How to keep the house free of dust, allergens and cat smells?
May 28, 2014 5:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm a new home owner who wants to keep my house as free of dust, allergens and cat smells as possible. What kind of air purification system should I get?

What's the difference between maintaining the vents in the house vs. having a "whole house" air purification system installed?

I'm reading about UV light systems, Lennox purification systems, HEPA filters, etc. I see I can spend between $100 and $1000 for a single room/800 sq. ft. on Amazon or I can have a professionally installed system to cover the whole house for over $1000 (my house is approx. 1800 sq. ft.). Should I call an HVAC company, or is that overkill right now and I should be buying something at Home Depot or Amazon? What would be a good first step? It's really overwhelming trying to choose between so many types, brands, etc. I'd love if visitors to my house couldn't smell the cats very much at all!
posted by rbf1138 to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What are the cats doing that's causing such a smell? There might be better solutions at the source, rather than the systems you're looking at. Do you clean out the litter boxes daily? Dust and allergens is a different matter.
posted by beagle at 5:24 AM on May 28, 2014

> I'd love if visitors to my house couldn't smell the cats very much at all!

If that's your real problem -- you're ashamed of your cat smelling like a cat -- you just need to clean the cat box frequently, vacuum frequently, and keep the cat off upholstered furniture. Encourage the cat to lie in approved places -- pillows that you can easily and frequently clean.

Or get rid of the cat.
posted by pracowity at 5:25 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your visitors can smell your cats? Why? What kind of cats are they?
posted by devnull at 5:25 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out the Austin Healthmate air purifiers. They have one for pet allergens. I think that they run between $600-800 and they cover a large area.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:29 AM on May 28, 2014

I scoop the litter daily. Not getting rid of cats. I vacuum and mop regularly. Basically, they're cats, they shed hair and despite cleaning it's not perfect. I'm looking to purify the air because I'm hoping it'll make a significant enough impact overall to be worth the cost.

For example, would this be a good investment? http://​www.​​airpura-v600​-air-purifiers.html?​itemId=3017
posted by rbf1138 at 5:32 AM on May 28, 2014

Here's Austin's Pet Machine. It looks like you can purchase it through their site for $595, though I'm sure you could shop around.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:38 AM on May 28, 2014

For example, would this be a good investment?

Ok, one last comment and then I'll bow out, but it looks like the Airpura purifier that you linked is more expensive and there are more filters to replace. But that's just from a quick read of their website. I think that any of these standalone purifiers would be a good investment, but keep an eye on long-term expenses as well.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:44 AM on May 28, 2014

We have four cats in a fairly small house (plus stinky dog), they all shed, they all poop (outside for the dog), and stinky dog farts. We have 50% short carpet and 50% polished cement floors. In the winter heat is radiant (so, no air circulation), in the summer central air (with good filters on the blower). My system is as follows:

1. litter (unscented, wheat based litter) scooped AT LEAST once a day (more often if I can smell anything), baking soda in the litter. Boxes emptied and cleaned on a regular, as needed basis. Boxes are kept in rooms that aren't frequently used by people (three boxes in a mechanical room downstairs that the cats access through a couple of cat doors in the wall (keeps stinky dog from stealing cat-poop, she can't get through the doors), the last box is in a small, gated (the gate has a small cat door), mud room by the back door (for the fat cat that is too lazy to walk all the way to the boxes in the basement).

2. GOOD vacuum cleaner (I use a shark navigator liftway and LOVE it!) used daily on all floors.

3. Regular combing/brushing of the four-footers to contain as much hair as possible.

4. A couple of small hepa type air purifiers are run, one daily, the other in the somewhat unused basement room if I'm planning to use it (air gets a bit stale, the purifier helps).

5. I use a lot of spices when cooking so the place almost always smells like some ethnic restaurant anyways.

I believe the key to a non-smelly house is more about daily routine/cleaning and litter box location then it is about high tech air systems.
posted by HuronBob at 6:01 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you have a relatively new house with good windows and doors, the real problem may be a lack of ventilation that's allowing odors to build up. If that's the case a whole-house system that includes a heat-exchange ventilator would be the best solution. In a well-sealed house, you might be getting less than one complete air change per hour, which is good for heating/cooling costs, but not if odors are building up. Before investing, you could test this out by just setting up a couple fans to pull air through the house from one end to the other.
posted by beagle at 6:09 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your house will never be perfectly dust or cat odor free. It's just a given. Now, having said that.....

