Natural Air Purifiers: Do Succulents Really Clean The Air?

If you think that our homes don’t really need much in the way of air purification then think again, a recent study has found that the air inside our homes (as well as in schools and offices) can be as much as five times worse than it is outside! I know that shocked me too, especially when you realize that the ‘average American’ spends around 90% of their time indoors.

At this stage you’re probably wondering what on earth this has got to do with succulents but what might surprise you is that, while they may be easy to look after, these beautiful little plants can actually clean and purify the air in your home. Yes, you did read that correctly! Succulents really can clean the air you breathe indoors. Read on to find out more about how they do this as well as which succulents are better at doing this.

Succulents naturally absorb harmful and carcinogenic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. These pollutants are then broken down in the soil before being released as inert byproducts.

How do succulents purify the air?

We all know that plants use a procedure called photosynthesis to grow, but what you might not know is that this involves absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. This is a natural process that results in the carbon being taken in, cleaned, and then released as oxygen. What sets succulents apart from some plants though is that, as part of the photosynthesis process, they also remove harmful contaminates from the air.

This technique, known as phytoremediation, is where the plant absorbs a number of dangerous toxins through their leaves. These dangerous pollutants and chemicals then work their way to the stem and into the roots where they’re broken down. They’re released into the soil where microbes will degrade and metabolize these compounds, breaking them down even further.

What’s really incredible though is that a NASA study (carried out in the 1980s in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America) found that some succulents (along with other plants) can remove at least 87% of these volatile organic compounds in just 24 hours.

Succulents are amazing air purifiers

Which pollutants do succulents get rid of?

These days we have a huge range of pollutants around our home and with doors and windows being closed for most of the time these contaminants can’t escape. While that could be a problem, the good news is that succulents can get rid of the most common VOCs. These include:

PollutantWhere the pollutant is found
Floor wax
Household cleaning products
FormaldehydeCleaning products
Grocery bags
Moulded plastics
Nail polish
Paint thinners
Stain removers
TrichloroethyleneDry cleaning products
Tobacco smoke
Vehicle exhaust fumes
Toxins that can be removed from the air

While short-term exposure to these VOCs can result in headaches, nausea, and hay fever like symptoms (such as itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a sore throat) long-term exposure can have more serious consequences. These can result in liver damage, kidney issues, and in some cases even cancer.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to remove as much pollution from the air in our homes as possible.

Do succulents improve the air’s humidity?

As well as being able to remove harmful toxins from the environment, succulents can also increase the natural humidity of the air which can help to reduce the number of dry coughs and sore throats.

Succulents use a process called transpiration to move water from the soil up to the leaves. This means that, once the plant has enough water, the rest of the water in the leaves evaporates into the air and improves the humidity. This increase in humidity is enough to drastically reduce the number of mild respiratory issues.

Want to learn more about the benefits of succulents? 12 reasons why you NEED a succulent.

Succulents are great at improving a rooms humidity

How do you use succulents to purify the air?

You might think placing one succulent in your house is enough to get rid of all of the nasties in the air but it’s not quite as simple as that, and I really do mean not QUITE as simple.

There’s an argument that the more succulents you have the better (something I’d definitely agree with) but believe it or not there’s actually a certain number of succulents you need per 100 square feet. According to NASA, you should have one succulent for every 100 square feet but to be safe I like to have 1.5 succulents for every 100 square (any excuse for more succulents hey!). 

Of course, you can easily fill your house with succulents but it’s also important to place them in the right locations. For example, if you have a studio where you use a lot of gloss paint then you’ll need more than you do in a room that has plenty of ventilation and an unwaxed floor.

Having trouble sleeping? How succulents can help improve your sleep.

Which succulents purify the air?

While all succulents will help to clean and purify the air there are a few that are much better at this. The best succulents for purifying the air are aloe veras and snake plants but echeveria, haworthia, and sedum also do a fantastic job!

SucculentVOCs the succulent can remove
Aloe VeraBenzene
Snake PlantBenzene
Toxins that succulents can remove from the air
Succulents are great ant cleaning the air


I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recent Posts