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A breath of fresh air can be hard to get inside your home. Between volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) that come with furniture, carpeting, and even drywall to the food particles that come with cooking – the indoor air quality of your home may be dangerously unhealthy.
Can a few indoor plants help you achieve better air quality and a healthier lifestyle? Do air purifying plants really work? Maybe (maybe not). The ubiquitous NASA Clean Air Study showed how plants can help in a hermetic chamber, which is not quite the same thing as the everyday residential home.
However, Kamal Meattle in his TED Talk How to grow fresh air cited a study in New Delhi that found adding three specific plants in a large office building could reduce eye irritation by 52 percent, respiration illnesses by 34 percent, headaches by 24 percent, lung impairments by 12 percent, and even asthma by 9 percent. Human productivity increased by 20 percent, and energy usage was reduced by 15 percent.
What does this mean for your home?
Here at vipHomeLink, we believe plants can add some benefits to your indoor air quality when coupled with the right mix of home maintenance and improvements. However, if you’re going to use plants to help purify the air in your home, there is one thing you absolutely need to know.
You have to really, really, REALLY like plants.
What plants are the best for improving indoor air quality?
According to Kamal, you can reduce indoor air pollution by using plants – three specific ones, actually.
The first plant is the areca palm. This plant removes carbon dioxide and creates oxygen. Unfortunately, for you to feel the effects of this plant in your home, you will need four shoulder-high plants per person. (Content Writer Susie: In my home, that would mean 12 of these bad boys.)
To get the most out of this plant, you’ll need to wipe the leaves every day or every week (depending upon the air quality of your area) and take the plants outside for some fresh air (ha!) and sunlight every three to four months.
The second plant is the mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant. This plant works during the night to intake carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. To get the benefits of this plant, you’ll need eight waist-high plants per person, per home.
Finally, golden pothos removes VOCs from the air, including formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, and benzene, as well as carbon monoxide. (You still need a carbon monoxide detector!) It is also easy to grow, though no word on how many of these plants you’d need to get the toxins out of your home.
What plants can I get to clean the air in my house?
When it comes to additional everyday plants in your home, Bill Wolverton, head of Stennis’ Environmental Research Lab and scientist for the NASA Clean Air Study, suggests using at least two “good sized” plants per 100 square feet of indoor living space.
Additional purifying plants include:
This plant removes pollutants, including those from cleaning products, and adds humidity to the air during winter. Unfortunately, it’s harder to grow indoors and doesn’t tolerate temperature extremes, drafts, and even your air conditioner.
The English ivy reduces indoor mold particles, making it a favorite potted plant for bathrooms (though it needs direct sunlight four hours a day). It is also poisonous if ingested, so make sure to keep it away from pets and small children.
If you do find mold in your bathroom, make sure to have it extracted by a professional!
Mentioned to be one of the most effective plants for removing VOCs, the Dracaena produces oxygen and raises humidity levels in a room, helping to soothe respiratory issues created by dry air. They’re also said to reduce the levels of lead pollutants in the air, though we recommend you hire a professional to handle all lead issues. (Lead is a hazardous material that can cause many health issues, including death.)
Spider plants remove particulate matter such as dust or ash, so placing it near a fireplace can purify the air. (Of course, don’t place it too close, as that would be a fire hazard.) These are great plants for homes with pets as they’re not poisonous, and they also don’t need direct sunlight.
Other air purifying plants that are known for improving indoor air quality include the flamingo lily, peace lily, gerbera daisy, Chinese evergreen, and aloe vera.
Unfortunately, no house plants remove radon from the air…definitively. Though some studies show promise, it’s recommended that homeowners use professional mitigation techniques to reduce their exposure to radon.
Stay on top of home maintenance
As mentioned earlier, plants are simply one part of a healthy home plan. A few tasks that can help create a healthier environment include:
- Weather stripping, which can reduce drafts and keep the purified air inside your home.
- Replacing outdated windows and doors to keep the elements out of the home and prevent issues with mold and other pollutants.
- Clean air filters as required, generally every three months.
- Improve your HVAC system by using HEPA filters, which help to filter pollutants out of the air.
- Schedule your routine HVAC service every spring and fall.
- Use a range hood fan when cooking on the stove top.
- Take care of your plants, so they can help improve your indoor air to the fullest.
Get more tips to enhance your indoor living space in Indoor Home Health: How to Make Your Indoor Living Space Health.
Maintain, organize, and improve your home
Here at vipHomeLink, we know how difficult it is to know what to do and when to do it around the home. That’s why we created our home management app, which provides homeowners with personalized reminders for home maintenance tasks. From vacuuming your dryer vent to defrosting your ice maker and everything in between, we’ve got you covered.