Outside, trees and plants generate oxygen and absorb toxic odors, gases, and particulates. Their leaves trap these pollutants and filter them out of the air, performing a natural clean-up service that keeps the environment in check. However, you probably spend most of your time indoors, especially when you’re at home. And even with proper ventilation and filtration systems in place, your household items and habits generate plenty of airborne contaminants, from pollen and bacteria to formaldehyde, xylene, and other compounds associated with home furnishings and appliances. Fortunately, the naturally purifying power of plants can make a big difference inside too.
Many common house plants are actually excellent air purifiers, especially when it comes to the contaminants that find their way inside most homes. Of course, they have aesthetic and psychological benefits too, adding green growth and life to your indoor spaces without requiring too much attention to thrive. Here are five of our favorite low-maintenance house plants for improving your indoor air quality:
Also known as the “mother-in-law’s tongue” or sansevieria, this tropical succulent absorbs benzene, a compound released by cars, heaters, ovens, and other common household appliances. It also absorbs xylene from paint and petroleum, and formaldehyde from cleaning, cooking, smoking, and even paint and cosmetics. The spiky snake plant is also one of the hardiest house plants. As long as you don’t drown it with too much water or burn it with direct sunlight, it should thrive in a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels.
Versatile both indoors and outdoors, the ficus or “weeping fig” grows tall and filters out common pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene (a common compound related to refrigerants). The ficus isn’t as hardy as most house plants if your indoor conditions fluctuate a lot, but if you can provide a stable amount of water, indirect light, and warmth, your fig will weep away while it sweeps away some potentially harmful chemicals.
Take it from NASA scientists: the peace lily isn’t peaceful for pollutants at all. Out of all the indoor houseplants they analyzed, this low-light evergreen plant did the best job at removing all the organic compounds you’ve learned about so far. It only needs water once a week, and it thrives outside in the shade too, as long as you don’t plant it in direct sunlight.
A great topical purifier too (break off a leaf next time you get a sunburn), the aloe vera plant is a succulent with serious air-purifying power. It removes benzene from the air you breathe, so keep it around painted furniture and walls.
A house plant that prefers to be moist and cool, the Boston fern filters out formaldehyde and xylene, which is particularly important in rooms that host a lot of cleaning or cooking. Because this fern is easy to grow and thrives in indirect light, it’s great for small, cool spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms.
Of course, there’s no substitute for a well-maintained heating, cooling, and ventilation system, including regularly cleaned air ducts and regularly replaced air filters. But if you want to cheer up your home and purify your air the natural way, house plants are a great way to go. Check out our blog for more ways to improve your air quality and keep your home healthy and clean.