Most people think of their homes as a refuge from the world, but you may be surprised to learn there may be hidden hazards lurk behind the closed windows and doors of many homes. Typically one thinks of air quality and air pollution being outside, but sometimes the most toxic air is in one’s home. Cleaners, carpeting, paint, leather, dry cleaning solvents, ink and detergents, in addition to mold spores, dust and mildew, creates an airborne stew that can negatively affect your family’s health.
Luckily, you can find a simple way to clean the air quality in your home at your local nursery or garden extension. Fun fact: in the 1980s, NASA and a group of landscape and horticulture experts studied plants as a solution to cleaning the air in space for astronauts. Their research, as well as subsequent studies, bear out their findings, that a number of plants can remove toxins from the air.
Check out this list that, while appearing to be a list of humble houseplants, are really the unsung heroes of your household and are surprisingly powerful and effective in cleaning the air you breathe and in keeping you and your family healthy.
1. Spider Plants
This hardy plant will survive and thrive even if you don’t have a green thumb. This species counteracts carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene, which is commonly found in rubber, leather and printed materials. Bonus: this plant is safe to have around pets.
The flowers of the chrysanthemum can scrub benzene from the air, which is omnipresent in plastics, detergent, glue and paint. Place them in a window with direct sunlight, to encourage blooming.
3. Aloe Vera
One might typically think of this plant for its gel for burns and sunburns, but it also helps remove formaldehyde and benzene, which are found in chemical-based cleaners and paints. Keep it in your kitchen window; it needs sun.
4. Gerbera Daisy
Not just your run-of-the-mill daisy, this species with the oversized blooms removes trichloroethylene, which is an off-gas from dry cleaning, and benzene, which is found in inks. Find a place where it can get a lot of light.
5. Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
Extremely effective at removing formaldehyde, this fast-growing vine will create a cascade of green from a hanging basket, or from a shelf. If you’ve got a garage, this is an excellent place for it, since car exhaust contains formaldehyde. It’s also perfect for light-starved rooms and city apartments, since its leaves stay green even when in the dark or in low lighting.
6. Weeping Fig (Ficus)
Ever wonder why you see ficus trees in so many offices and lobbies?
A ficus in your living room can help filter out pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture, and treatments of your furniture and rugs, including formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. While determining the optimal water and lighting conditions for a ficus to thrive can be tricky, it’s well worth the effort, as they do have a long lifetime.
7. Snake Plant
Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, it’s perfect for your bathroom, and is highly efficient in removing formaldehyde, which is in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care items. It also does well in low light and humid conditions.
This flowering shrub removes formaldehyde from items such as plywood or foam insulation. One challenge is that azaleas like cool temperatures between 60-65 degrees, so they will do best in a cool area like a basement, if you have good light for it.
9. Bamboo Palm
Sometimes called the reed palm, it is the best plant for filtering benzene and trichloroethylene out of the air. It grows best in shady indoor spaces, and may flower and produce berries, and is a good choice for placing near furniture that could be putting off formaldehyde gas.
10. Peace Lily
NASA found the Peace Lily to be the most effective plant in removing the three most common VOCs (volatile organic compounds): benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. It also counteracts toluene and xylene, found in fingernail polish, adhesives, lacquers, paint thinners, wood stains and more. Just keep it in a shady spot and water weekly.