Many people who keep houseplants to brighten and beautify their homes may not be aware of the less-obvious benefit of having indoor plants: They can clean your air. In fact, according to Laura Pottorff, Cooperative Extension Agent at Colorado State University, a range of houseplants can remove harmful indoor air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, which are present in common household materials such as paints, detergents and grocery bags. To provide energy for growth, these plants undergo a process called photosynthesis, during which they absorb these pollutants with carbon dioxide before releasing oxygen into the air. The key to benefiting from this amazing feature of indoor plants is ensuring that you have enough plants in each room.
Calculate the square footage of the indoor area that you wish to clean. Use a tape measure to determine the width and the length of the room in feet; multiply the width of the room by the length to figure out the exact square footage. For instance, if you want to clean the indoor air in your 14-foot-by-14-foot office, you'll need to multiply the two numbers to get a total room size of 196 square feet.
Determine how many plants you'll need to clean your indoor air. According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, you should plan on having one potted plant for every 100 square feet of floor space in your home or office. Thus, you'll need to get at least two potted plants for the hypothetical 196-square-foot office from the previous step. You can always get more plants if you want, but make sure you meet the minimum requirement to ensure that you're removing adequate levels of the indoor pollutants.
Acquire suitable houseplants to clean your indoor air. Different plants absorb different pollutants. For instance, according to Laura Pottorff, azaleas, philodendrons and spider plants are good choices if you want to decrease the levels of benzene in your indoor space. Consider getting a mix of plants or choosing one variety that can remove more than one pollutant from the air; a good overall choice is the chrysanthemum, which is capable of removing all three pollutants from your indoor air, according to Pottorff.
Care for your indoor plants. Research the types of plants that you have, so you're familiar with any special needs of particular plant varieties. Check the moisture level of the soil regularly to make sure the plants have enough water. Make sure they have regular access to a light source (artificial or sunlight), which is a requirement in order for photosynthesis to take place.