Whether your home is brand new or dates back to the early 1900’s, it is probably harboring toxic airborne chemicals. Homes these days are filled with invisible invaders and not all of them are safe. Chemical compounds are found in emissions from paint, plastic, carpet, flooring, building materials, and household cleaning solutions. Even our mattresses can harbor harmful toxins and microbes!
The most common chemicals found in homes in the United States include:
Formaldehyde: This chemical is used in manufacturing carpets, upholstery, glue, paint, and more. It’s been proven that exposure to this chemical can cause irritation to the lungs and respiratory system, and researchers indicate that it may be linked to cancer of the lung and throat.
Benzene: This chemical is found in plastics, synthetic fibers, pesticides, glues, and some rubber materials. Moderate to high exposure to benzene is known to cause cancer, such as leukemia.
Trichlorethylene: This chemical is found in cleaning solutions, adhesives, paint remover, glue and other household items. This chemical is known to damage the central nervous system, and can also cause problems in the liver and kidneys.
What to Do:
So, how do we protect ourselves from these deadly but commonly found chemicals? Well, nature has it’s own way of dealing with these harmful chemicals. Air-cleaning plants can remove these harmful particles from the air, replacing it with purified oxygen.
One plant can effectively clean around 150 square feet of air in the average household. But you can’t just use any old garden plant--there are a few plants that are exceptional at recycling our air. Here’s a list of the top air purifying plants:
For those of us who tend to neglect our household plants, a spider plant will be an excellent choice as it is mightily resilient to even the most forgetful gardener. The rich foliage produces plantlets that may be cut off and rooted to make more spider plants, or left alone to add to the overall beauty. If cared for well, it will also produce tiny white flowers.
Removes: benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene.
Plant Care: Sunny window with occasional water to keep the soil moist. Do not overwater, or you’ll get root rot.
This virtually indestructible plant is also known as devils ivy. It grows quickly, and adapts to virtually any environment. It will vine if given a trellis, or if placed in a hanging basket will cascade beautifully. It’s eye-catching leaves act like a chemical sponge.
Removes: formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene.
Plant Care: This plant will thrive anywhere except in direct sunlight. Don’t bother watering until the soil is dry to the touch.
Tip: People like to put them in garages where there is a high concentration of formaldehyde from car exhaust. But don’t worry, this plant will stay green even when kept in the dark.
Also known as mother-in-laws tongue, this dramatic plant is another low maintenance addition to your green air filtration system. It’s easy to care for, and grows fairly slowly, meaning it will need less repotting than plants that grow speedily.
Removes: formaldehyde and carbon dioxide
Plant Care: It likes low light and steamy humid conditions, making the master bathroom an excellent home.
For the person without much natural sunlight, yet wants a large plant that will make a dramatic statement, the dracaena is the one to take home. This striking plant, with striped leaves and red accents, grows slowly, but will get tall (up to 15 feet).
Removes: xylene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and other pollutants associated with varnishes and lacquers.
Plant Care: This plant will do well in a room with high ceilings, moderate sunlight and occasional watering. It is available in a wide range of colors and variations, so choosing the perfect match for you home is a synch.
The fleshy leaves, while the look intimidating, are actually soft and filled with gooey liquid that can be used to help heal burns and wounds. Succulents do not require much water, and will do best in soil that is only slightly moist.
This beginner friendly sun-loving succulent is perfect in a bright warm kitchen window.
Removes: formaldehyde and benzene
Plant Care: Succulents need lots of sun, and do not require much water. They do best in soil that is only slightly moist.
This well beloved hearty climbing vine thrives in small spaces that have few windows and little sunlight. They may be grown as cascade plants in hanging baskets or, when provided with a trellis, will vine. Their colors range from deep green, to mottled white/cream and green, and all in between. Their dense beautiful foliage brings charm to any corner of your home.
Removes: Studies have found that not only are these dark dense leaves exceptional at absorbing formaldehyde, it also removes mold and feces from the air. Other chemicals the English ivy filters are benzene, carbon monoxide, and trichloroethylene.
Plant Care: These vines do best in dimly lit areas of the house that need a splash of life and color. Keep moderately well-watered, but not waterlogged, as this will cause rot.
These evergreen perennials from the tropical forests of Asia are jewels for filtering air while also providing a beautiful focal point to a room. They were initially used as a foligage plant, and have only recently been gaining recognition for their exceptional air filtering qualities.
Removes: benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
Plant Care: They prefer indirect light and high humidity from misting with water, or from the natural condensation of being in a bathroom. Water moderately, and allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.
This beautiful plant is among the few air purifiers that also flower. If well cared for and kept in a well lit warm area, it will bloom year round. The shiny leaves appear best when kept clear of dust, so if you’re not going to be around to keep it clean, go with a less glamorous plant. It can be placed in low light or direct light, but low light inhibits its pristine white flowers.For best results, put near a sunny window ledge that is out of the reach of children and pets.
Removes: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloreothylene, xylene, ammonia, and acetone.
Plant Care: It can be placed in low light or direct light, but again, low light inhibits the growth of the pristine white flowers. For best results, put near a sunny window ledge and keep moderately well watered.
Caution: This plant is poisonous. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.