indoor air quality houseplants

6 Houseplants That Improve Indoor Air Quality

Aunt Fannie Blog

About Indoor Air Pollution

How about this fun scary fact: the air inside a typical home is 2x – 5x more polluted than the air outdoors. During warmer months, opening the windows in your home is a great way to circulate fresh air and reduce indoor air pollution. But as fall turns to winter, it’s not the most energy-efficient solution. Plus, no one wants to wear their parka in the living room. Instead, opt for a trip to your local nursery to stock up on houseplants.

Certain indoor plants can help reduceindoor pollution toxic agents and improve indoor air quality. (Need a quick refresher on some indoor toxin sources including VOCs? Check out our previous article here.) Tightly sealed environments can be a risk to human health and repeated exposure can lead to chronic lung diseases and even lung cancer. Many of the objects in our homes and conventional cleaning products we use emit toxins in the air, and when windows are closed they begin to accumulate. Pollutants indoors can be especially troublesome for children with asthma. One study from Environmental Health Perspectives showed houseplants may be a more effective method than air filtrations and air purifiers for removing indoor pollutants from the air.

The mechanism used by plants for photosynthesis (you know, using sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to chemical energy and release oxygen) is the same for removing toxins. Plants absorb and metabolize toxins in the air into their leaves and roots, effectively ridding them from the air.

NASA did a comprehensive 2 year study on this and concluded that indoor air can be cleaned efficiently with one plant per 100 square feet. Variety is best as different plants can remove different toxins. Indoor plants, or low light requiring plants, do not flower and usually do not cause allergic responses. While natural, plants can be toxic to humans and animals, so make sure you (or your pets) are not allergic to any of these plants before converting your home to a green sanctuary.

Common Indoor Pollutants

Common solvent found in items such as paints, plastics, and rubber is an irritant to the skin and eyes that could be carcinogenic. Chronic exposure at low levels can lead to anemia and headaches (yikes!).

A potent liver carcinogen that is used in paints, varnishes, and adhesives.

In particle board and pressed-wood products, this one is in almost all indoor environments from your paper towels to your carpet backing. Exposure can lead to upper respiratory tract irritation.

Biological Contaminants
This includes mold, pollen, dander, bacteria and viruses.

Purifying Indoor Plants

houseplants1. English Ivy
Removes benzene (89%), formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, zylene and toluene

2. Janet Craig
Very little light needed, removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

3. Golden Pothos
For those lacking a green thumb, hard to kill and removes benzene, formaldehyde, zylene, and toluene

4. Peace Lily
Removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia

5. Warneckei
Removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

6. Snake Plant
Filters out formaldehyde, absorbs carbon dioxide

In addition to bringing these hard-working houseplants into your home, you can further reduce air pollution by making small adjustments to your routine:

  • Maintain a healthy level of humidity (30-50% is ideal), as dust mites and mold love moisture.
  • Look for fragrance-free or naturally-scented laundry products.
  • Switch to mild cleaners that don’t include artificial fragrances.
  • Stop using aerosol sprays — deodorants, hair sprays, carpet cleaners, furniture polish, and air fresheners.