I have Lennox HVAC units and regret it. I have had them for 3yrs and already have replaced both compressors (seperately) and both coils (again, seperately- due to freon leaks). They just aren't reliable. I also have the UV light 'purifier'. I know that it does cut down on the mold inside the unit, but as for what it does for the house? I couldn't say. You do have to replace the bulbs about every 18 months.

I use a stand alone air filter called IQ Air. It is pricey and the filters are pricey but it really and truly works and has been quite reliable. I run mine about 12 hours a day every day and have for almost 6 years. The amount of debris in the filters never fails to disgust me! It's also very effective at removing odors.

Since you're a new home owner, I'll let you in on the #1 secret to a dust (almost) free home- seal your home. All of those little spaces between the baseboards and the carpet? The pressure/intake from your A/C system can pull dust from your attic and wall spaces right into your interior. Look for any openings, from too large electrical openings to the hole punched in the wall for your ice maker's water line.

Look, you'll never be dust free and the sooner you get zen with that, the happier you'll be in your new place.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:11 AM on May 28, 2014

We have two dogs and two cats in a small (900 sq ft) house... and my husband has asthma. We'd tried a number of smaller air purifiers, then over the holidays gave in and bought a rather pricey Blueair 603. We keep it running constantly in one room or another - on the lower modes its quiet enough for me to sleep through, and when he's having a bad day, we can crank it up, and he feels better in about an hour. And agreed on the daily scooping.
posted by korej at 6:33 AM on May 28, 2014

I use disposable cat boxes which get thrown out and replaced every couple of months or so. (Kitty's Wonderbox and Nature's Miracle are two brands I like.) Of course I scoop the boxes every day and replace the litter, but this way I don't have any lingering odors trapped in the stinky box itself.

I use a HEPA air purifier in the family room and one in my bedroom. And - this is not for everyone, but I love scents - I have scented candles on candle warmers (much safer than an open flame).

And if you have carpet, get rid of it if you can and replace it with some kind of solid flooring (Pergo, hardwood, tile, whatever you like). Carpet traps dust, dirt, cat hair, and all kinds of stank.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:46 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have three cats, and a dog. I find that the daily vacuuming (I have a Neato, it runs while either my husband or I are home) works far better than an air purifier ever has. It also cuts down the amount I have to dust things, which is fine by me. Addtitionally, I put sheets over my upholstered furniture, unless someone will be coming over. I use either World's Best cat litter, or the Arm & Hammer naturals. People don't always know I have cats, because they don't smell them.
posted by kellyblah at 6:59 AM on May 28, 2014

Toilet-train your cat! I'm totally serious. A cat adopted us about 12 years ago, and one of the first things my wife did was teach it to use the toilet. We have NEVER had to clean a cat box, and the house doesn't smell like cat. (It smells like dog, but that's a different story.)
posted by underthehat at 7:43 AM on May 28, 2014

Consumer Reports rated the Holmes air purifiers quite high. So I bought one and must say that it works quite well. It is also much less expensive than many others. A key measurement is how well they clean the air when running at their slower and quieter speeds. Another important factor in air purifiers is the cost of replacing the filters. The Holmes is very good on both counts. Another good but more expensive brand is Bluair, made in Sweden. The Holmes cost $120 so you might be able to afford one in each important room. Another idea is that you would have a window fan installed in the room with the litter boxes, drawing the air outside.

Holmes Air Purifiers at Amazon
posted by conrad53 at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have heard that the robotic litter boxes help a lot with the smells. No experience personally.

Also as a dog owner I find that opening the windows a lot and washing all bedding (mine and his) regularly helps a lot too.
posted by radioamy at 12:14 PM on May 28, 2014

Have you thought about getting some plants?

NASA Clean Air Study says to put one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Be aware some plants may be toxic for cats.
posted by jyorraku at 8:49 PM on May 28, 2014

In your air purifier you'll want a HEPA for the allergens (not HEPA type or HEPA like) and a charcoal filter for the odors. If it comes with extra filters that can be helpful when getting started. If the odors are stronger, it could help to get one that is rated for a larger space than the one you plan to use it in.

Sprinkling plain baking soda on carpet and letting it sit for a little vacuuming makes a big difference in my house. A good air purifier can be quite expensive, but my partner and I found good sales at stores we didn't expect, like Macy's. Also, washing curtains or slipcovers frequently can cut down on smells that may be absorbed by the fabric. You can also buy little bags of activated charcoal that you can place discreetly around your home; these may help absorb odors as well.
posted by Verba Volant at 8:59 PM on May 28, 2014

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