Worried about pollution when travelling in Asia? The Easy Solution

How to lower PM2.5 air pollution when travelling? SOLVED by a human.

3M Filtrete Air Pollution

I’m going to be a good Samaritan in today’s article and share a little-known tip about how you can combat & reduce the air pollution in your Airbnb or hotel when travelling.

And yes… we all know you can buy an air purifier and have it delivered to your apartment or hotel, but that’s impractical and expensive when you’re travelling between cities/countries regularly.

Related: Travelling to Asia Soon? Check out our Asia Travel Guides & Tips!

Whether you’re sensitive to pollution depends on a few factors.

Mainly… the type of pollution or burning that’s happening, your outdoor time (not actually true*) and your exercise levels will all make a big difference.

It’s common knowledge that you’re eyes are going to be stinging a lot more from the locals burning plastic trash than from agricultural leaf burning. Some travellers can barely breathe around heavy diesel traffic and others don’t notice.

You don’t need obvious symptoms to experience the harmful effects of air pollution. That’s why this article has the best and most convenient solution for air pollution when travelling.

We can all agree… it’s not very healthy to be living in pollution 24/7. And while we can’t do much except wear a mask when outdoors, we can make big changes to the quality of your air indoors.

Luckily, I’ve got a quick and easy solution to reduce the pollution in your room when travelling… more on that later…

… Karen: “Solve cause not the problem 😠😠😠” …

Trust me, I’m not wearing my Karen hat for this one and declaring “we should educate… educate… educate… the locals”

For starters, I’m just too dumb to know enough about the geo-social causes of air contaminants… but… also too smart to get involved in a boomer Facebook comment war.

Triggered already?… hit that back button… I unsubscribe you from Digital Tourist… yours sincerely Kevin 👻

Air Pollution Filter Sheet

So what’s the travel pollution solution? Tell me already!

The cheap and easy way to turn any Air Conditioner or Fan into an Air Purifier is… 🥁🥁🥁

Using 3M Filtrete Air Cleaning Filters!

What the heck is 3M Filtrete??? I hear you asking…

It’s a roll of polypropylene statically charged fibres that can be cut to any size and catches irritants in the air as small as 0.1 microns (including PM2.5 which is 2.5 microns) #science.

This stuff weighs next to nothing, easily attaches to an air conditioner’s dust filter and will clean the air of pollutants in your room.

What’s not to love…

I’ve been using the stuff for years and it’s sold in most hardware & DIY stores across Asia.

Plus… having survived 4 burning seasons in Chiang Mai, I’ve learnt a thing or two about keeping my air clean 😎.

Pros of Filtrete 3M

  • Cleans as small as 0.1micron
  • Cheap, lightweight & easily packed.
  • Also great for reducing smells, and other non-pollution contaminants (Dust, Mould, Bacteria etc)
  • Great if you have sensitive lungs.

Cons of Filtrete 3M

  • Not as effective as a HEPA13/HEPA14 filter
  • You might get a nasty surprise when opening a hotel air filter.
    • Hotels should regularly clean their filters, just take a photo, ask reception… politely!!!… to clean them, and then add the filters after.
  • Might not be worth the installation hassle for less than 4 days.
    • Unless the pollution is really bad then it’s worth it. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel sleeping in clean air.

Testing The Effectiveness of Filtrete 3M Air Cleaning Filters

Recently I travelled to Da Nang, to escape the smokey season in Chiang Mai. While it was all blue skies and sunshine for the first two weeks, we then started getting rising levels of PM2.5 pollution.

A perfect time to put the 3M Filtrete to the test. Over a few different days, there were varying PM2.5 levels across the city. I’ve listed below the levels outside on my balcony, vs inside using the airconditioner on Fan mode with the filters.

Test Day 1:

  • Outdoor Air Quality: 144 PM2.5
  • Indoor Air Quality: 25 PM2.5

Test Day 2:

  • Outdoor Air Quality: 70 PM2.5
  • Indoor Air Quality: 12 PM2.5

Test Conclusion

As a cheap, travel-friendly alternative to a full-sized HEPA air purifier, it’s a success.

We’re getting around 5.5 to 6x less pollution indoors using this 3M filter.

The Caveat: Even though the results are great for a portable solution that can be used on any air-conditioner, I like my indoor PM2.5 levels to be closer to 1.

And you can achieve this easily with any HEPA13 Air Purifier Unit.

So I’ll stick with the following advice. For stays over 1 month, invest in a real air purifier. Try and buy 2nd hand, and then sell before you leave.

For shorter stays, the 3M Filtrete has you covered!

Like this article? We’ve (actually just me in my underwear 🩲) have loads more useful travel tips and guides. Check’em out!

Asia Travel Guides

Okay disclaimer… you probably won’t find the next section of wordy content the most riveting or exciting…

It’s mainly filler content to help this article appeal to the almighty search engine gods. Who knows though, maybe you’ll learn something new…

PM2.5 Travel Filter

Travelling with Air Pollution – FAQs

Isn’t the indoor air less polluted and safer to breath than the outdoor air?*

*Personal Anecdotal opinion.

Contrary to popular belief, air molecules are pretty good at getting through walls, doors, cracks and window gaps.

While the popular advice is to stay indoors, unless the indoor air is actively being filtered then it isn’t going to vary much from the outside air quality.

Since I’m a bit of a pollution nerd, I’ve taken my portable detector around to numerous malls and coffee shops in Asia during periods of strong haze. Unless there’s been active air filtering the levels between indoors and outdoors were negligible… aka… not good.

How do I know if the air is polluted when I’m travelling?

Chances are that if the air is polluted when travelling, you’ll smell it, taste it or see it.

The pretty fog or mist rolling in could have a more sinister side.

If that fails… then it’s the 21st century, so you can always just check your local air quality levels by visiting either AQICN or IQAir.

Are there any other ways we can reduce pollution at a hotel or Airbnb when travelling?

As pollution has become more of a problem worldwide, there are now portable travel air purifiers available.

The downside to these are that they are often heavy, bulky and have low airflow.

For shorter stays, I think 3M Filtrete has you covered. For longer stays invest in a dedicated machine and sell it before you leave.

Can I use 3M Filtrete instead of a traditional air purifier in the long term?

I wouldn’t recommend it as your sole solution to combatting air pollution if you live in a high pollution environment.

It can’t compete against a HEPA13 or HEPA14 dedicated air filter in terms of volumetric air cleaned.

Better to use it when you’re in a pinch, like travelling, or if you live in a low pollution area. Otherwise, it can be used in combination with other air filters.

I’d love to hear your tips, stories and experiences of travelling during periods of haze, burning & pollution. Comment below.





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