Sorry, your houseplants aren’t cleaning the air in your home


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Photo: Getty Images/tim newman

So you’ve turned your apartment into a greenhouse? That’s cool. If you love the jungle aesthetic and revel in living the life of a plant mom, more power to you. If you’re relying on houseplants that clean the air to remove pollutants, however, don’t hold your breath.

Research published in early November in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology reviewed 30 years worth of studies. And the findings suggest that your collection of philodendrons and snake plants doesn’t have any significant impact on air quality in your home.

“This has been a common misconception for some time,” said Michael Waring, PhD, an associate professor of environmental engineering in Drexel’s College of Engineering in a statement from the university. “Plants are great, but they don’t actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment.”

Your home’s natural ventilation dilutes pollutants too fast for houseplants to catch. You would need between 100 and 1,000 plants per square meter of floor space to match the efficacy of our home’s normal ventilation system, or even just an open window or two.

You can blame all the misinformation about houseplants on Bational Aeronautics and Space Administration. Back in 1989, NASA declared that plants could be used to remove chemicals from the air. Unfortunately, the experiment was conducted in a lab and the scientists never looked at how plants interacted outside of that particular environment.

Flash forward 30 years and we finally know that plants bring all the good vibes… they just don’t clean the air.

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