It’s true - we’d all quite like to bury our head in the sand and ignore the warnings, mainly because the study implicates a whole host of other essentials we use
It’s scary stuff, and all of the advice points to good ventilation in your home as well as limiting your use of these products. However, what you might not know is that the humble houseplant could be just what you need to help clear that invisible indoor smog.
Not only do they add a pop of colour and change the mood of a room, they have also been proven to help remove harmful air pollutants such as formaldehyde and other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air we breathe indoors.
VOCs are the
Plants banish these gases by absorbing them through their leaves and roots in the same way trees help to clear outdoor air pollution. Microorganisms in the soil also play an important role in neutralising the toxins. NASA was the first to demonstrate the purifying abilities of a number of plants in a 1989 study. More recently The Daily Mail published a report by researchers from the State University of New York which compared how well pot plants can clear different toxins from the air.
Here are our top 10 houseplants to help you go from smog to smug (and make your home look lovely too):
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’): Right at the top of the list is the Peace lily, which cleans up the most VOCs - trichloroethylene, formaldehyde found in cleaning products, benzene which is found in paints, lacquers, permanent markers among other things, xylene and ammonia. Give it some shade and a weekly water but keep well out of reach of animals and humans, especially children.
Florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium): If you fancy some colour you can’t go wrong with these blooms. They also score highly by eliminating trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia. Make sure you choose a floral ‘mum’ rather than a garden variety (which does better outdoors) and place in a light room. Don’t let them near
Variegated snake plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or Sansevieria trifasciata'Laurentii'): This wide-leafed plant can clean up trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. It favours low light and steamy, humid conditions; perfect for the bathroom. The plant is safe for humans but toxic to animals.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum
English Ivy (Hedera Helix): Usually at home in the garden, English Ivy has been proven to reduce airborne mould by up to 60% within 6 hours of being placed in a room! It also eliminates benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia, making it one of the most effective plants at cleaning up. However, proceed with caution; English ivy is toxic to dogs and humans if eaten and the sap can cause severe contact dermatitis in humans with sensitive skin.
Scarlet Star (Guzmania Lingulata): A non-toxic plant is a type of tropical bromeliad that blooms for many months indoors and has been named as one of the best natural air fresheners, removing a variety of compounds. Not just a pretty face then!
Dracaenas (Dracaena): This popular indoor houseplant which comes in a range of shapes and sizes can grow to 15 feet, cleansing the air of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene. Choose from a range of varieties including the rainbow plant, which is bright purple, or corn plant with its unusual markings. Keep away from animals; your dog may vomit or salivate more if they eat this plant.
Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea
Areca palm (Dypsis
Aloe: This sun-loving succulent is not just good for healing the skin; it has been proven to absorb formaldehyde and benzene, typically found in cleaning products, as well as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It is easy to grow and should be placed in a sunny spot on a windowsill in order to thrive. It is safe for humans but toxic to cats and dogs.
It is recommended that you should have one plant per 100 square feet to use the plants most effectively. Do also check the toxicity of plants before introducing them to your home. As well as using plants to purify the air, other ways you can keep VOCs at bay are: