Bad odors at home can be the signal of potential health problems. Air purifiers are an essential tool to help reduce bad smells at home.
You may have noticed that almost every place – indoors or outdoors – has its own unique smell, but some of these smells can be quite undesirable and even embarrassing, in particular pungent smells, such as cooking smell, pet dander and musty mold smells. Can an air purifier help you combat bad odors? If so, which technology works best?
Where do odors come from?
Human beings are subject to a phenomena called “habituation”, in which our sensitivity and ability to distinguish odors diminishes with exposure. The brain tends to ignore those smells that we are constantly immersed in, focusing instead on scents and odors that are different than our habitual environment. That is why you may not notice the animal smell of your own pets but absolutely notice the smell of rotting food.
The most common odors that make up our day-to-day life are actually formed by airborne chemicals, and many of the scents originate from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Most VOCs, formaldehyde in particular, can cause a range of adverse health effects.
What are bad smells?
The human nose can detect and distinguish thousands of different scents, even if exposed to extremely small amounts of airborne chemicals. But what are these chemicals, exactly?
For instance, when you smell roses, lavender or geraniums, you are getting a big whiff of their natural chemical mixtures of VOCs. If you were to smell each one blindfolded, it might be hard to tell the difference because all three contain large proportions of geranyl acetate, a natural organic compound also commonly used in the production of perfumes, soaps and candles.
When you peel a banana, your nose is filled by isoamyl acetate, the organic compound giving bananas and pears that signature fruity smell and taste. Called “aroma compounds,” all the world’s scents and flavors derive from chemical compounds hitting our olfactory receptors. There are many classifications within aroma compounds, to an extent overwhelming even to chemists.
Where do bad odors originate?
Every family has different habits when it comes to hygiene and domestic cleanliness, but the bad odors that you cannot seem to eradicate are not simply a coincidence. They are the result of chemical compounds in the air, whose volatility makes them noticeable to your olfactory senses. These bad smells are not only a nuisance, but represent actual air pollution capable of causing adverse health effects, according to several studies.
Airborne chemicals are generally much, much smaller than many others found in your home, making filtering them from the air a challenge for most air purifiers.
An air purifier may be the solution to some of these unwanted scents, by eliminating particles that cause odor from the circulation of indoor air. However, some air purifiers are far more effective than others in getting rid of persistent smells.
Pet dander, or tiny flakes of skin, is a common source of sometimes unpleasant odors within our homes. A national pet owners survey in 2017 found that 85 million US households own a pet – meaning that a pet can be found in nearly 65% of US households.
Your pet’s skin – as well as yours – secretes tiny proteins, oils, and other substances, and all animals with fur or feathers will shed dander. These residues can create an odor in your home and also pose a legitimate threat to those suffering from allergies.
Preventing mold and mildew from forming is always the best option to remove their smell. But if you smell that horrible musty smell in your home, do not panic. There are numerous ways to remove fungi like mold and mildew, but they should all be done quickly after discovery to avoid any health risk.
Household fungi can have similar smells but are treated differently, so their identification is important. Their musty smell comes from VOCs they emit during various stages of their growth and while their spores may be toxic and pose risks themselves for some people, their smell serves as a clear indicator that your home has a problem.
Composed of a mix of particulate matter and gases, smoke is both an smelly nuisance and an extremely dangerous air pollutant to inhale. Because smoke cannot be entirely filtered out of the air by conventional air filters alone, taking the necessary steps to protect your home from smoke is critical. Additionally, it is important to remember that while some air purification technology can remove smoke from the air, they should never substitute direct measures to stop smoke at its source.
Unfortunately, the delicious meal you may have cooked up may end up lingering in your kitchen and home long past its due. The smells you associate with pungent food are composed by tiny airborne chemicals to which our noses are notoriously sensitive called “aromatic compounds”.
General odors in the home or office
An unpleasant combination of odors in a home or office could lead you to consider popular fragranced products like air fresheners. However, in an attempt to remove annoying and potentially embarrassing strong smells, adding fragrances into the air to mask the problem will introduce additional VOCs, which can increase the chance of a number of health problems to develop.
Nobody likes a stinky home or workplace, but the latest science shows that living, working, or shopping around pronounced smells has a demonstrable effect on human health and decision-making. In study of over 1,000 American adults, almost 35% reported health problems when exposed to fragranced products in the workplace. 20% stated they would leave a business as quickly as possible if they smelled air fresheners or fragranced products, and 50% prefer that hotels, health care facilities, businesses and airplanes were fragrance-free.
