Millennials may not be buying houses or having kids at the same rates as previous generations, but they are highly invested in nurturing at least one type of life: houseplants. Yes, the largest generation in American history is stunningly preoccupied with indoor plants, and they’re not the only ones; polling data suggests that plant lovers across many ages and demographics are getting in on the houseplant craze.
Among indoor plant owners, one factoid seems to constantly circulate: houseplants can purify your air. While not entirely untrue, there’s evidence to suggest this claim is overblown.
Despite the many benefits of air-purifying plants, you still need a high-quality air purifier to effectively clean indoor air and remove dangerous toxins. To demonstrate this, Air Oasis conducted a study that measured houseplants’ ability to remove toxic chemicals from indoor air, as well as one of its air purifier’s ability to remove the same toxins. Continue reading to find out the results.
If you’re ready to remove VOCs and other pollutants from your indoor air fast, visit the Air Oasis online store to find the best, most effective air purifier for your home or business.
NASA Clean Air Study
This idea that plants can act as effective indoor air purifiers got its start in 1989 when NASA researchers published a study called Interior Landscape Plants for Air Pollution Abatement, commonly known as the NASA Clean Air Study.
In this study, researchers measured the ability of certain houseplants to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), specifically benzene, carbon monoxide, trichloroethylene (TCE), formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Researchers hypothesized that after being exposed to light and heat, plants would "increase oxygen production and carbon dioxide removal," causing the removal of VOCs. They found some houseplants to be significantly effective at doing so, a result touted in press releases and the media.
Here’s what most people don’t realize: NASA researchers only tested the influence of these indoor plants in small, sealed spaces similar to the environment of a spacecraft; not in domestic conditions rife with toxins. The fact is that plants are not sufficient for indoor air pollution abatement.
This lack of context has led to prolific misconceptions, which is especially unfortunate when considering the fact that exposure to TCE, benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene can be life-threatening. Additionally, houseplants cannot absorb harmful toxins and particles in the air such as mold spores, pollen, dander, or dust, which quality air purifiers can.
Benefits of Houseplants for Indoor Spaces
Although recent analyses have shown that many houseplants do not effectively purify the air or improve indoor air quality, misinformation persists in popular culture, perhaps in part because houseplants do offer value in other ways.
The value of small houseplants, as well as interior landscape plants, isn’t strictly aesthetic, either. Research suggests that houseplants provide distinct psychological benefits to young adults and can improve mood, reduce stress and support cognitive functioning.
In addition to their many therapeutic benefits, houseplants offer a chance at stable nurturance, an opportunity that eludes many in the financially wounded generation of millennials. Stress-reliever, beautifier, a life that demands tending — indoor plants fill all of these roles well. They shouldn’t also be filling the role of home air purifiers.
Popular Air Purifying Plants
Before conducting our own study into the efficacy of air purifying plants, researchers at Air Oasis looked at which houseplants were the most popular, according to the top 20 Google search results. These fifteen were the most commonly recommended:
- Peace lily
- Snake plant
- Spider plant
- Chinese evergreen
- English ivy
- Boston fern
- Aloe Vera
- Bamboo palm
- Rubber plant
- Air plants
- Mother-in-law's tongue
- ZZ plant
- Weeping fig
Recommendations for the top air purifying plants only aligned somewhat with the findings in the NASA Clean Air Study. According to the study, peace lilies removed 23% of TCE (trichloroethylene) from the air in 24 hours (more than any other houseplant), a finding which supports their massive popularity. However, search results also indicated that the snake plant and spider plant — the second and third most popular house plants — were not the best air-purifying plants for any of the three VOCs studied by NASA.
Air Oasis’ Study of the Best Air Purifying Plants
Key findings: iAdaptAir removed 92.97% more TCE than the best air purifying plant for TCE reduction and removed 99.6% TCE in seven hours.
To find the best air-purifying plants, Air Oasis researchers studied popular houseplants’ ability to remove three VOCs: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene. Researchers measured each toxin’s concentration in the air before and after a 24-hour period with each plant. After identifying the most effective air-purifying plant for each VOC, they compared the houseplants’ rates of purification with those of the iAdaptAir® air purifier. Keep reading to find out how the best air-purifying plants measure up to the Air Oasis air purifier.
