Houseplants can help improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and also brighten up a room. In photosynthesis, plants capture carbon dioxide and use water and energy from the sun to produce oxygen. But there’s more. Numerous studies have found evidence that common houseplants can help reduce air pollution in homes and offices. We’ll look at some studies on their effectiveness and introduce you to some of our indoor air quality solutions.
Houseplant Indoor Air Quality Studies
Various studies have been conducted on the effects of houseplants on air quality in buildings. Some have found evidence to support IAQ benefits and others have not. Some of the more notable research includes:
- NASA Clean Air Study: In 1989, NASA studied the potential for houseplants and microorganisms in soil to help remove air pollutants in enclosed environments. It found most of the work is done by plant roots and soil-based microbes.1 Based on this research, an air filter that combines plants with activated carbon filters to reduce indoor air pollutants, such as cigarette smoke and organic solvents, was designed.
- University of Birmingham/Royal Horticultural Society: A study published in 2022 showed promising results. During experiments, common houseplants were exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and monitored in light vs. dark conditions and wet or dry soil. The study found that corn plants, peace lilies, and ferm arum could reduce NO2 by as much as 20% in a small space. Each type of plant studied showed similar results over an hour.2
- Cummings and Waring: By reviewing several studies, researchers found potted plants’ could remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air in sealed chambers. Reduced levels of formaldehyde and benzene were observed. However, the plants studied removed only one compound at a time. And the measured clean air delivery rate varied significantly between individual studies. Plus, it was determined a large number of plants would be required to equal the air cleaning ability of mechanical air exchange systems.3
Are All Houseplants Good for IAQ?
Not every plant species removes pollutants in the same way. And for plants that can help with IAQ, the temperature, lighting conditions, and type of soil can impact their effectiveness. For example, a plant’s ability to absorb more or less pollution can be impacted by ambient conditions like room temperature or the availability of sunlight.
Nonetheless, many species of houseplants are known to be effective. They include:
- Chrysanthemums: Identified as one of the most effective air-purifying houseplants, they can remove benzene, xylene, formaldehyde, and other pollutants.
- English Ivy: Has been found to filter airborne mold.
- Aloe Vera: Releases plenty of oxygen and can reduce benzene and formaldehyde levels.
- Areca Palm: A pollutant-absorbing plant that also releases moisture into the air.
- Weeping Fig: A slow-growing plant that removes benzene, trichloroethylene, and other pollutants released from furniture and carpeting.
- Spider Plant: Can filter a large amount of formaldehyde, xylene, and other toxins in a short time.
On the other hand, some houseplants have been discovered, at least in laboratory environments, to emit VOCs. These can include compounds released by plants or found in their soil, such as bacteria and pesticides. The longevity of houseplant-based VOCs and their effects on humans are currently unknown.
Nevertheless, houseplants can be good for improving indoor air quality. Do a little research into the plants you choose and don’t cram too many into unventilated areas. They’re still a great way to boost the mood of your home.
Contact Monarch Home Services
There are many ways to keep indoor air fresh and clean. At Monarch Home Services, we install proven solutions such as air scrubbers, particulate air filters, and high-performance registers. Our licensed, NATE-certified professionals can also provide duct cleaning services and make airflow improvements in your home. For help with your indoor air quality, schedule an appointment and get a free quote, call (661) 215-6679 today.