Do air purifiers help with smell?
While HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air purifiers are designed to deal with large particles, they do not remove odors, chemicals, gases or VOCs. This means they are completely ineffective for odors. Making matters even worse, HEPA filters may actually serve as a source for musty, unpleasant odors. When pollutants such as bacteria and mold are trapped onto HEPA filters, they may multiply over time if filters are not replaced often, which can increase unpleasant smells to form.
UV-C light filters
Whereas a pure HEPA filter may serve as the dark, damp, breeding ground of choice for bacteria, mold, and mildew, filters equipped with a UV-C germicidal lamp may be better served. UV-C is a type of light which kills microorganisms by effectively making it impossible for them to reproduce. However, the effectiveness of UV-C light air purifiers remains not completely accepted, as it requires a high dose of light and contact time for mold and bacteria to be destroyed.
Even as this option may claim to be better for reducing musty odors in your home, the effectiveness of using UV-C to reduce odor is ambiguous at best, and has been shown to potentially produce ozone, a harmful pollutant. So all in all, HEPA filters with or without a UV-C light are not viable options when seeking to reduce odors in a room.
Filters that use activated carbon to absorb airborne chemicals, specifically VOCs that make up odors, are a common option for removing some odors from the air. However, their effectiveness is dependent on a few factors, which should be considered when using this kind of air purification devices.
Firstly, the amount of carbon used in the air filter will drastically change the effectiveness of the air purifier in removing odors, and the complexity (thickness) in carbon structures within the air filter itself has a massive effect on the filter’s overall capability too. Frequently, the thin and inexpensive carbon filters that are most common on the market are quite ineffective at removing odors, chemicals and pollutants from the air. Therefore, you may want to consider the amount of activated carbon that is present in the air purifier when it is an option.
Secondly, carbon air filters have potential drawbacks because of a process known as off-gassing. This happens when the carbon contained inside the filter becomes saturated or otherwise disrupted by a change in humidity or temperature, which may cause the filter to release the VOCs it captured back into the air.
KORU (PCO) technology
Though carbon filtration is a decent option for odors, there is another long-term option that can help deal with odor-causing VOCs in the air by destroying airborne chemicals at the molecular level. This method of air purification, called Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO), was developed over two decades by research scientists and KORU air purifier to help remove odors from the air. This becomes even more important when the VOCs in the air are harmful, as the system works in 3 stages, where different pollutants, chemicals, and VOCs are destroyed.
KORU’s technology eliminates odors by breaking down all VOCs, including those that cause smell. This means that KORU destroys bad smells which range from unpleasant to physically harmful, and unlike carbon filters, KORU does not require any replacement filter, it can be rinsed by hand and reused forever.
What to look for in an air purifier for smell
Think about the size of the area you need to cover. Air purifiers are most effective in smaller rooms with all the doors and windows shut. So, spaces with an open floor plan are going to be much more difficult to manage. You also might have to upsize a little if you have very tall ceilings. As a general tip, try to get enough air purification to cover 10% more of the actual area you want.
For instance, if you want to cover 600 sq. ft. you should get air purifiers to cover at least 650-660 sq. ft. in order to maintain effectiveness.
Other tips to remove bad smells at home
- Increase air circulation (open windows or use fans)
- Use box or floor fans strategically (position one so that it “pushes” indoor air out one window and another one so that it “pulls” fresh outdoor air inside from a different window)
- Upgrade to a modern, higher-quality air purifier
- Replace the filter more frequently. The typical lifespan of a 1”-thick home air filter is 90 days. Or consider upgrading to a system with a reusable, washable filter.
A conclusive note
Alongside direct action to remove the source of the smell, using certain types of air purification technology can greatly help with odor removal. The KORU Air Purifier is the only air purification solution that effectively destroys volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the airborne chemicals that cause bad smells in your home.
KORU destroys mold, bacteria and pet dander as well, which can also contribute to unpleasant smells. Smells are tricky, and not all air purifiers can be trusted to remove unpleasant odors.
Luckily, the latest advancements in air purification technology allowed us to develop KORU Air focusing on maintaining an extremely high air purification effectiveness, while limiting our impact on the planet and on customer’s pockets with a permanent and washable filter perfect to capture even up to 99% of virus and bacteria.