Plants are often thought of as natural air purifiers, and it is true that they can help to improve indoor air quality. However, the way that plants clean the air is not exactly how you might think. While plants can absorb and filter air contaminants through their leaves, the efficiency of this process is very low and not enough to make an impact on your indoor air quality unless you have thousands of plants in a single room. The main mechanism by which plants can effectively clean the air is through the exposure of their roots to contaminated air and the use of a process called biofiltration.
Biofiltration is a process that uses living microorganisms to filter and purify the air. In the case of plants, they absorb and break down contaminants in the air through their roots where beneficial microbial ecosystem can trap and permanently destroy pollutants.
Plants can remove a wide range of contaminants from the air including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as Benzene, Toluene, and Formaldehyde. Some plants are more effective at removing certain types of pollutants than others, so it is important to select the right plants for your needs, or you can select a wide range of plants for a more all-encompassing approach.
One way that plants can be integrated to clean the air is through the use of living walls or vertical gardens. These systems consist of plants growing in a vertical orientation and can be mounted on a wall or other vertical surface. The contaminated air is drawn through the top or back of the system and pulled through the plant's roots, where the pollutants are absorbed and broken down by the microbial ecosystem.
In addition to their ability to filter air and remove airborne toxins, plants can provide other benefits to your indoor environments as well. They can help to add humidity to otherwise dry spaces, create fresh indoor airflow in rooms where air is stagnant, and provide a natural and beautiful feature to the built environment.
Overall, plants can be an effective and environmentally responsible way to clean indoor air and improve your air quality, but they have to be optimized to do so.