New building methods increasingly improve insulation R-values inside homes, but as houses become more buttoned up, they also can trap lousy air inside. Your personal atmosphere might contain molds, formaldehyde, toxic chemicals from paints, carpets, glues, and cleaners, and benzene, just to name a few. On top of that, your indoor air carries pet dander, dust mites and other pollutants that can trigger asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses, headaches, earaches, and digestive problems.
Clear the air with these oxygen-promoting houseplants.
- Dracaena deremensis: requiring only a small amount of sunlight and very little water, this plant grows up to ten feet tall if left untrimmed. It effectively removes fumes from solvents and varnishes.
- Dracaena Marginata: This lovely subtropical plant brings to mind a Dr. Seuss tree that filters chemicals from cigarettes, paints, and vehicle exhaust. It only requires a small amount of water when the soil dries out.
- Golden Pothos: NASA studied this plant for its ability to remove formaldehyde and VOCs (volatile organic compounds such as those in paint fumes).
- Hedera Helix: This English Ivy makes the perfect desktop plant and removes carcinogens from cigarettes and cigars. It adapts to a variety of light and temperature conditions, and when used in the bath or nursery, it can even remove fecal particulates.
- Sansevieria Trifasciata: Also called Snake Plant and Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, releases oxygen as it absorbs carbon dioxide and makes an excellent filtering plant for formaldehyde from engineered wood products.
- Spathiphyllum: Peace Lily controls acetone, benzene, trichloroethylene, and fumes from alcohols from the air inside your home. Since it’s toxic, however, keep this plant away from pets and children.
- Chlorophytum comosum: The Spider Plant, also part of the NASA test, proved to be exemplary at removing formaldehyde from the air.
Plants move the toxins through their leaf-vein system and down into the roots where microbes feast on and filter the damaging fumes and turn them into harmless by-products. Each medium-sized plant covers about six to eight cubic feet according to some studies, although in real-world situations, that depends on how often HVAC systems exchange the air.
To get the best results, keep a variety of plants. Because most plant types prefer certain toxins over others, the more insulated your home, the more different fumes need filtering. As always, when using any plants near children or animals, keep them well out of reach.
To learn about which plant might grow best in your situation, talk to your local nursery or plant specialist.