What You Need To Know About Improving Your Indoor Air – The 8 Best House Plants for Purifying the Indoor Air
The Best House Plants for Purifying the Indoor Air
How is your indoor air? There is no place like home—it is the sanctuary, the safe haven where we feel the most comfortable and come back every day to rejuvenate ourselves. Your home is also a reflection of your personality and style, and people often take great care in decorating and maintaining their living spaces.
But what if every corner of your home is hiding toxins that threaten the health of your family? We are exposed to so much environmental pollution when we go out for work that we expect our homes to be clean and pollution-free. Indeed, home is the last place in the world you would want toxins hiding. However, the truth is quite to the contrary!
Are there toxins hiding in your home?
If you think your home is a non-toxic place, consider this fact—according to the World Health Organization, exposure to household toxins and chemicals causes about 3.8 million premature deaths every year. In fact, indoor air pollution is a major cause of respiratory disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, lung cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
According to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, sources of indoor air pollution include volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, chemicals in pesticides, particulate matter, formaldehyde (used in pressed wood products), secondary smoke from heaters, stoves, chimneys, and biological waste. These pollutants come from paints, furniture, clothes, plastic materials, adhesives, cosmetics, and various household products.
House cleaning liquids and detergents also contain many harmful chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution. Research suggests that people who have been cleaning their house for the last 20 years have their lung function significantly reduced, the effect of which is comparable to that of smoking 20 cigarettes a day for the same period! Well, that is not the most desirable kind of cleaning we originally intended!
Can dusting more often help?
According to a 2016 study, 90% of dust samples collected from American homes contained more than 45 chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting phthalates and flame retardants.
Electronics, furniture padding, foam-based packaging, carpets, cabinets, remote controls, and paint materials inside your home contain a group of chemicals called Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are primarily used as flame retardants to reduce the chances of household goods (for example, your mattress) catching fire. Over time, traces of these chemicals may get accumulated with household dust, posing a serious health risk, especially for infants and children. Exposure to PBDEs has been associated with neurological disorders, liver problems, thyroid, and reproductive disorders.
Very small dust particles also pose a risk to your lung health, as they may enter the respiratory tract and block airways. The good news is—most of these toxins can be removed by regular cleaning with a vacuum cleaner. However, some volatile organic compounds and toxic gases may stick around even after a thorough cleaning.
Fortunately, nature offers a variety of therapeutic plants that can absorb and eliminate toxins through a process called phytoremediation. Moreover, these natural air purifiers also add a soothing ambiance to your home and come with numerous emotional benefits, like enhanced mood and productivity, reduced stress levels, and improved sleep quality.
The best indoor air-purifying plants
1. English ivy (Hedera helix)
English ivy is a gorgeous and elegant-looking plant that has been used for generations for ornamental purposes. It is an evergreen climbing vine from the ginseng family, which can add a soothing green ambiance to indoor spaces while also removing airborne pollutants indoor air. The leaves of this plant also possess immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant properties and are used for medicinal purposes.
English ivy is powerfully effective in removing formaldehyde—a colorless gas that comes from tobacco, wallpapers, paints, pressed-wood products, dyes, synthetic clothes, resins, disinfectants, cosmetics, and personal care products. Research shows that breathing in this household pollutant can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, airways, nose, and throat. Its prolonged exposure, even in low doses, can cause cognitive impairment and increase oxidative stress in brain cells, contributing to the development of brain disorders.
The ivy plant is also effective in neutralizing other chemical pollutants, including benzene and carbon monoxide. In addition, it helps reduce humidity and controls the growth of mold, making it an excellent choice for those with allergies and respiratory issues.
English ivy is extremely versatile and can be grown in a variety of conditions, from full sun to partial shade. However, the plant prefers plenty of sunlight (indirect) and generous watering. You can also mist the leaves regularly to keep them looking fresh and healthy. And if you are worried about the vine becoming too invasive, simply trim it back regularly to keep the growth in check.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a succulent cactus-like plant famed for its powerful wound-healing and nourishing properties. Commonly grown in homes for medicinal purposes, aloe vera also works as a fantastic air purifier for cleaning indoor spaces.
It absorbs chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde, which are commonly found in cleaning products, paints, detergents, and plastics. Its ability to take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night-time makes it amazingly helpful for sleep and relaxation. It is also the safest plant to grow inside homes. Even if ingested, aloe vera is not known to cause any adverse health effects in kids, adults, or pets.
