Air Purifier vs. Houseplant (Comparison & Guide)

Air purifier

Have you wondered about swapping your houseplant for an air purifier? Many homeowners want to try either of these two to enjoy good indoor air quality in their homes. However, air purifiers may not be cheap, as some products cost more than $600. 

On the other hand, air-purifying plants are attractive, affordable, and absorb carbon dioxide. Why do people often compare air purifiers with indoor plants? While the two products eliminate indoor air pollution, they have similarities and differences. This article will consider how each function produces clean air and its impact on human health.

How do Air purifiers Work? 

We have different variations of air purifiers on the market, but they work similarly. With many brands producing some of the most innovative purifiers, first-timer buyers want to know how they work. But the question is what do air purifiers actually do?

An air purifier cleanses mold spores and other indoor air pollutants like pet dander, dust, smoke, and odors. Since indoor air can contain certain pollutants,  these purifiers neutralize the threat these pollutants pose to our health.

Given that we need clean air around us, you should not rush to buy an air purifier without learning its features. In reality, many homeowners feel disappointed that their air purifiers did not live up to their promises.

Plant supplement air purifiers contain a fan and filter or many filters for absorbing carbon dioxide and circulating oxygen. When air circulates around the filters, particles and pollutants get captured. The process can improve air quality in your home.

Filters are created out of fiberglass, mesh, and paper and need you to replace them often to achieve efficiency. Meanwhile, the number of times you change these filters depends on usage and purifier type.

For instance, you can wash and reuse some filters, but you must have good maintenance culture. The reusable filter can easily purify the air containing pollen and dust mites.  

Ultraviolet light filters can destroy indoor pollutants like bacteria or mold but require greater exposure and higher wattage to work effectively. Hence, when you buy an air purifier, ensure that you consider filter replacement costs and operating costs. 

The Air Ionizer Purifiers 

You should consider a purifier’s functionality if you want to purify air with ionizers. For example, an ionic air purifier attracts static or negative ions, binds with allergens and dust, and brings them down. 

Before considering this type of purifier, you should ensure that it does not manufacture a high ozone level. You may not want such a situation because ozone can aggravate the condition of asthma patients and act as a lung irritant. 

Usually, you can check this information on the packaging or the official website for more information. Currently, we recommend that you use products that have little or no level of ionization. 

What Air Purifiers Cleans The Air?

Many brands design their filters to capture pollen, smoke, and dust, but these purifiers don’t capture volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including radon from cleaning products, paints, or adhesives. 

As a result, many brands don’t have the means to handle such indoor pollutants, but other future brands add activated carbon as an absorbent to eliminate them. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned homeowners that their purifiers have a functional limit regarding gases.

If you want to enjoy the optimal functionality of your purifier, replace its filters for at least three months or more. Allergens embedded in your flooring or furniture may escape your purifiers. 

Also, don’t expect purifiers to mimic the labs’ controlled conditions, where they have at least 99% effectiveness. Purifying indoor air in your home depends on the square foot of your room, flow rate, installation, and run time. 

Further, some things may affect the level of indoor pollution elimination in your home. You need to use effective vacuums or disinfectant cleaners to remove viruses, bacteria, or allergens settled on surfaces. 

We recommend a humidifier or dehumidifier if you want to take out mold. Purifiers may not stop molds from growing, but a humidifier can prevent such pollutants. 

Air Purifiers vs. Outdoor Air

Some products may not purify indoor air inside your home, especially when natural disasters or pollution happen. Moreover, most people don’t panic about exposure to exhaust or cigarette smoke outside their homes because they dissipate within minutes. 

In the short term, some people may suffer from asthma-related symptoms or symptoms associated with sinusitis or allergies, including a bit of a cough or stuffy nose due to pollutants. Dense smoke can cause headaches because of carbon dioxide, while those suffering from COPD or asthma can experience the worst health issues. Hence, people are purchasing air purifiers for allergies as well.

Sometimes, volatile organic compounds come from the outside and affect those inside because of the level of toxicity. However, if you buy the right purifier, it offers you improved indoor air quality. 

For example, a HEPA filter purifier should be your ideal product if you want cleaner air at home. The HEPA filter can capture large particles, including a smoky smell.

Types of Filters

  • HEPA filter: HEPA or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters can capture particles with the support of its multi-layered netting. The filter comprises dense sheets of small fibers pleated and closed in a plastic or metal frame.

