Indoor Plants - The better Alternative of Air Purifier

Today educated people are more concerned about the indoor air, so that they can spend some quality time with their family in good quality air. Air purifiers cost a lot and also make irritating sounds sometimes. Due to these factors some people who are more inclined towards nature think about using indoor plants as an air purifier. But is it really possible for indoor plants to remove all pollutants from air ? Air pollution consists of all harmful gases present in the air that we breathe, but when it comes to air purification then it is more about particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) which is a major pollutant in metro cities and causing more health concerns.

Here our main motive is to know about the efficiency of indoor plants in removing air pollutants, and if they can act as a better alternative of air purifiers. But before we proceed, you must know that in reality air purifiers are an alternative of plants. We the humans have made air purifiers because we don't have enough plants in cities to keep the air clean.

How many pollutants of air can be removed by indoor plants?

We all known that plants consume carbon dioxide and generate oxygen (i.e. photosynthesis). Carbon Dioxide is just one pollutant that plants can remove from air. Ammonia, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene, Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Monoxide are some of the other harmful compounds that plants can remove from air. Truth about the pollutants mentioned above is that they come from home-building materials itself. So first we create a house that is itself a pollutant and then we put some plants inside it to keep the air clean (Such serious things make me laugh, whenever i write such articles).

Can we get rid of PM2.5 and PM10 using indoor plants ?

It is not sure if plants can consume particulate matter as a food, but they can capture particulate matter on their leaves. Some studies have shown that PM level decrease up to 50% if a house is surrounded by trees. Tree leaves even capture the metallic pollutants in the air. Spider plants are considered best to get rid of Particulate Matter (PM). Some of the particulate matter is trapped i its wax and some accumulate on their leaves. This accumulation is always more than what accumulates on plain surfaces of home, which means that spider plants accumulate more PM than what gravity pulls toward itself. Studies have shown that Spider Plant can decrease PM level by 35% (Reference). Even if we can't get rid of PM completely through indoor plants, the level can be easily dragged down which can make it breathable. We would suggest you to plant trees outside and keep some indoor plants to get an effective solution of particulate matter.

Do plants remove tobacco smoke from air ?

Tobacco smoke include toluene, formaldehyde, acetone and ammonia. Harmful gases can easily get absorbed by plants. Other harmful residues like some heavy metals, carcinogens, and even radioactive materials that are found in tobacco smoke may not get absorbed by plants but it can be trapped on leaves and soil up to some extent. But still we would never suggest you to smoke inside a house as it heavily increases the pollution level inside a house.

Which plants are best to clean indoor air?

The list of such plants is large. Most of them come from tropical forests which grow as small plants under the big trees and require lesser sunlight. Philodendron, spider plant, English ivy, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, golden pothos, Boston fern, dwarf date palm, weeping fig and lady palm are some of the good plants that can keep the air clean and also provide a good look to your home.

Some Facts about Indoor Plants:

  • According to a NASA study done in 1989, an average sized indoor plant is sufficient to clean the air in a 100 sq. ft. room.
  • It is not just leaves that clean the air. Bacteria and fungi residing in the soil absorb pollutants and provide it as a food source to plant roots. So lower leaves of indoor plants should be cut to expose more soil.
  • Shape of leaves, size of leaves and waxes present on plant matters a lot to measure its ability to remove pollutants from air. All plants can't survive inside a house. So do a proper research before putting some plants inside your home.
  • No air purifier can remove as many gases from air as plants can do. If we make an air purifier to absorb some harmful gases then it would weigh in tonnes.
  • Air Pollution causes cancer and kills more people than any other disease on earth. According to WHO 4.3 million people are killed every year due to household air pollution. So plant trees and also keep some inside your house.

Indoor Plants vs Air Purifiers

Air purifiers can't get rid of harmful gases. They are only meant to remove tiny dust particles (or particulate matter) only up to some extent (not 100%). At most they can remove some bad odors using carbon filters, which makes them expensive. If you compare them with plants then plants always win, as they remove harmful gases and capture some particulate matter as well at very less cost. The expenses you need to make for am indoor plant just some water and a little care. Gardening is itself related to a better health, plus it can also give you better air to breathe. 

Note: Breathing is not optional, so think about yourself and the upcoming generations and plant trees to make the air clean. Reduce usage of those things which cause air pollution. 
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