Why air purifying plants don’t work in our homes

Oops. I do rigorous fact-checking before publishing anything but it seems I got this wrong. Research now shows there’s no point putting plants in your home to purify the air.

air purifying plants

In my first book, published in 1996, I stated, ‘We can benefit from research funded by NASA to discover ways of cleansing the air in space capsules. They discovered in the course of this research that several ordinary types of houseplants have the ability to cleanse many of the most common pollutants from the air, including formaldehyde.’

The research was headed by B.C. Wolverton, author of How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office, in which he listed all the plants he had tested and their purifying capabilities.

Why plants don’t purify the air in our homes

Since then, 195 further studies have been done. They confirm that some types of plants can indeed remove the toxins of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air. BUT ONLY IN AN AIRTIGHT ENVIRONMENT such as a space capsule.

The buildings we occupy here on Earth are not like that at all. They have doors and windows that open to let in air. They have crevices through which drafts can pass. They are designed to have a circulation of air.

The new studies show that to improve air quality in an ordinary home you would need 1-10 plants for every square foot of floor space to achieve the same level of purification that mechanical office ventilation does. In other words, there would be no room for you!

Electric air purifiers

So I must offer many apologies to anyone who went out and bought a Peace Lily on the strength of my recommendation. I bought quite a few myself and they are beautiful plants. I hope you are enjoying them as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. But it seems they are only decorative.

Indoor air pollution has become a hot topic in recent years so research is ongoing to find affordable solutions. At the moment, if the air in your home is polluted or you suffer from allergies, the best I can suggest is to invest in a reliable electric air purifier, and be sure to get the kind that removes VOCs as well as dust, mould and other airborne pollutants. You’d think all air purifiers would do this but in fact many don’t.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2019

More information
A popular benefit of houseplants is a myth

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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