According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. And I would be willing to bet that number is even higher with all the stay-at home orders in place today.
It’s tempting to think that the air inside your house or office is fresh and clean—after all, it probably doesn’t have any noticeable odor. But the truth is that the air inside office buildings, schools, apartment complexes, and your home can contain 5 times more pollution than outdoor air. This is due to furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, and cleaning products in homes and offices emitting a variety of toxic compounds, like formaldehyde. Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria, and molds, and car exhaust as outdoor air contaminants find their way inside.
The EPA tells us that the health effects from these indoor air pollutants may show up immediately or “after years after exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal.” For this reason, they caution us to improve the indoor air quality in our homes today, even if symptoms are not noticeable.
To solve this problem, NASA conducted a Clean Air Study in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and found certain plants to be surprisingly useful in absorbing harmful gasses and cleaning indoor air. Some well-placed greenery can increase the visual appeal of your home, help to create a more relaxing, restful ambiance in any room, and even help you to stay alert and reduce mental fatigue – but beyond the therapeutic benefits, bringing plants indoors is a sustainable way to improve indoor air quality quickly. We’ve rounded up 9 beautiful and easy-to-care-for houseplants that NASA found to be effective at clearing out toxins for cleaner breathing air.
1. Chrysanthemum – The colorful flowers of a mum can do a lot more than brighten a home office or living room; NASA found this plant to be an air-purifying champion, removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air . Popular and inexpensive at garden stores, they can be planted outside after they’re finished blooming.
2. Spider plant – Spider plants are among the easiest houseplants to grow, making them a great choice for beginners or forgetful owners. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. This plant is also considered a safe houseplant if you have pets in the house.
3. Snake plant – Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants. You may also want to put a couple of these sharp-leafed plants in your bedroom as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night (the opposite of the process most plants follow). Sharing your room with these plants could give you a slight oxygen boost while you sleep.
4. Aloe vera – This easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints, glue and more. As a bonus warning signal, the leaves will display brown spots when the amount of harmful chemicals in the air becomes excessive.
5. Gerbera daisy – This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing benzene and trichloroethylene, which you may be bringing home with your dry cleaning. Add one to your laundry room or bedroom — presuming you can give it lots of light.
6. Ficus/weeping fig – A ficus in your living room can help filter out pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It’s a hardy plant that ends up being between two and 10 feet tall.
7. Azalea – Bring this beautiful flowering shrub into your home to combat formaldehyde from sources such as plywood or foam insulation. Because azaleas do best in cool areas around 60 to 65 degrees, they’re a good option for improving indoor air in your basement if you can find a bright spot.
8. Bamboo palm – It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. This plant is also a good choice for placing around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde.
9. Peace lily – Renowned for their easy care, shade and weekly watering are all the peace lily needs to survive and produce blooms. In addition to removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, it can also combat toluene and xylene.
Each plant has its own unique personality, preferring certain conditions over others, so be sure to consider your space and climate in relation to what the plant needs to thrive. Look for a tag that comes with the plant or online to find out how much sunlight and water it will need. Then breathe easy with your new stress-relieving, air-purifying, oxygen-giving greenery.