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Critical Review: How Well Do House Plants Perform as Indoor Air Cleaners?

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Create Date November 14, 2018
Last Updated December 20, 2018

In the late 1980’s, research indicated that plants had the capability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOC) from indoor air.  The findings were based upon chamber studies involving injection of a pollutant into a small, sealed chamber and following the pollutant decay, with and without plants present.  The results were striking with removal rates up to 90% in 24 hr.  Other studies examining this effect followed.  Today, even a casual search of the internet will find many articles extolling the benefits of using plants as indoor air cleaners.  However, there has been little critical analysis of the application of plants to actual indoor environments and only a few field studies have been conducted.  A critical review of results of both laboratory chamber studies and field studies leads to the conclusion that indoor plants have little, if any, benefit for removing indoor air of VOC in residential and commercial buildings.  Finally, recommendations for improving future studies are presented.