We have long been known that the houseplants are an excellent addition to home air cleaning, especially for removing toxic gases and VOCs from the air. The concept is based on a study by NASA, which was published in 1989. Even we have a blog post about top air-purifying houseplants that remove toxins from indoor air based on the NASA report. But a recent study shows that the houseplants are not cleaning the indoor air. Let’s find out what does that means.
The original NASA research on houseplants was intended for space exploration on how potted plants can remove VOCs from a small closed space capsule, like today’s International Space Station. They observed on houseplants in a sealed chamber about how much different types of VOCs the plants can remove from the chamber in a specific time. The result was outstanding, and they concluded that about 70% of toxin compounds were extracted by those plants in a day.
The new research on houseplants published on Nature, which focused on real-world application of potted plants on residential buildings for VOCs removal. The study found that the chemical purification process per plant is so irrelevant that it might need 10 to 1000 plants per square meter to meet up the buildings’ standard VOC removal by its ventilation. In other words, you will get 14 cfm of clean air that is suitable for a 100 square feet room at one air exchange per hour, and you will need almost 1000 houseplants. The average cfm per houseplant is only 0.014 cfm. If you are curious about how many plants needed for your room, you can find out from our CADR calculator. Although, this is not a good use of your space, by the way.
Houseplants are great in boosting our mood and energy. Also, they are decorative and radiate green vibe. But, in terms of VOC removal, they are not efficient based on the new study. So, if you want to clean the VOCs from the air, then you can open your windows and doors to let the fresh air come in. Ventilation and source control is the best practice to improve indoor air quality. When the options are limited, you can use a good air purifier to remove VOCs and other pollutants to purify the indoor air.