The air purifier comes with a fan that suctions air into its filter through impaction, diffusion, and interception. As a result, HEPA filters have become the most popular filtration method for pollution.

Essentially, this purifier takes in air from your home and passes it through different filters. The filter comes as a dense material that captures the smallest and largest pollutants like smoke, pollen, or dust and brings out clean air indoors.

  • Carbon filter:  Like the HEPA filter, this product has a carbon-related filter that effectively captures airborne chemicals and odors. 
  • UV light:  We have numerous air purifiers that employ ultraviolet lights to eliminate viruses or bacteria. However, it does not capture inert airborne materials, except if you add carbon or HEPA filters.
  • Negative ions: the ionic air purifier functions differently because it pushes out negative ions that bond to particles in the air. The combination attaches to surfaces or drops to the floor space if the combination becomes heavy. 

Homeowners can easily clean such pollutants with disinfectants, but this purifier can produce ozone that can harm the lungs.

Can Air Purifiers Eliminate Coronavirus?

Since an air purifier can absorb carbon monoxide, bacteria, mold, pet dander, or viruses, many people want to know if it can eliminate coronavirus. The efficacy of eliminating coronavirus has little information online. The purifier may not capture the coronavirus because of its fast transmission rate.

Therefore, the CDC has the final recommendation regarding using any purifier against the virus. While many believe that purifiers have a high level of care for purification,  these products have their limits. 

For instance, we have less medical evidence that proves that these purifiers can have health benefits or can alleviate respiratory symptoms or allergies. That’s partial because purifiers may find it difficult to separate known indoor pollutants from genetic or environmental factors. 

You may not know how home purification and furnishings can affect you, making it challenging for us to grade purifiers very high. However, asthma or allergy sufferers can enjoy better health benefits with a HEPA-equipped purifier. 

Things to Consider When Buying Air Purifier

Here is a list of things you can consider when buying the best air purifiers:

  • Clean-air delivery rate (CADR)

 CADR measures the purifier’s cleaning speed when removing pollen, dust, or smoke. You should buy a purifier with a CADR of 300 or more. 

  • Size guidelines

You should consider buying a product that can take care of your room’s square space. Ensure that you use a model that can purify air in a larger space than your room. In addition, you need a purifier with a quieter setting or easy to operate. 

  • AHAM Verification

AHAM, often called the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, has a standard that deals with the performance, efficiency, and safety of home care appliances like purifiers. Additionally, AHAM ensures that consumers and brands have a common understanding of how the products work. Some purifiers have size guidelines and CADR ratings from AHAM. 

  • True HEPA

You should consider HEPA filters if you want an air purifier that can eliminate ultra-fine particles like common allergens, mold, pet dander, or dust. We must inform you that purifiers should have an industry standard of eliminating 99.97% of air pollutants measuring at least 0.3-micron diameter.

We don’t have any industry standard that prioritizes HEPA-type or HEPA-like models as the best. However, many brands use these terms to sell their products. You should read online reviews to learn about a product you want to buy.

How Do Air-Purifying Plants Function? 

Air purifying plants or houseplants can absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. A household plant converts water, carbon dioxide, or light into carbohydrates that allow the plants to grow.

Humans take in oxygen from these indoor houseplants generated as their by-product, as they utilize the carbon dioxide we breathe indoors.

A NASA study found that common plants use volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, toluene, or benzene with their roots and leaves. These dangerous gases come from products like cosmetics, building materials, and paint. So, we can not live far from these dangerous gases around our homes. 

For example, when we smell gasoline, nail polish remover, or our new car’s interior, we have exposed ourselves to these gases. With that in mind, many homeowners prefer indoor gardening or low-maintenance plants over purifiers. 

If you search for potted plants for home purification, you will find numerous websites touting the health benefits of using house plants or plant supplement air purifiers for purifying indoor air.

According to a study carried out by environment charity Global Action Plan, we experience more Indoor air pollution abatement than outdoors. So, should I go for house plants that provide a cheap and natural way of cleaning the air?

We have mentioned purifiers can eliminate dangerous indoor air, but most homeowners prefer the best air purifying plants. Investing in several plants is a cheap way of removing particulate matter from the air.

A houseplant has become popular among millennials, especially those in urban areas that lack gardens. If you want to buy some of the best air purifying plants, you can consider peace lily, hearty plant, snake plant (mother-in-law’s tongue), Boston fern, aloe vera, African violet, parlor palm, or money plant.

