“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”
September 23: The long Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the leaves are turning color, I’m thinking about retiring my sandals, and about my costume for Halloween (a holiday I still enjoy way too much). Fall is officially here! I know some of you have a grim view of this season, which is why indoor plants are the perfect remedy for adding life to your home as Mother Nature slowly prepares for winter. And for those of you lucky enough to live somewhere warm, NASA says that improving your indoor air quality with plants is also a must.
Did you know that in the late 1980s NASA partnered with Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) to conduct the NASA Clean Air Study? The purpose of the study was to find ways to clean indoor air in space stations. They found that a number of houseplants filter out common volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Lucky for us, these plants do not require zero gravity to work their magic on indoor air, which is 5 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air.
Indoor air quality is important, given that we typically spend 90% of our time indoors. Some plants are better air purifiers than others, but on average, NASA suggests having 1 plant per 100 square feet of living space. In addition to purifying your indoor air, plants will add life and color to your décor.
The bad chemicals
Our indoor air can contain many chemicals. But for the purpose of this post, we will concentrate on the five evaluated by NASA.
Formaldehyde is one of the best known and most toxic indoor air contaminants, due to its unfortunate abundance in common consumer products. Studies have shown that people exposed to low levels of formaldehyde over long periods are more likely to experience asthma-related respiratory symptoms. In higher amounts formaldehyde is known to cause cancer of the nasal cavity.
Trichloroethylene or TCE, is a common indoor air pollutant released by paints, dry cleaning, adhesives, pesticides, and the ink in copy machines, faxes, and printers. Short-term exposure to TCE irritates the nose and throat and depresses the central nervous system. Higher concentrations can cause numbness and facial pain, reduced eyesight, unconsciousness, irregular heartbeat, and even death.
Benzene and Xylene
Benzene and Xylene are found in the vapor of products like gasoline, oils, paints, glues, inks, plastics, and rubber, where they are used as solvents. These indoor air pollutants are also used to make detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, foams, and dyes. They are skin and eye irritants and are known carcinogens linked to human leukemia.
Ammonia is found in window cleaners, floor waxes, smelling salts, and fertilizers. Common symptoms associated with short-term exposure include eye irritation, coughing, and sore throat.
Top 11 air-filtering houseplants
In its study, NASA created a chart of 28+ air-filtering plants, but I’ve selected the best ones for you based on their purification power.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
Who hasn’t used aloe gel to heal cuts and burns? I love it because when I close my eyes, the smell reminds me of my childhood. Aloe was my grandmother’s favorite plant. Plus it’s easy to grow, sun-loving, and helps clean formaldehyde and benzene from the air.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Not only is it almost impossible to kill and beautiful, with lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant also battles formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. Its leaves grow quickly and help absorb harmful substances like mold and other allergens, so it is the perfect plant for people with common dust allergies.
Gerber daisy (Gerbera sp.)
I just love the bright colors of this flowering plant that’s fantastic at removing benzene, xylene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning.
Devil’s ivy (Scindapsus aures)
No matter what I do—or forget to do—devil’s ivy, also known as golden pothos, is unkillable. Which is good for me, because NASA ranks this plant among its top 3 for removing formaldehyde. It can also help remove benzene and xylene.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant filters out formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
Peace lily is a beautiful plant that removes formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. It also combats toluene and xylene. Plus it helps reduce the level of mold spores that grow in the home. In bathrooms, peace lily can help keep shower tiles and curtains free from mildew and absorb harmful vapors from alcohol and acetone.
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum sp.)
The colorful flowers of a mum can do a lot more than brighten your home—they are also very effective at removing benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and ammonia. This plant loves bright light, and to encourage buds to open, you’ll need to place it near an open window with direct sunlight.
English ivy (Hedera helix)
English ivy is perfect for people with pets in the home, as it can reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter (just keep it out of reach of animals, as it is toxic if ingested). This plant also absorbs formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. Plus studies show that keeping an English ivy on your desk will help you focus because it also absorbs trace amounts of benzene.
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans)
Dracaena fragrans grows well as a houseplant in nearly any location. It only requires minimal care to produce lush, deep green foliage, plus it helps remove thrichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene from the air.
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
This red-edged dracaena brings a nice pop of color. It is best for removing xylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde and can grow to reach your ceiling!
Broadleaf lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Broadleaf lady palm is a popular and elegant indoor plant. It helps battle formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia.
I love cooking with my own fresh herbs, growing roses and blueberries (just visit my parents’ house and you’ll see why), and having beautiful indoor plants and flowers. The only thing is that my outdoor plants usually live longer than my houseplants. So if you’re like me, start with devil’s ivy and spider plants for greenery, and one of our Pure Genius air-purifying smart floors, like our beautiful brown Hickory Tunga hardwood flooring, for pure indoor air. These hardwood floors require no watering, only sun and light, and will improve your indoor air while beautifying your décor!