The Dracaena plant family contains roughly 120 species, of which Dracaena compacta is one of the most popular. It flourishes in warmer temperatures, moderate humidity and indirect light. As a compact tree, it grows about four inches a year indoors, eventually stopping between three and six feet. It prefers its soil moist but never soggy and is an ideal option for those who prefer low-maintenance plant care.
The NASA study found that Dracaena compacta removed 96% of formaldehyde from the air in a 24-hour period. Here’s what the Air Oasis study found:
- Dracaena compacta is the most effective houseplant for reducing formaldehyde.
- Dracaena compacta reduced formaldehyde in the air by 2.9% per hour over a 24-hour period.
- The iAdaptAir® air purifier cleaned the air at a much faster pace, reducing formaldehyde levels by 14.6% per hour over 24 hours.
The iAdaptAir® air purifier removed 91.7% more formaldehyde than Dracaena compacta in the 24-hour timeframe.
Peace lilies belong to the Spathiphyllum genus of plants and commonly refer to a number of Spathiphyllum species. They are one of the most popular indoor plants and require minimal maintenance, preferring underwatering to overwatering. They thrive in bright, indirect light, damp soil and warm temperatures. Indoor peace lilies can grow to between one and four feet tall, whereas outdoor peace lilies can reach six feet in height.
The NASA study found peace lilies to be the most effective houseplant for removing TCE from indoor air pollution, removing 23% over 24 hours. Here’s what the Air Oasis study found:
- The peace lily is the best air-purifying houseplant for TCE reduction.
- The peace lily reduced TCE by 1.04% per hour over a 24-hour period.
- The iAdaptAir® air purifier reduced TCE by 14.8% per hour.
Hedera helix, commonly known as English ivy, is a woody vine that can climb heights up to 80 feet, covering buildings with its shining green leaves and occasional green blooms. Aesthetically pleasing as ground cover, building cover or potted inside, English ivy is a popular houseplant choice.
The NASA study found English ivy to be the most effective houseplant for cleaning benzene from the air, removing 89.8% of benzene over 24 hours. Here’s what the Air Oasis study found:
- English ivy is the best air purifying house plant for benzene reduction.
- English ivy reduced benzene by 3.7% each hour over a 24-hour period.
- The iAdaptAir® air purifier reduced benzene by 13.95% per hour.
- The iAdaptAir® air purifier removed 73.48% more benzene than English ivy in a 24-hour timeframe.
The iAdaptAir® Air Purifier
Ultimately, the study showed that the iAdaptAir® air purifier removed more than 99% of formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene from the air in less than seven hours. Although Air Oasis researchers agreed with the NASA study in regards to which houseplants most effectively remove the above-mentioned VOCs, they could not come to the same conclusion about houseplants’ efficacy in removing dangerous VOCs from indoor air.
Houseplants vs Air Purifiers for Better Indoor Air Quality
Whether you're concerned about carbon monoxide, want to quietly battle toxins in your home or simply wish to freshen up your kitchen or living room, houseplants are a small way to start. But as multiple studies reveal, having an abundance of houseplants isn't nearly as effective at cleaning indoor air as running a high-quality air filter.
Best Air Purifiers to Use with House Plants
Just because houseplants shouldn’t be tasked with removing deadly toxins from your indoor space doesn’t mean they don’t offer a multitude of other benefits. Plus, they do contribute to better air quality and remove some toxins from the air; just not enough to replace a high-quality air purifier.
If you’re looking for an air purifier that removes harmful toxins and is safe and effective to use with houseplants, consider Air Oasis’ highly rated iAdaptAir® HEPA Air Purifier or UV IonicAir Purifier for your home or commercial space.
At Air Oasis, we know how difficult it is to navigate your health in the modern world. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate the world of air purifiers on your own. Feel free to contact us online with questions or give us a call at 806-373-7788.