When you think of air pollution, you probably envision big cities cloaked in a blanket of smog created by car exhaust and industrial factories. But did you know that the air you breathe in your house is polluted as well? In fact, according to the EPA, the air we breathe indoors is often 100 times more polluted than the air outside.
Even if you live out in the fresh air of the countryside, your indoor space is most likely full of chemicals, materials, and toxins from sources that may surprise you. For instance, that new carpeting you just installed is likely off-gassing formaldehyde and benzene, two chemicals known to the EPA to be linked to cancer. Those new cabinets in the kitchen? Same thing.
Many items, from a new canister of tennis balls, to the toilet cleaner you have under the sink, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emit these chemicals for days, months, or even years inside of your home. As a result, if you don’t make an effort to keep your indoor air purified, you could potentially suffer from negative long-term health effects such as asthma, headaches, damage to your liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, or even cancer.
How to Purify Your Indoor Air with House Plants
You may be wondering what to do to solve the problem of dangerous airborne particles in your home. Commercial air purifiers can take care of the problem, of course, but they’re fairly expensive, costing up to (or even more than) $300.
The good news is that thanks to several studies conducted by NASA, as well as independent researchers, you can purify your indoor air without dropping a load of cash on an expensive air purifier. The secret lies in houseplants.
Head to your local nursery, spend around $50 on these six plants, and you can start breathing easier today:
1. English Ivy
English ivy helps remove benzene from the air. Benzene is a carcinogen commonly found in paint, paint strippers, pressed wood furniture, dyes, detergents, and synthetic fibers. You can pick these little plants up for around $4 at Home Depot or other garden centers.
2. Spider Plant
The spider plant is about as common as they come, but with an exception: It is a powerhouse when it comes to cleaning indoor air. According to recent research, the spider plant can purify formaldehyde in a closed space in as little as 11 to 13 hours. The spider plant, which generally costs less than $5, is easy to take care of and grow. Also, the plant offshoots baby “spiders,” which can be snipped off to grow new plants.
3. Peace Lily
The peace lily has been praised by NASA because it removes formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from indoor air. Although you can buy peace lilies anytime, they’re often cheapest and most widely available in the spring. Depending on where you get yours, and what time of year it is, expect to pay $15 to $50 for a fully grown peace lily plant.
4. Boston Fern
If you suspect that you have a lot of formaldehyde in your home (from new carpeting, fresh paint, or pressed wood products such as furniture or cabinets), invest in a few Boston ferns. They’re one of the most efficient scrubbers of this harmful chemical. In addition, Boston ferns are lush, thick, and look wonderful in hanging planters or on plant stands. A full fern costs approximately $15 to $20, and you can find them easily during the summer months.
5. Dwarf Date Palm
In 1994, The New York Times interviewed Dr. William Wolvertine, a leading scientist at NASA who contributed to the groundbreaking study around these houseplants. And, according to Wolvertine’s research, the dwarf date palm comes in at number one for removing xylene from the air. Xylene is an especially harmful chemical that is commonly emitted from paints, wood-burning fireplaces, and tobacco smoke. If you’re looking for a dwarf date palm, home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot commonly carry them in their garden center, even during the winter months.
6. Mother-in-Law Tongue (Sansevieria)
The mother-in-law tongue is one of the hardiest indoor plants available – and better yet, this spiky plant helps remove acetone from the air, which is found in nail polish, paint, and paint strippers. Many people have this plant in their home, so if you know someone who does, ask to take a cutting. Simply cut off a few stalks of the sansevieria and put them in a vase of water. Once you notice roots beginning to form, you can transplant them to soil. You can also pick up a sansevieria for $10 or less at any local nursery.
It is an unfortunate fact that many of the objects in your home emit harmful chemicals that can be damaging to your health. As a result, it’s very important that you take necessary precautions to reduce these chemicals, and using plants is the greenest and perhaps the most effective option.
NASA suggests that you use 15 plants for a 2,000 square-foot home – and the more variety you have, the better. You’ll not only create a wonderfully diverse and beautiful indoor space, but you can also breathe easier knowing that all these plants are helping to keep the indoor air safe.
What other plants can you suggest that help to purify the air?