Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work?

Recently a reader suggested I cover the topic of Himalayan salt crystal lamps. I have a bit of personal experience since I own one. I first encountered one of these on a trip to Asheville, NC, in a small kitschy shop. I thought it looked cool and asked the owner how much it cost.

I was a bit surprised when he informed me that since it purified the air, increased my chi, realigned my chakra, and would wash my dog for me (only halfway kidding), it was $40. I’m not falling for that one, sorry.

As the discussion continued into the realm of ionic purification, my traveling companion saw the look in my eyes and pulled me away before I could discuss the finer points of inorganic chemistry with the shopkeeper.

No one can pull me away from blogging, so here I go:

Himalayan salt crystal lamps supposedly work by releasing ions (usually positive ones because they are good! but sometimes negative ones because … ???) to purify the air through an unknown mechanism. They do this without being reduced in mass or volume despite working for years. The only necessary mechanism for action is a lightbulb or candle. I ended¬†up buying one for $10 from a rock store because they are pretty. No, it doesn’t do anything. If you want a cheap one for decoration, here’s one. Try to find my post there in the review section. Anyway….

Let’s debunk this from top-down and bottom-up.

First of all, it’s not releasing ions. Sorry. If you dissolved it in water to form an aqueous solution, you’d create Sodium and Chloride ions as the salt crystals break down. That’s the best way to get ions from salt. Heating the salt won’t do anything interesting unless you’re melting it.. which we’re not. The lamps are never reduced in size despite the statement that they release ions constantly. Regardless of that, melting the salt won’t cause ions to fly out and scrub your air anyway… not that ions would do that.

That brings me to my next point to consider: ionic air filters don’t clean the air. Even the $400 ionic filters don’t do that much. Some dust gets attracted to their plates, but it doesn’t work that well since the dirtier the capacitive plates get, the less effective they are. Since the whole point of the capacitive plates is to attract dust, you can quickly see the problem. Also, those ionic filters release ozone which is terrible for you. Generally, you could assume that those things do more harm than good.

Returning to Himalayan salt crystal lamps, we have something that doesn’t do the mechanism of action that it says it does whenever that mechanism doesn’t do very much, even if it did. At least they’re pretty.

4 Responses

  1. Tom
    Tom at |

    Thank you for sciencing in a pseudoscience world

  2. Ben
    Ben at |

    You just ruined Christmas

  3. Elaine diFalco
    Elaine diFalco at |

    I thought so. Thank you for taking the time to write this article.


Leave a Reply