Air Cleaning Plants: My Journey to a Healthy House

I used to plug in air fresheners throughout my house, giving the space a smell of flowers or clean linen. Although the fresheners worked for a time, I usually didn’t smell them for more than a day or two. I’m only really home on the weekends anyway, so any good scents were lost in no time. After installing new flooring, however, the house had an odd smell that was irritating my eyes. I found out that toxins were emanating from the new materials, and that air cleaning plants were my solution.

Plants cleaning the air for me? I was skeptical at best, especially because I know that many plants, including oleander, are toxic to kids and pets. I found out, however, that many other plants are the perfect solution for my home’s toxin levels.

What Toxins?

Although I keep the house relatively clean, from vacuuming the carpet to mopping the kitchen, all of those cleaning chemicals release fumes. Even newly installed materials add toxins to the air. My new drywall repair, and the carpet I installed last month in my bedroom, all emit fumes that are very toxic for me and all my visiting friends. Aside from opening all the windows 24 hours a day, I found out that air cleaning plants are a better choice to remove the toxins.

How Do They Do That?

I’m certainly not a botanist, but I researched how these plants take toxins out of the air. Plants transpire, or respirate, by pulling in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen. This constant exchange through their stomata, or leaf pores, also includes toxins, such as formaldehyde. The leaves absorb the toxins, just like other gasses, and move them into the stem and roots. At the soil level, microorganisms consume the toxins as a form of nutrition. With air cleaning plants throughout the house, this constant gas exchange process keeps the toxins from affecting my health significantly.

What Plants Work Like This?

I know that a lot of people, including myself, have brown thumbs when it comes to gardening. Plants seem to die when I walk by, but there are many air cleaning plants that are almost maintenance-free. Look for indoor plants that need little light, such as the Peace Lily. This plant has deep green leaves that shimmer in the home’s interior, along with white flowers that pop up throughout the year. I’ve found that this plant is effective at removing some of the worst indoor fumes, including trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and benzene.

If you want a more unusual plant to decorate your living room, try a Snake Plant. With vertical leaves resembling hovering snakes, your man cave will even look impressive with this plant. It also removes benzene and formaldehyde.

snake plant

A Golden Pothos is a great addition to any home, especially because it offers a cascading stem and leaf effect out of the pot. Keep this one close to your garage door to eliminate car exhaust fumes from entering the house.

golden pothos

These are just a few of the plants you can find for indoor air cleaning. Keep at least two plants for every 100 square feet of space for the best cleaning results. My house smells better already.

[Photos by Stephanie Vacher, Theryn Flemming, and Julie Jordan Scott]



Health & Fitness

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When I'm not volunteering my time at a local nonprofit, I write about family. Running a household isn't easy, but I'll do my best to share my insights!

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