Has anyone ever gifted you a potted plant to keep indoors at your office or home, saying that it will help clean the air? or make it pure? I bet a lot of us believe that’s true but the researchers over at Drexel University decided to verify this claim. They have discovered that the claim is false as natural ventilation outpaces the air cleaning property of potted plants kept indoors.

“This has been a common misconception for some time. Plants are great, but they don’t actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment,” said Michael Waring, co-author of the research and associate professor of architectural and environmental engineering in Drexel’s College of Engineering.

Michael Wang and his doctoral student Bryan Cummings reviewed a number of research studies from the past 30 years to verify the claims. They concluded that the plant’s ability to clean air was very low when compared to natural ventilation in their study published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

In their study, Wang collected data from multiple studies and calculated the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) which hadn’t been done before. It was found that the rate of dissipation of pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by plants was slower than natural air exchange.

The notion that plants kept indoors at our house can act as air purifiers was popularized back in 1989 by NASA – around 30 years ago. The space agency conducted a study aimed at finding methods to clean the air supply on space stations. It found that plants were helpful in cleaning out airborne cancerous chemicals, but there’s a catch.

NASA performed the experiments in a sealed chamber. A controlled environment. The environment for their test was totally different from that of an office or house, which means their findings don’t apply to real-world conditions. Therefore, potted plants are not the best at cleaning air indoors. They don’t help clean the air indoors as swiftly as compared to natural ventilation. It’s a myth.