Do Houseplants Clean Your Air?

(Image: Unsplash)

We hear all this stuff about how houseplants can help physical and mental wellbeing. But is any of it true? Do we actually all need to get a houseplant? Or is it more effort than its worth?

Houseplants are said to reduce stress levels, boost you productivity and even help you recover from illnesses faster.  In recent times, we’ve been told that a lot of these are because houseplants reduce indoor air pollution. Vision spoke to Nicola Carslaw (Professor of indoor air chemistry) who has some disappointing news.

The answer is short and simple: no. Carslaw elaborated, “I show a picture when I give public lectures about what it would be like if houseplants were to make a difference, and basically it would be like a jungle in your house. You’d have to get a machete to get in!”.

Okay, well, consider my hopes dashed! “I think there was some research done by NASA in the 1970s when they started space travel and they thought, yes, it’ll be great to have plants in the International Space Centre”.

This research found that certain houseplants removed organic pollutants. But of course, this has now been debunked.

According to Carslaw, we’re falling for a marketing technique. “In a very contained and controlled environment, plants have been shown to, perhaps, remove some pollution”. But crucially “it’s not what B&Q say on posters”.

“It’s just not going to happen on any scale that is noticeable.”

It’s not all bad news though. While plants might not help with air pollution, or your physical health, they can help your mental health. “I’m not saying having plants in your home isn’t good because Psychologically they have lots of benefits”.

The Journal of Physiological Anthropology would agree. In a report, it was found that interacting with indoor plants can reduce psychological and physiological stress.

As the proud owner of over 20 house plants, I can confidently say that having plants around really does improve your mental well-being. At least that’s what I tell myself when it’s time to repot them all…

Either way, they definitely brighten up my room.

Carslaw sums it up in a sentence “it’s lovely to have green things around the house, but they are not going to clean your air.”