Moreover, the plant is extremely easy to grow and does not require much care aside from constant warmth. And if you occasionally encounter minor burns and cuts, its soothing gel can come in handy, too! It is also a wonderful moisturizer and can be added to face packs and hair masks for an intensive treatment. Overall, aloe vera is an excellent addition to any home looking for cleaner and fresher indoor air without much hassle.
3. Dracaena (the dragon plant)
Dracaena, also known as the dragon plant, is a popular choice for indoor air detoxification. Its lush and long, sword-like leaves give it a highly sophisticated look that can add a bold and optimistic feel to your home.
Studies have found dragon plant varieties effective in absorbing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the environment. The marginata plant (the red-edged one) has been found particularly effective in eliminating trichloroethylene—a volatile organic compound found in stain removers, paints, lubricants, adhesives, refrigerants, and cleaning fluids. Trichloroethylene is a well-known carcinogen and irritant for the skin and eyes.
Animal studies have shown that prolonged exposure to this common household toxin—either through respiration, ingestion (it has made its way to our drinking water and soil!), or skin absorption—may contribute to inflammation and affect multiple organs.
Dracaena plants are relatively low-maintenance and do not demand too much care. They can thrive in bright, indirect light and require only moderate watering. In fact, you should not water them too frequently, as waterlogging can be dangerous to these shade-loving plants. However, be sure to mist them regularly with warm water and try to keep the soil moist.
Apart from its aesthetic appeal and indoor air-purifying benefits, the dragon plant is also known to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality. Moreover, it comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are about 120 varieties of this Madagascar native—so you can choose from blue, green, red, pink, purple, silver, burgundy, or even gold!
4. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
The peace lily is one of the most effective indoor air-purifying houseplants on the planet, according to scientists. Its beautiful white flowers bloom throughout the year, adding a touch of feminine elegance and simplicity to your living space while also eliminating harmful toxins.
Studies have shown that peace lilies can effectively break down airborne pollutants like carbon monoxide, benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde, and xylene. It also helps in reducing humidity, which can help control the growth of mold and mildew.
The peace lily plant prefers moderate heat and light conditions but does not cope well with direct sunlight. The soil should be kept moist but not too soggy. The plant should also be fertilized every two to three months to encourage growth and healthy blooms.
5. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
One of the most popular detoxifying plants, bamboo palms can help remove a wide variety of indoor air pollutants, including formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, chlorinated hydrocarbons, xylene (found in rubber products), and other chemicals used in synthetic fragrances.
Its lush green foliage adds a bold and bright texture to your home. The plant also produces a significant amount of moisture and can serve as a natural humidifier. Its comforting presence can help moisten dry airways and support congestion-free breathing, making it a perfect choice for dry winter months and allergy season.
Bamboo palms require bright, indirect sunlight and frequent watering. You may also need to periodically prune off the older leaves to allow new growth and maintain the overall health of the plant. They are considered safe for kids and pets.
Here are some other household plants that have been proven for their indoor air-purifying properties.
Chrysanthemums: Chrysanthemums are pretty flowers that can remove a host of toxins, including ammonia and plastic pollutants. These plants may also be toxic for pets.
Spider plants: Spider plants are good for removing xylene and endocrine-disrupting chemicals from aromatic products. These are safe for pets and kids.
Rubber plant: Rubber plants can remove formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, and chlorinated hydrocarbons found in pesticides and cleaning liquids. It is considered toxic for pets.
Safety and precautions
Most indoor air-purifying plants, barring a few exceptions (like aloe vera), are toxic for pets and kids. If ingested, they can cause side effects like vomiting, excess salivation, burning, and swelling. It is best to keep the plants out of reach of your furry friends.
The ivy plant and peace lilies are also known to cause skin irritation in adults and should be avoided.
Household products and cleaning detergents release numerous volatile compounds that may stick around in your home, polluting your living space and threatening your long-term health. Air-purifying plants are a wonderful way to naturally freshen up the indoor air while also adding a touch of greenery to your home.
Research shows that certain plants can absorb harmful pollutants and gases, minimize the growth of mold, and support respiratory health. Moreover, living with plants can reduce psycho-emotional stress and promote mental wellness.
However, it is important to note that while detoxifying plants may help reduce the levels of indoor air pollutants in your home, they are not a comprehensive solution. In order to effectively improve the indoor air quality, you may need to employ other strategies, such as dusting more often, regularly opening windows for ventilation and indoor air circulation, and perhaps, most important of all, avoiding the use of harsh chemicals and cleaning products. To improve your indoor air quality, you can also opt for natural household products such as dish detergents, glass, cleaners, and laundry detergents. I personally use natural household products from our friends at Truly Free! Check them out.
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