and reduces number of filter replacements required. So you want an effective and durable pre-filter that would be able to trap a large amount of pet hair before requiring cleaning or replacing.
Most Effective High-End Dander Filter: IQAir HealthPro Plus
IQAir filters are made in Switzerland. This company has a great reputation and it has been in business for 50 years — this is important because if your filter company goes out of business you won’t be able to purchase replacement filters.
The strengths of the IQ Filters:
- They have the best pre-filters in the industry (collects 90% of particulates) — this relieves much of the load from the main filters
- The main filters are “HyperHEPA” filters — it exceeds HEPA standards and filters ultrafine particles as small as 0.003 microns
- The filter also contains five pounds of activated carbon for gas and odor removal
- They are expensive (units cost $900 to $1200)
- Replacement filters can be expensive, if they are used in environments with dirty air
- Boxy appearance, weak wheels
- Somewhat noisy
- Works best when used in rooms that are 300 square feet or less
Most Efficient Filter Under $700: The Austin Air Pet Machine
For long-term use, the purifier I recommend is the Austin Air Pet Machine.
The strengths of this filter:
- It’s virtually maintenance free for five years (a big plus in my opinion)
- It has five year prorated mechanical warranty, and a five year warranty on the replaceable filter media
- The filters are built in Buffalo, New York (except for the motor which is made in China) — the customer service comes from the New York headquarters
- It is not a “smart machine” — it doesn’t have any automatic controls or air quality sensors
- Somewhat noisier than other filters
- Contains zeolite which does not work well in moist environments (don’t use in saunas or indoor pool areas)
I have Austin Air filters in my home because work well and they are virtually maintenance free. If you are dealing with very dirty air, you may need to clean the intake area of the filter every few months. Besides that, these filter will work reliably for five years before needing a replacement filter. But again, if you have very dirty air, you need to replace the filter in as little as two years.
In terms of filtration media, the Austin Air Pet Machine has four stage filtering:
- Stage 1 – Large Particle Pre-filter – removes particles easily seen by the naked eye (e.g. dust and hair)
- Stage 2 – Medium Particle Pre-filter – removes molds, spores and pollen
- Stage 3 – 15 pounds of carbon and zeolite – reduces odors caused by pets and other chemicals, gases and odors
- Stage 4 – 60 square feet of true medical grade HEPA – removes pet allergens such as dander and dust, as well as thousands of other micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria and viruses)
This filter excels at removing odors and gases, and it is strong particulate filter too. These filters are not pretty but they are durable. They have a metal housing and are fairly heavy. They do not feature any smart controls.
The Pet Machine is also a bit noisier than comparable filters — this is because air must be pulled through 15 pounds of carbon and zeolite in the filter.
Most Efficient Filter Under $500: Alen BreatheSmart Air Purifier
Strengths of this filter:
- Moves a lot of air (cleans about 300 square feet of air every 30 minutes)
- Offers a “forever guarantee” — basically if the filter fails, the company will ship a replacement filter to you for free
- Good customer service
- Filter changes are easy
- Attractive design
- Filter does not offer true-HEPA performance (doesn’t fully remove micro-particles)
- Bright blue control lights may disturb you at night
The Alen company is another reliable filter manufacturer, headquartered in Texas. Their BreatheSmart Air Purifier is well suited for pet dander filtration. This unit features a pre-filter that captures most pet hair and dander before it gets to the HEPA filter stage. It has a 1.5 pound carbon filter for odor removal.
Although Alen does not give out CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) numbers, we estimate this filter has an average CADR of 270. Most filter average around 150 CADR, so this number is impressive.
This filter is not “true HEPA” because it dose not filter 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns. Instead the company says it filters “up to 99% of .3 micron particles”. This may not be concern to you if you are not particularly vulnerable to allergic reactions.
The company offers a “forever guarantee”. Basically this is the fine print of the warranty — “If you’ve used your Alen air purifier for personal purposes in the United States and it quits operating under normal conditions, we guarantee to provide you the same or comparable refurbished purifier with free shipping. Just call us 512-436-0457 and you’ll be breathing pure air again before you know it. In the event that your Alen air purifier is damaged by unconventional use or reasons, we will replace it for half the current retail price plus applicable sales tax and shipping.”
Most Efficient Filter Under $200: Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet True HEPA Air Cleaner
Strengths of this filter:
- Inexpensive initial purchase
- Includes a true HEPA filters that captures 99.9% of airborne particles (down to .3 microns)
- Fairly quiet
- Not the best at removing odors
- Replacement filters are somewhat expensive ($100+)
Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet Air Cleaner is an inexpensive filter that comes with washable pre-filter that captures pet hair and larger airborne particles before they get to the main filter.
Winix is a Korean company that makes inexpensive filters that actually feature true HEPA filters. These filters capture 99.9% of airborne pollutants, pet dander and allergens as small as 0.3 microns. The true HEPA filters sets Winix apart from other Asian filter manufacturers.
To remove odors, Winix filters incorporate “PlasmaWave” technology. This is basically a plasma ion streamer that operates at low voltages. It creates very short-lived but powerful oxidants called “hydroxyls” — these are a safer replacement for ozone. Hydroxyls work at the molecular level, destroying ultrafine particles, chemical and odor molecules, and killing microorganisms.
Winix filters have a one year warranty. The Ultimate Pet replacement cassette cartridge filter is about $10 (it must be purchased as a set).
You can also opt for the Winix 5300-2 which is the bestselling air filter from Winix, and cost $130. This unit will do a good job removing pet dander too.