Education, Living

Should you buy an Air-Purifying Plant?

Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Apr 25, 2022

You probably spend a lot of time indoors—even if it isn’t of your own volition. From your job, maybe the gym, running errands…there’s a good chance you spend over 90% of your time inside. Because of the way the world is, it’s not that unusual to spend days inside at a time.


How many of us, due to the pandemic, have been trying to spruce up our homes? You’re definitely not alone on that front. Have you wondered about how to make your living quarters more healthy? For instance, have you thought about purifying the air you’re in all the time? That’s possible, not only with a humidifier, but with a plant that does the same thing. Because, let’s face it, you’re not immune from pollutants by being inside.


Paint, construction, and cleaning supplies from your building can’t be controlled, so you can’t really help that—nor, can you help the irritation you feel as an effect (itchy eyes and nose). However, even if you’ve been trying to Google how plants can help purify the air you’ve been breathing, you’ll likely be disappointed. While plants are a great mood booster, and over the last two years, have made some residents discover their green thumb, they will not work as well as a purifier or humidifier for cleaning the air.


Will they work?

Plants can be great for the atmosphere in terms of your mood, but they don’t have an impact in cleaning the air. If you need scientific backing of this fact, look to 2019; where 12 studies were published in a review. The Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology says that you can faster and more effectively purify the air by opening a window or using a ventilation system. In fact, if you were to use to plants in an effort to do the same thing, you’d better clear up some space — you’d need at least 100 per 10 square feet to do so.


So, 4,000 plants in a tiny New York apartment, or opening a window to achieve the same result?


By this point, you might be wondering how this misinformation spread. It’s actually a common occurrence that misinformation spreads (thanks in no small part to TikTok), but this time, the belief dates back much further. The idea that plants can turn your house into some sort of greenhouse dates back to the ’80s, when a NASA scientist was part of writing a study in 2011. The study involved testing 12 houseplants to inspect their ability to remove household toxins. The results found that up to 90% of pollutants were removed by the plants.


All’s well that ends well, right? Well, the problem with this study is that the researchers subjected the plants to pollutants you’d be exposed to indoors, sure, but they exposed the plants to more than 10 times the amount of those pollutants, and in very small chambers, as opposed to a living space. This produced inaccurate results.


Instead of needing 12 plants to reduce all those pollutants in your living space, you’d need about 70 in 1800 square feet to even scratch the surface. That’s not really realistic in today’s day and age. What’s worse, if you’re already a plant parent, the soil you use can be adding to the pollutants in your space—especially if you use too much water and fertilizer. So be careful with the way you take care of plants, and don’t start buying every single one because you want cleaner air.


If you have become a plant parent, here are 8 surprising ingredients to keep plants alive.