Can House Plants Purify Indoor Air?

A house plant can purify indoor environments to some degree. For example, in 1989, a NASA study about an indoor plant in space-station environments showed the plant possesses air purification ability. However, research has advanced and given us more information about how a plant can improve a home’s air quality.

Does a house plant have air purifying ability? Over the years, research on the impact of roughly one plant on the environment has proven that plants can improve indoor air quality. 

The ability of indoor plants to eliminate volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide has made these plants popular. If you wonder how many plants can do this work for you at home, your potted plants can do the magic. 

If the C02 level in your house increases, it can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, or headaches, creating the impression that you live in a stuffy house. All effective plants can breathe indoor CO2 for photosynthesis with the support of direct sunlight. 

Pollutants like dangerous gases can cause nose, throat, eye irritation, coordination loss, and nausea. In addition, they exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma, potentially cause cancer, and negatively affect the nervous system.

House plants vs. Nitrogen Dioxide

Many wonder if their houseplants can eliminate nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from incomplete fuel burning. NO2 comes from stoves, fireplaces, heating appliances, or vehicle emissions and can contaminate your indoor air.

If your indoor air has a higher level of nitrogen dioxide, it can lead to airway inflammation, reduced lung function, and severe respiratory illness. Meanwhile, certain indoor plants can remove NO2 to a varying degree,

Houseplant impacts on overall wellness

Aside from the air quality, indoor plants can affect our lives positively in different ways. For instance, the University of Reading and the RHS conducted a study and found that you can enjoy well-being if you have rounded, leafy plants.

People who participated in this study scored the plant based on relaxing, uplifting, and beautiful effects. Furthermore, researchers employed photos of different styles and species of plants to prove that people react more positively to green plants with dense and round plants like Swiss cheese plants and weeping figs. 

People who kept palms around them enjoyed positive feelings because these trees reminded them of happy moments and vacations. If you want your plants to clean the air effectively, take care of them properly. Unhealthy plants do not have great effects on people, which can reduce their well-being,

Plants can improve our overall well-being and mental health when positioned inside our homes. Not everyone has the luxury of keeping a garden, which has made houseplants like peace lily more popular. 

You should select plants that you can easily maintain and care for – such as peace lilies that come with self-watering containers or bamboo plants that need less water to stay healthy. 

Houseplants vs. Air Purifier: How We Compare 

Although some plants can clean the air in our homes, they don’t offer the same effect as using an air purifier. While plants naturally eliminate VOCs in our homes, they work very slowly, especially if you have few indoor potted plants. 

However, purifiers can effectively remove dangerous gases and improve indoor air quality. Most homeowners have plants and purifiers to enhance their home air purifications.

Furthermore, while plants clean the air, they don’t absorb particles like smoke or dust, or items that exacerbate pollens. Hence, we pick purifiers above indoor plants if you suffer from allergies. 

If you decide to enhance indoor air, you can consider using plants or purifiers. Firstly, you must know that purifiers cost more than having plants in your indoor environment.

Secondly, plants have low maintenance but need routine watering, unlike the inanimate purifiers. Then, if you want an effective air purifying option, you can opt for purifiers. However, the two options will give you a varying degree of comfort and relaxation than the outside air.

While many homeowners want to know the option that purifies the air better, we don’t advise you on either. We recommend that you buy the option that can suit you best. Rest assured, this article is not telling you to remove the snake plant in your living room because we love houseplants and air purifiers. 

How to Choose Air Purifier or Indoor Plant?

We have highlighted how plants and purifiers work to maintain home air and the importance of calculating your room square meter. Further, we have listed some quick points to help you decide.

You can pick an air purifier if:

  • You don’t have a problem with its mechanical air filtration
  • Suffer mild to severe asthma or allergies
  • Want to clean the air from contaminants such as smoke, pet dander, bacteria, mold, dust, allergens, and more
  • You have pets or lots of dust
  • You have no extra space for housing plants.
  • You have little time to take care of plants.

You need indoor plants if

  • You want natural air purification.
  • Your home has high VOCs associated with new furniture, renovation, construction, or many cleaning products.
  • You have less pet dander or dust.
  • Your home has enough space for different house plants
  • You love growing plants

We hope you can make your well-informed choice regarding plants and purifiers. Regardless of what you pick, you will enjoy better air quality.

