This question on the Gardening SO site suggests that plants can be used to clean the air within a home or office environment.

I know of the research done by NASA on indoor plants which can clean/reduce certain pollutants in the air. [...] According to the above research, certain plants will filter 3 kinds of pollutants: Benzene, Trichloroethylene and Formaldehyde.

Has there been any solid research done into the effectiveness of plants to be able to process air within a minimal environment such as a house (or a bank vault)?

Is there any evidence to suggest that a certain number of plants within a certain minimal sealed space could completely recycle the air so that it could continuously be breathed? or does this need to be done on a much larger scale?

Is there a simple formula that could be used at home e.g. Six medium sized plants per individual in a house?

  • 2
    I think "air processing" is perhaps a bit wide area. Are you interested about CO2->Oxygen conversion (this I would expect from words "recycle the air"? Dust removal? Some specific dangerous substances removal?
    – Suma
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 6:38
  • 3
    I think the edit makes it obvious that there’s a claim to be skeptical of. +1, interesting question. Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


The EPA provides a guide for health professionals on controlling air pollution. At the end there is a small section on plants:

While it is true that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and the ability of plants to remove certain other pollutants from water is the basis for some pollution control methods, the ability of plants to control indoor air pollution is less well established. Most research to date used small chambers without any air exchange which makes extrapolation to real world environments extremely uncertain. The only available study of the use of plants to control indoor air pollutants in an actual building could not determine any benefit from the use of plants. As a practical means of pollution control, the plant removal mechanisms appear to be inconsequential compared to common ventilation and air exchange rates.

If you are really looking to keep the air in a home or office clean, plants are clearly not the best way to do it.

  • 4
    Given that there's only one "available study" on indoor air pollutants, I would say it's far from clear. Who knows if other building or ventilation types would get greater benefit? What if there were methodological errors? I think more research is needed. Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 2:22
  • Maybe the NASA study involved ventilating the closed space so that the air passes through the plant foliage a lot?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 21:47

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