Are Indoor Plants effective Air Purifiers?

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By Candace Tucker, Special to The Shopper

You may be spending more time in your home during the pandemic.

During this time, you could be thinking about ways to make your space cleaner, including the indoor air you breathe. What first comes to mind to most people is indoor plants. But before you head straight to the plant nursery, there are a few things to keep in mind.

There is an idea that indoor plants act as an effective air purifier for your home. However, contrary to popular belief, research has found this not to be the case. How so, you may ask? Studies conducted on indoor plants looked at their ability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – pollutants – in small, sealed chambers, not entire homes. Results from these studies found that the number of VOCs did drop, but they did so at a very, slow rate.

To further investigate these findings, reviewers compared clean air delivery rates of indoor potted plants to the outdoor-to-indoor air exchange that typically occurs in homes and buildings. They found that it would take 10 plants per square foot of space to have the same effect as one hour of outdoor-to-indoor air exchange! Not to mention, having that many plants in your home may open the door for mold and pest issues.

So, what else can you do to purify the air in your home besides opening your doors or windows? Ventilate! A well-ventilated home filters and then circulates clean, fresh air to reduce your exposure to VOCs, allergens, mold, carbon monoxide, and more. All of which promotes better respiratory health for you and your family.

UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Healthy Housing experts recommend the following tips to keep your home well-ventilated:

  • Use kitchen and bath exhaust fans when cooking and bathing.
  • Make sure your exhaust works properly.
  • Change air filters regularly on heating/cooling units.
  • Clean dryer lint traps.
  • For fireplaces, make sure the flue is clear and open when a fire is lit.

Even though indoor plants are not the best choice for air purification, they do offer mental health benefits. Numerous studies have found that regular exposure to nature in any form can reduce stress and increase your overall happiness.

The bottom line is to use plants sparingly in your home, keep your home well-ventilated and remember that the great outdoors has just as much beauty to offer.

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Candace Tucker is the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Agent for University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension Coweta County. Her role involves providing Coweta residents unbiased, research-based information on health, nutrition, financial management, home safety and family relationships through educational programs and community outreach.

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