Indoor plants for a healthier home
Because we spend so much time our time inside, it’s important to think about how we can keep our homes healthy - especially seeing as indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia found in paint, furnishings, building materials and clothing.
Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria and mould, and this pollution is worse in spaces with poor ventilation, such as office blocks and apartment buildings.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide through their leaves to facilitate photosynthesis, converting the CO2 and sunlight into starch and oxygen to grow. As they do this they can absorb some harmful chemicals as well, purifying the air around us.
NASA has carried out extensive research on plants as a means of improving the air quality in space facilities. They found houseplants could be able to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in a 24-hour period. And this Environment Health Perspectives article recommends houseplants as an addition to home HEPA filters that trap dust and dirt.
Although all plants purify the air to some degree through photosynthesis, some are more efficient than others at metabolising VOCs.
Here are our top five air purifying plants that are also easy to take care of:
1. Bamboo Palm
NASA found the bamboo palm to be one of the best air filters for benzene and trichloroethylene, and a great humidifier. They thrive in full sun or bright light so they’re best kept near glass doors or windows. Most indoor plants aren’t safe for pets to consume, so if you’re planning on some greenery at home but have animals too, we recommend consulting your vet first.
During the night, when there’s no light for photosynthesis to take place, most plants continue to consume oxygen but don’t release it. The snake plant is one of the few that continues to release oxygen, so it can be a good one to keep the bedroom to improve air quality in this room. Snake plants can also effectively remove formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air. They can go for a month without water, but it’s best to give them a little every fortnight. When choosing one to buy, go for deep green leaves – pale leaves are an indication that the plant may not be in the best condition.
3. Peace lily
Renowned for their easy care, shade and weekly watering is all the peace lily requires. This plant topped NASA’s list for removing three of the most common VOCs – formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Peace lilies prefer bright light, but they are one of the few flowering plants that can still bloom in low light.
4. Spider plant
These are one of the easiest houseplants to grow and they’re highly resilient. They’re known for helping to clear formaldehyde if used in large numbers, and can be placed near a fireplace or kitchen, thriving in indirect sunlight. This plant is also considered a safe option if you have pets in the house.
5. Aloe vera
This succulent is well known for the gel that helps soothe cuts and burns, but it can help to clear some VOCs from the air as well. It’s low maintenance and a good choice for a kitchen window. Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings, which may mean watering as little as every two weeks.