Spring Clean Your Office Air with These Eleven Easy Plants

Spring Clean Your Office Air with These Eleven Easy Plants

Laura E. Hall
Apr 4, 2011

Whether you work in a cubicle, an open plan office or at home, fresh air is key to health and productivity. According to NASA research, adding at least one potted plant per 100 square feet of floor space drastically improves the air and reduces symptoms of "sick building syndrome" (SBS), caused by common chemicals and products. Here are the top plants to grab up during your spring cleaning, to help make a better, healthier office environment.

In 1989, NASA released the results of a study conducted to determine the best plants for refreshing the air of their space shuttles. The results showed which plants best filter out toxins in the air and neutralize the effects of "sick building syndrome" (SBS), which include faulty air flow, offgassing of building materials, molds, improper venting of ozone byproducts from office machines and the use of industrial chemicals inside the building.

It sounds yucky, but the pollutants that contribute to SBS are in the things all around us, from our computers to our desks and carpets, and even stale air can be detrimental. Luckily, the solution to all that ick is as simple as adding a plant to our environment.

What Ails Us:
Pollutant: Benzene
Sources: Inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, detergents, gasoline, pharmaceutical, tobacco smoke, synthetic fibers

Pollutant: Formaldehyde
Sources: Foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products, grocery bags, waxed paper, fire retardants, adhesive binders in floor coverings, cigarette smoke, natural gas

Pollutant: Trichloroethylene
Sources: Primarily used in the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries; also in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, adhesives


What Heals Us:
While each of these plants has its own light requirements and watering needs, they all work very well indoors, and are suitable for any type of office. Choose a low light plant like philodendron or peace lily if you're far away from a window, or set up a system to rotate your plant to be exposed to light. Other plants like English ivy need plenty of indirect sunlight, and do well in hanging containers.

English Ivy

Cleans: benzene


NASA recommends three types of dracaena: Janet Craig, marginata and warneckei. Cleans: benzene, trichloroethylene


Cleans: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Gerbera Daisy

Cleans: benzene, trichloroethylene

Peace Lily

Cleans: benzene, trichloroethylene


Cleans: formaldehyde


Cleans: formaldehyde

Spider plant

Cleans: formaldehyde

Read the original NASA clean air study for a more detailed report on their methods and findings. Remember, they recommend at least one six inch plant per 100 square feet, to be effective. Check your local nursery if you need plant-related help or advice.

Do you keep a plant in your office? What are your favorites?

More Spring Cleaning on Unplggd

(Computer and plant: Flickr member JasonTank licensed for use under Creative Commons. English ivy: Flickr member elricky licensed for use under Creative Commons. Chrysanthemum: Flickr member Sids1 licensed for use under Creative Commons. Dracaena: Flickr member ritesh3 licensed for use under Creative Commons. Peace lily: Flickr member iowa_spirit_walker licensed for use under Creative Commons. Gerbera: Flickr member -Bert23- licensed for use under Creative Commons. Azalea: Flickr member Bohemianism licensed for use under Creative Commons. Philodendron: Flickr member cliff1066™ licensed for use under Creative Commons. Philodendron: Flickr member madaise licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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