You will be surprised to know that indoor air pollution is ranked among top five environmental health risks. We may consider the air inside our home to be very clean but the shocking truth is ‘it can be up to 10 times worse than the outside air pollution’. And this is mainly because of the fact that closed areas allow pollutants to build up and stick around more than open areas.
Several pieces of research in this area reveal that in developing countries like ours, indoor air pollution poses a much greater risk as compared to outdoor pollution. Living and working in homes or offices, that have a high level of indoor air pollution, can cause severe health conditions like respiratory infections, chronic bronchitis, asthma, lung infections, and irritation of nose, eye & ear, etc.
We have already discussed the harmful effects of indoor air pollution in more detail in one of our previous posts about finding the best air purifiers for your home.
What is the Cause of Indoor Air Pollution?
The major sources that contribute to the poor quality of air inside our homes and offices are VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), cooking or tobacco smoke, dust, pet dander, pesticides, insect repellents, air fresheners, candles, molds, dust mites, pollen, incense sticks, infectious agents produced in mattresses, carpets, and poor outdoor air coming in from doors and windows etc.
What Should We Do?
Most people spend over 90% of their time indoors, whether at home or in office. Therefore it becomes absolutely necessary that we find some ways to address this serious problem.
Air Purifiers are undoubtedly the easiest and one of the most effective ways to improve indoor air quality.
Apart from air purifiers, some indoor plants can also help in improving the quality of indoor air.
Plants will improve air quality?
Yes, you read that right. Don’t believe us?
Will you believe NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA)?
A research conducted by NASA in 1989 revealed that some indoor plants can improve the indoor air quality by absorbing harmful toxins from the air.
There is no doubt that plants are not as powerful as the air purifiers, but they’re more natural, cost-effective, and beneficial.
Air purifying plants not only improve the quality of air inside our home or office but they also uplift our mood and productivity, reduce stress and enhance concentration.
How Do Plants Clean the Air?
The research done by NASA found out that some plants are very effective in reducing commonly found harmful chemicals like Benzene, Trichloroethylene, & Formaldehyde.
These air purifying plants when used in closed areas absorb the commonly found air pollutants at the same time they take in carbon dioxide, which is then converted into oxygen through photosynthesis. Microorganisms present in the potting soil also play a vital role in improving the air quality.
You may also like: Best Artificial Bonsai Trees for home decor.
Best Air Purifying Plants
Pot Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
This indoor air purifying plant is ranked among the top plants for air purification. In the NASA research, this plant is shown to remove common toxins like ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air.
Garden Mum or Pot Mum is quite inexpensive and easily available. The flower blooms for about six weeks, and you can then plant it outside because without flower the air purification won’t be effective.
Plant Care: Keep the soil moisture damp, requires some sunlight.
Pollutants Removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Also known as devil’s ivy, looks like money plant, it reduces harmful gases from the indoor air. It is also considered auspicious or good luck plant and is great for gifting. It can grow up to 8 feet long and you can trim it as per your requirement. The plant is believed to bring good fortune when kept in Southeast direction.
Plant Care: Water when the soil is dry. Water twice a week, don’t use any inorganic fertilizer. Keep it away from direct sunlight.
Pollutants Removed: Formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide, and more.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants require very little care and are ideal indoor plants for beginners. Spider plants can grow very quickly and look great in hanging baskets. Known for their air purifying ability, some spider plants may even produce small white flowers during summers. Spider plants are grass like and look evergreen.
Plant Care: Water your spider plants two to three times a week.
Pollutants Removed: Formaldehyde and xylene.
There are more than 40 different kinds of Dracaena plants that come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Dracaenas are very easy to grow and require very little care. Young Dracaenas are small and perfect for desks and tabletops. Older Dracaenas can grow up to 5 or 6 feet. They are ideal indoor plants for interior décor with the benefit of air purification.
Plant Care: Keep the soil damp but avoid excessive watering, as too much water can damage .
Pollutants Removed: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
In the NASA research, Peace Lilies were among the top three plants for removing harmful toxins. Most indoor varieties of Peace Lilies grow up to 16 inches tall and are quite easy to grow. During summers, these plants will produce beautiful white flowers.
Plant Care: Keep soil slightly moist. Keep them away from direct sunlight but too little light can prevent flowers from blooming.
Pollutants Removed: Ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene
Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
This is one of the most tolerant plants and can be left unattended for weeks. Even without little or no care this plant still looks green and fresh. In NASA research, Snake Plants were found to be very effective in reducing the toxins commonly found in our homes. Snake plants look attractive, require little care and purify indoor air; in short they are the perfect indoor plants.
Plant Care: Keep away from direct sunlight and water occasionally, especially during the winter.
Pollutants Removed: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
Aloe Vera is undoubtedly the most popular plant and is commonly known as the ‘Wonder Plant’. Aloe Vera is known to offer endless health and medicinal benefits. Made popular in India by the world-renowned Yoga Guru and Ayurveda expert Baba Ramdev, NASA also found Aloe Vera effective in removing formaldehyde. Like cactus, Aloe Vera requires very little care.
Plant Care: Need proper light, keep near a window that receives sun light. Let the soil completely dry before watering again.
Pollutants Removed: Formaldehyde.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata v. Bostoniensis)
Boston Fern is another indoor plant that is believed to improve the indoor air by reducing the levels of formaldehyde and xylene. These plants look particularly beautiful in hanging baskets with the green branches hanging from top.
Plant Care: Keep the soil moist and check the soil daily and water if the soil feels dry. Needs humidity and indirect sunlight.
Pollutants Removed: Formaldehyde, and xylene.
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)
This is another air purifying plant that was found effective in removing a broad range of toxins. This plant looks fresh and beautiful with it’s attractive colourful leaves.
Plant Care: Keep the soil moist, Chinese evergreens like high humidity. Avoid direct sunlight.
Pollutants Removed: Benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
Gerbera Daisy is the plant with the most beautiful flowers in this list. This plant is known to remove toxins like benzene and trichloroethylene. It can be grown in small pots and requires more care and attention as compared to the other air purifying plants in this list. More of a balcony or outside plant as it requires direct sunlight, can be planted near south-facing windows.
Plant Care: Prone to fungal diseases. Water in the morning and let leaves dry out during the day to lessen the risk of rot and fungal diseases. Flowers in winters and requires direct sunlight.
Pollutants Removed: Benzene and trichloroethylene.
How Many Plants Should I Use?
The simple answer would be ‘As Many As Possible’. Because plants are not going to harm in any way.
NASA recommends two or three plants in 8 to 10-inch pots for every 100 square feet. Some plants are better at removing certain chemicals than others.
Do not use the same plant in multiple numbers in a single room; instead, use different plants to avail maximum benefit.
Simple Tips to Keep the Air in your Home Clean
Besides houseplants, there are other ways you can purify the air in your home:
- Reduce humidity in your air
- Keep your floors, carpets, and furniture clean by vacuuming and mopping (useful link: Best Vaccum Cleaner for Home)
- Never smoke indoors (we would advise quitting smoking completely)
- Maintain your air conditioners and clean ac filters regularly
- Minimize the use of candles, air fresheners and incense sticks
- Use kitchen chimneys while cooking. Use exhaust fans in kitchen, bath, and laundry areas
- Don’t store chemicals, solvents, glues, or pesticides near your living spaces
- Increase ventilation
- Keep doors and windows closed when the level of air pollution is very severe outside
These air purifying plants will definitely improve the air inside your home and will boost up your mind by adding a natural touch to your interiors. But if you are more serious about getting complete protection against the harmful indoor air then you should also use a good air purifier in combination with plants.