How Many Plants Do You Need To Purify Air?

While we do not give you an exact number of plants to keep indoors to purify air effectively, the NASA study has a rule of thumb to follow. The study recommends having at least fifteen plants with container diameters between six to eight inches for your 1,800 square foot property.

We can break this figure down for people with smaller floor space. When we multiply the width by the length in feet, it gives us a clearer picture. For instance, a room measuring 10 feet by 15 feet would give us 150 square feet.(10 x 15 = 150). You can have two houseplants for such a space to enjoy good air purification.

Are Indoor Plants Better Than Air Purifiers?

We may have to break this news to you about plants and indoor air. At least in a scientifically proven way to settle the debate that plants purify the air. Sadly, we can say that we have believed a myth that plants can clean the home air. 

We know that plants take in CO2 through photosynthesis and bring out oxygen. Perhaps, the driving idea surrounding this process may include absorbing other polluting gases around us, especially VOCs.

While this may technically seem true, the plant’s rate of absorbing VOCs may be extremely slow to remove you from harm’s way fast.   While purifiers quickly remove such indoor air contaminants, you need a large forest or garden to achieve this process faster. 

We like indoor plants because of their beauty and calming effects, but we don’t expect them to act like purifiers. 

Before you bring air-purifying plants home, you should consider your pets and kids. Many plants contain toxins that can affect their health if chewed. Ask questions before buying any plant. 

An increase in houseplants can encourage mold growth and affect humidity. Therefore, allow the water to drain into a tray or pan to eliminate excess water.

Where Does the Argument Come From?

We mentioned that NASA researched plants and purification in their space stations. The research called Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement gave birth to the myth that we can use plants as purifiers. 

Researchers mentioned VOC levels in sealed or closed chambers filled with plants. They left these plants for 24-hour monitoring and discovered that plants removed at least 90% of these dangerous contaminants in their lab.

The world believed in the experiment that made plants a natural purifying agent until a new study in 2019 proved this study wrong. After studying past experiments, two scientists from Drexel University published independent research in a leading digital publisher about plants as indoor air purifying agents.

They opposed the belief that plants can increase indoor air quality. The scientists found out the research conducted by NASA was carried out in unrealistic conditions for our everyday living.

In addition, they found out that indoor plants may not significantly differ in air quality they purify. Therefore, they stated that technically plants could eliminate VOCs with time, but the rate may not keep you healthier if you don’t take extra precautions. 

In the end, we believe that purifiers act better than our houseplants regarding purifying air.

The Preferred Indoor Purifier

Although purifiers and plants can clean the air, we rate purifiers as the winner in cleaning our home air. Considering the number of indoor plants we may need for a fast cleaning purpose, purifiers can achieve such a feat without difficulty. 

Purifiers reduce indoor pollution and VOC levels faster than plants. If you have pets like Labradors that love shedding, you may not need the help of plants to take care of your home. 

Furthermore, plants cannot remove particulate matter, dust, and other pollutants, which end up on the plants’ leaves. Homeowners who want to purify their indoor air prefer purifiers that work effectively on contaminants.

Better Indoor Spaces

We cannot ignore the fact that plants benefit our lives. With indoor gardening, you can experience a better indoor environment. In fact, taking care of your plants can lead to many health benefits, but effectively purifying your home air may not be the plant’s strength.

Indoor plants can provide a biophilic environment in homes and positively affect people’s well-being. Nevertheless, plants can raise the humidity levels in our homes, while some tend to manufacture their VOCs. We are not calling for you to remove your beautiful house plants.  

Plants add to the beautification of your environment. Finally, plants’ appeal is emotional and aesthetic, not agents of air purification.

What Should You Use? An Indoor Plant Or An Air Purifier

Purifiers and plants have their strengths and weaknesses, which makes them unique in their functionalities at home. It would help if you did not throw away your indoor plants because they have little effect on cleaning pollutants.

Plants have numerous health benefits that purifiers lack. For example, studies show that with plants, you can reduce fatigue and stress and improve your mood. When you have plants at home, they exude a calming effect on you. 

While plants may not offer you the exact purification level that purifiers provide, they still positively impact the air we breathe. Ultimately, we recommend that homeowners have both plants and purifiers as household plants supplement air purifiers. However, they should ensure they do not bring home poisonous plants if they have kids and pets.

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