Have you ever wondered if fiddle leaf fig plants clean the air?
All plants clean the air in your home. Plants take in carbon dioxide and chemicals and in turn, release oxygen. When you look at the different houseplants out there, the fiddle leaf fig may be the best air cleaning plant there is.
NASA Clean Air Study
The NASA Clean Air Study of 1989 was conducted by B.C. Wolverton. He studied how well plants clean the air.
As a doctor of botany, it was his job at NASA to develop a system to clean the air on the space shuttle and space station. He proved that plants actually clean the air better than any technology that NASA could come up with.
His NASA study showed how plants take out common household chemicals, things like benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, out of the air. These are the most common chemicals that are in our office buildings in our homes.
He studied 12 plants and he was able to release the results of how well each of those plants cleaned the air and actually took in the chemicals and released oxygen. The result of all of his work is the NASA clean air study.
Sick Building Syndrome
What is interesting about that is he proved that plants are effective in combating what’s called sick building syndrome. In the 80s, there were a lot of people really concerned with this because when you build a building, you use paint, you use carpeting, you use a lot of glue on the floor, and all of these things do what’s called off gassing.
These poisonous chemicals are ones that we end up breathing every day that we’re in an office. The symptoms of sick building syndrome include sore throats, irritation of nasal passages, headache, and fatigue. Some people even displayed severe symptoms like mental confusion, depression, the psychosomatic symptoms that you can have as a result of this sick building syndrome.
B.C. Wolverton proved that houseplants can actually help combat sick building syndrome and take all the chemicals out of the air help remove those harmful chemicals.
With his study, they only looked at 12 plants and released the results. This doesn’t mean that these plants were the best plants for cleaning the air. It’s just the 12 plants that they chose.
The criteria they used for choosing the 12 plants were that they were readily available at local nurseries, they were low light so that you could grow them in an office building, and they’re easy to grow. These plants don’t necessarily mean that they’re the best ones. But they all did clean the air pretty well.
Additional Plant Research
BC Wolverton wrote How to Grow Fresh Air and Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them. He continued to study plants and how well they absorb toxic chemicals.
He ranked the plants against each other for how well they absorbed these toxic chemicals. And he ranked them on a scale of one to 50. In the book, you get the actual top cleaning house plants that you could ever have.
What’s important about the list he published is that in the top 10, 2 of them are ficus plants. This is important because the fiddle leaf fig is a Ficus Lyrata.
How Plants Clean the Air
Most people think that plants absorb chemicals through their leaves and release oxygen.
This is true. But, it is about half of the air cleaning properties of plants.
A little bit over 50% of the air cleaning qualities comes from the soil, the roots, and microbes in the root system.
As the leaves transpire water out of the leaves, it pulls down oxygen into the soil. Through this process, the microbes filter and remove chemicals. Also, plants are great at adapting to their environment.
If they’re in a very dirty environment like a home of somebody who smokes or in a very polluted city, they’ll actually get better at cleaning the air over time. It’s important to know it is not just the leaves that help clean the air, it is the soil and the root system as well.
How Many Plants Do You Need To Clean The Air?
NASA recommends 2-3 plants (8″ diameter pot) per 100 square feet. That would be at least 36 small or medium plants in an 1,800 square foot home.
When you look at a large fiddle leaf fig, this one large plant may count as 3-5 smaller plants.
What Makes a Fiddle Leaf Fig Great at Cleaning the Air?
- High Leaf Surface Area: Plants that have a high leaf surface area are great at helping to clean toxins from the air. The leaves take in the chemicals and metabolise them.
- High Volume of Soil: Plants that have a large soil surface area helps with cleaning the air.
- High Soil Surface Area: Do not cover your soil with anything so the soil is exposed to pull in the toxins.
- High Transpiration Rate: The leaves are releasing water vapor, they’re sucking down air into the root system and the root system is metabolizing and filtering any of those toxic compounds.
Which supports my theory that fiddle leaf fig plants clean the air in the most efficient way.
How To Help Your Plant Clean the Air Better
Keep surface of your plant clean. When the leaves are blocked by dirt or small particles, they will not be able to clear the toxins from the air as well. Make sure your fiddle leaf fig leaves are clean and free of dust.
You can spray your entire fiddle leaf fig, shower it down, and use our Leaf Armor that will help keep your leaves healthy.
Avoid any oil or waxy leaf shine. This blocks the barrier and clogs the pores of the leaves so they will not take in the toxins from the air.
Using a well aerated soil will help your fiddle leaf fig clean the air better. Our Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Soil is well draining, and it helps the roots breathe. It aid in transpiration which helps to clean the air.
Remember not to cover the soil with anything. Avoid moss, rocks, or any other decorative items. Leave your soil exposed to maximize the surface area to help in cleaning the air.
Do you agree that fiddle leaf fig plants clean the air? Comment below!
To learn more:
- Sign up for our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Care 101 Webinar or our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Course, and make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter.
- Download our free Propagation Guide
- Read The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert, your complete guide to growing healthy fiddle leaf fig plants. The book is available in full-color paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon now!
- Join our Facebook Community and chat with other fiddle leaf fig lovers.
Grab the Essentials for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig:
- Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Food
- Root Rot Treatment
- Houseplant Leaf Armor to protect against insects, bacteria, and fungus (As an added bonus, it also cleans and adds shine to your plant’s leaves!)
- Moisture meter to always know when your plant is thirsty.
- Houseplant Propagation Promoter to propagate more quickly and with more success.