Himalayan salt lamps have been around a long time and are being mentioned together with air purifiers very often. However, there are many misconceptions and wrongful information being thrown around about these mysterious devices. Salt lamps are also surrounded by many questions, one of the most popular ones being “are salt lamps air purifiers?”.
In short, Himalayan salt lamps are not air purifiers. There is no concrete evidence that would confirm that salt lamps can actually remove air pollutants from the air we breathe. More specifically, Himalayan salt lamps are also said to be air ionizers, meaning that they produce negative ions. These negative ions then clean the air and cause many beneficial effects on the human body. While air ionizers and negative ions are a proven way of cleaning the air, there is no evidence that would suggest that salt lamps are capable of producing negative ions.
There you have it – sadly, science is not the side of salt lamps this time, but people are still free to believe what they want. In the next few sections, I will be going more into detail and provide you with a more in-depth answer.
First, we have to take a look at the difference between air purifiers and salt lamps in terms of how they work.
How air purifiers and salt lamps work – differences
We have many different types of air purifiers that all have the same goal – clean indoor air. The technology that these devices use is different and unique for each group. Not every type of air purifier is suited for removing all types of air pollutants. Here is a quick overview of the most popular air purifier types and the technology they use. This will come in handy a bit later when comparing them to salt lamps
- HEPA technology. These are air purifying devices that use HEPA filters to effectively get rid of the majority of indoor air pollutants. The effectiveness can vary and does mostly depend on the quality of the filter itself. H13 and H14 HEPA filters belong to the highest tier, and can effectively remove 99.97% of all harmful particles that are as small as 0.1 microns. Air purifiers that use HEPA filters have to suck the air inside of the device, which then passes through these filters, capturing harmful particles and releasing clean air.
- Carbon Activated filters. These usually come together with HEPA filters because they have a very specific role – absorbing and neutralizing smells and odors. As a stand-alone unit, they are not really that effective since they do not remove fine particles such as dust, pollen, pet dander, etc.
- Air ionizers. These air purifiers work by releasing a huge amount of negatively charged particles, called negative ions. Negative ions attach themselves to positively charged particles, which happen to be all of the harmful air pollutants. Once the two are combined, gravity pulls this mass to the ground and the pollutants become successfully neutralized. Negative ions are effective at removing even the smallest particles (as small as 0.001 microns). Air ionizers are most closely associated with salt lamps.
- Ozone generators. As the name already suggests, ozone generators produce O3 ozone molecules to clean the air. Ozone is an especially effective tool in dealing with odors, mold spores, mildew, and pretty much anything living. However, it is very dangerous to humans, animals, and plants so it should only be used in rooms that are not occupied.
- UV light. This type of air purifier uses ultraviolet light wavelengths to primarily remove bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. They are not effective at removing other types of air pollutants, which is why they usually come in combination with other air purifier technologies.
Out of all of these different air purifier types, salt lamps are considered to be specifically associated with air ionizers. Salt lamps are said to be able to release negative ions into the air, which then go on and neutralize any air pollutant they come into contact with. In case you are looking for more information – I have written an extensive post on how air ionizers work, which can be found here. But back on topic, here is a simple picture presentation of how salt lamps are supposed to work
The idea is pretty simple – the lightbulb located in the center of the salt lamp emits heat, which enables the process of hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is basically a chemical reaction where one compound is split into one or more compounds by reacting with water. According to salt lamp supporters and researchers, this is how negative ions are made which then get released into the air. Once in the air, negative ions have 2 functions – air cleaning and a positive impact on our health and bodies.
I want to shortly touch on the health effects of negative ions next.
Effects of negative ions on the human body
There has been a lot of debate and mixed opinions about the health effects of negative ions on our wellbeing. But as more time passes, new research and studies are being done in this area. Quite a few studies have been made in recent years, which support the beneficial effects of negative ions. I wanted to include these as salt lamps are supposed to have beneficial effects on us, which stem from the release of negative ions. This is how negative ions affect our bodies:
Source: Antonio Briganti – filtration and air cleaning
Of course for these effects to actually occur there has to be a surplus of negative ions in the air. We are talking about millions of negative ions per cm3/sec – enough to neutralize all air pollutants around us, while still having some negative ions left to inhale. You see, negative ions attach themselves to the first particle they come into contact with. If there are too many harmful particles in the air, then no negative ions will be able to reach us/our lungs.
The air in nature is not nearly as polluted as it is indoors and in cities. This is why we can feel the positive effects of negative ions in nature much faster. Famous places like the Bosnian pyramids are known to have a big surplus of negative ions and the vast majority of visitors report all sorts of beneficial effects on their wellbeing. This is caused by negative ions, which are in surplus due to low pollution levels inside these pyramids.
To summarize – negative ions have positive health benefits only when there is a large enough concentration of them. In cities and places where the air is more polluted, we need air ionizers to produce the necessary amount of negative ions. In order for salt lamps to be effective, they need to release a high enough number of negative ions. But can they actually do that?
Let us move on to the most important question remaining regarding salt lamps and air purifiers.
Do salt lamps actually work? Can they produce negative ions?
This is the only part that is left to answer. I will attempt to do it from two viewpoints – my own (as someone who works in the air purifier industry) and a more scientific approach.
As I just mentioned, I have been working in the air purifying industry for quite a few years now, with air ionizers being my specialty. That being said, I do not see how a 15W light bulb inside of a salt lamp would be able to produce the large number of negative ions needed for air purification. Air ionizers use high voltage (we are talking about 300-400V) to electrically charge (ionize) air molecules, making negative ions in the process. Air ionizers also use a so-called “element of ionization” – you can think of this as a way negative ions are released. The three common elements of ionization are steel needle, plasma, and membrane. This is the basic principle behind how all air ionizers that have been seen work. A Himalayan salt lamp uses none of these elements, nor can it produce negative ions via high voltage.
I have also tried using a negative ion counter – a device that is used to measure the number of negative ions. Normally when you move a negative ion counter device near an air ionizer, you will see a big spike in the number of negative ions – depending on how strong the air ionizer is. After using an ion counter near a salt lamp, I noticed no change or increase of negative ions in the air. A similar test was already done and recorded on youtube, which I am attaching below.
Sadly, there are also no concrete scientific studies that I could find on the internet, which would confirm the beneficial effects or that salt lamps actually do produce a significant amount of negative ions. Why do so many people report feeling better after introducing a salt lamp into the home? I personally believe that this is a result of the placebo effect, which has been proven to be a really effective psychological tool.
The purpose of this whole post was to answer one common question regarding salt lamps – are salt lamps air purifiers?
A mix of evidence, personal experience in the air purifier field, and the lack of scientific studies sadly all point to Himalayan salt lamps not being air purifiers, or specifically air ionizers. While salt lamps are a great addition to any home, they do not have the means to produce a noticeable amount of negative ions. They can really brighten up the place and make it look more pleasant, but that is mostly it.
Ultimately, the decision of what to believe in comes down to the individual person. Perhaps in the future more research shows up that does prove the beneficial effects of salt lamps or maybe they do evolve up to a point where they are considered air purifiers. But for now, all research points to salt lamps being purely decorative and not air purifiers.
In case you are interested in true and tested air ionizers, I have prepared a list of the best air ionizers for home in 2020. These actually release the large number of negative ions needed to deal with indoor air pollution and improve your wellbeing.
Or if you decided that a salt lamp or air ionizer is not the correct fit for you and are looking for a budget-friendly, yet effective air purifier – then feel free to check out my list of the top 5 best air purifiers under $50.