potted plants lined up with mint background

Plants that clean the air in your home

LIVE healthier | 8 MIN READ | 2020-09-09

What if you could help make your home or work space healthier – and looking top notch – by adding a bit of greenery? Back in the late 1980s, NASA conducted a Clean Air Study that looked at how houseplants can be used to purify air, and how some can be more effective at doing so than others. 

More specifically, they looked at plants that rule the school when it comes to removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air – neat! Although the 80s seem like forever ago, this study definitely still applies today.

First, let's understand the gravity of the situation

yellow bedroom with hanging indoor plants

Image Credit: The Urbivore

So… why is this important? Well, you may not realize it, but the air in our home and office spaces are chock-full of chemicals and toxins – many of which can cause symptoms like headaches, eye irritation and even colds and other types of sicknesses. And given the fact that on average, Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors (now more than ever), it makes a ton of sense to look into this a little more, right? Right.

Common signs that you’re being exposed to poor indoor air include things like headaches, tiredness, worsening allergy or asthma symptoms, recurring colds and sneezing, and different skin irritations. But don’t fret – there are ways that we can boost our air quality!

One really effective way to clean the air in your home or work space is with plants (they’re pretty and improve our moods, too). 

The first step to improving indoor air quality is to learn about what’s in the air and remove things that are harming it. Then, all you have to do is choose and purchase the plants you like and you can get to work on growing an indoor garden in your home or apartment.

Is there bad air between us?

kitchen table with nice plant on it

There are common (and different) factors that impact air quality in different places.

One commonality you’ll notice in the below list of items – most of them have some sort of scent. Chemicals used to add scents to products (on purpose or not) can cause health issues and make people sick. Scents are usually a mixture of natural and man-made chemicals, with one fragrance sometimes containing between 100 and 350 ingredients to produce the smell! That’s a lot of chemicals to breathe in.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind that impact indoor air quality in your home:

Cigarette smoking – shouldn’t be done indoors as it can release harmful chemicals in your air!

Mold or mildew – can impact your air quality too. It’s important to read up on causes and ways to prevent mold before it happens. Air flow and ventilation are two great ways to avoid it!

High humidity – can cause mold or moisture in your home. The recommended average relative humidity indoors is 30% to 50%, otherwise your air quality can be negatively impacted.

o In the summer use a dehumidifier to keep moisture out.

o In the winter use a humidifier to add moisture so it’s not too dry.

Household cleaners and chemicals – can be toxic to breathe in. That’s why you should consider going all-natural for certain home cleaning products.

Scented products – contain hundreds of chemicals like fragrances, aromas and perfumes. This includes household items too, like air fresheners, candles, cleaning products and some laundry detergents. 

o Did you know that scented candles can actually worsen your indoor air quality? Opt for soy or unscented instead.

Radon gas – is an invisible and odourless gas caused by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It can get in your house through unfinished floors, pipes, windows, or cracks in the foundation, and isn’t good for your health. 

o Not to worry though – if you keep your home well-ventilated and have plants, this lowers the risk. There are also inexpensive tests and radon detectors that you can buy to find out if this is something you should pay attention to in your home.

Do you have questions about indoor air quality? Check out this resource for common FAQs on indoor air quality that are super helpful and informative!

Let's go back to air one

woman in kitchen putting plants together

These common chemicals floating around in our air are long, hard-to-pronounce and well, what even are they? Let’s go back to “air” one for a minute. Here’s some to be aware about and where they can be found:

Benzene: Used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

o Go all-natural when cleaning and use more sustainable items. Fact – plastic isn’t necessary for success!

Formaldehyde: Found in paper bags, waxed papers, facial tissues, paper towels, table napkins, particle board, plywood panelling, and synthetic fabrics.

o Sounds like a lot of one-use cleaning tools to us. Use reusable instead.

Trichloroethylene: Found in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, adhesives and paint removers and strippers.

Xylene: Found in printing, rubber, leather and paint industries, tobacco smoke and vehicle exhausts.

Ammonia: Found in window cleaners, floor waxes, smelling salts and fertilizers.

Just because you breathe these in doesn’t mean that something bad will happen to you. However, it’s important to know where they’re found and what the mild and serious side effects associated with inhaling them are. Then, you can remember to wear masks when cleaning and ensure you have windows open, all-around learning to focus more on air quality! Read about these chemicals’ effects on humans here. 

Plants that have something to brag about

different plants on a bench in a home

Lots of plants are pretty, but some do an exceptional job of cleaning the air in your home. These are really the plants you want to surround yourself with (plus, most of them are pretty simple plants to care for).

If you want to brush up on your knowledge of air-purifying plants, this awesome infographic from Love the Garden is a great place to start. Print this out, or better yet, save a tree and take a screenshot for reference. Whether it’s a Spider Plant or English Ivy, you’re sure to have some fun choosing a little love fern to care for that will clean your inside air. And guess what? You’ll feel pretty great, too.

Here’s 10 house plants (Insta-famous or not), that clean the air in your home:

1. English Ivy: This Insta-famous plant is adaptable and easy to grow and is known to remove formaldehyde (along with others) in your air. Side note – it doesn’t survive well in high temperature areas.

2. Aloe Vera: This plant emits oxygen at night while simultaneously taking in carbon dioxide, leading to a purer quality or air and a better night’s sleep.

3. Peace Lily: These pretty plants with white flowers can clean the air of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Not to mention, they’re super simple to care for and will add peaceful energy to your space. However, this plant is poisonous to cats and dogs, so make sure you choose a Spider Plant if your furry friends like to sniff around your plants (or store it on a higher, unreachable shelf).

4. Ficus Alii: This beautiful tree is known for removing pollutants like formaldehyde in the air, and is apparently one of the easier plants to care for (although it can lose leaves at first while it adjusts to your space).

5. Lady Palm: This is a great plant for removing indoor air pollutants. It’s pretty easy to grow, too.

6. Dwarf Date Palm: This tree is so cute and can grow to 5 or 6 feet! It’s known for removing most pollutants, especially xylene, and can tolerate fairly low levels of light.

7. Areca Palm: This popular plant is easy to care for and removes all indoor air toxins. It’s also 

8. Bamboo Palm: These little trees have been found to clean the air of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Plus, on the Feng Shui scale, this plant rates high, adding a peaceful and tropical feeling to your home.

9. Janet Craig Dragon Tree: Along with a fun name, this tree is great for removing chemical toxins indoors like trichloroethylene. 

10. Spider Plant: NASA tests showed this plant to remove around 90% of potentially cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde from the air. This one is also safe if you have pets at home – definitely a good one to keep around!

And finally, keep this little tidbit in mind as you’re exploring the world of indoor plants. According to NASA research, having at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space is a good rule of (green) thumb to keep your air clean. Now go forth and start cleaning up your indoor air quality! 

P.S. We love a pretty plant and we make sure that our homes are filled with them! Let us know what you’ve chosen for your home or office by tagging us @MintoApartments on social media.