In recent decades, in the interest of energy efficiency, our homes have become increasingly airtight. Unfortunately, that also means that toxic chemicals commonly used in building materials, home furnishings and household cleaners off-gas and build up within our interiors with the potential of making us sick. The good news is that NASA research found that many commonly grown houseplants not only produce fresh oxygen, they also clean the air of indoor pollutants.
Formaldehyde, found in virtually all indoor environments, irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat and is linked to asthma. Sources include urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), particleboard and pressed wood furniture. UF resins treat paper products (grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues and paper towels) and are used as stiffeners, wrinkle resisters, water repellents, fire retardants and adhesive binders in floor coverings, carpet backings and permanent-press clothes.
Trichloroethylene (TCE), a commercial product, is used in metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries. It is also used in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives. It is linked to hepatocellular carcinomas and is a potent liver carcinogen.
Benzene, a commonly used solvent, is also present in many items including gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber.
In addition, it is used in the manufacture of detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and dyes. A skin and eye irritant, benzene has been linked to chromosomal aberrations and leukemia in humans. Chronic exposure to even relatively low levels causes headaches, loss of appetite, drowsiness, nervousness, psychological disturbances and diseases of the blood system.
Most homes do not have air filters that can eliminate these toxins from the atmosphere. Enter the Green Rescuers! Plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing trace levels of toxic vapors. Combining activated carbon in the soil and a small fan around potted plants can enhance these living air cleaners.
The top-performing plants in NASA’s study were Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea), Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), English Ivy (Hedera), Snake Plant (Sansevieria), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Dracaena, Gerbera, Chrysanthemum, Golden Pothos (Epipremnum), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum) and Philodendron.
On average, for every 100 s.f. of living space, one 6-8 inch potted plant improves air quality. Adding these easy-care plants to your home won’t take much of your time and will reward you many times over. Pick up a few and start breathing easier!
Timely post, Eliza. We had more insulation blown in a couple of months ago, have the pellet stove roaring all day, and pull the warm window curtains down at night. I’m looking around right now trying to figure out if I could add a couple more plants. 🙂
Indeed, always room for a few more! 😉 I love visiting greenhouses this time of year. Is there a special one near you?
Wentworth Greenhouse is the closest and then there is Churchill’s Garden Center is not too far. It is balm for the soul during the winter months. 🙂
Exactly! Any excuse to visit the sweet air of an indoor garden. 🙂
We have quite a few house plants, maybe I was doing the right thing without realising it! Love the texture of the Pilea leaves!
Guess you did, Pauline. 🙂 Houseplants can be so lovely in texture and color. Pilea is a great genus with lots of different forms. Thanks for your visit!
Beautifully photographed and educational
Thank you, Derrick. 🙂
So helpful Eliza! Great photos of your healthy ad healthful indoor plants. Thank you 💛
Thank you, Val. Not all these are my plants (I wish), some were at our local college greenhouse where I take mini-tropical vacations in winter!
What a lucky retreat!
Indeed, one of my favorites, especially in winter.
Fascinating Eliza. I knew that certain plants were supposed to be good – spider plants is one that I have heard about a few times, but will look into acquiring a few of the others. My indoor plants suffer a bit from neglect, but they certainly seem to do better on under-watering than over-watering:)
Absolutely, roots need to breathe air, so better to under than overwater for sure! All the plants listed are pretty tough and tolerate relatively low light in the average home.
Never seen such beautiful leaf as on you first photo. I love green plants indoors.
Thank you, Ann. On a cold winter’s day, it’s nice to see green growing plants.
Great post! Let’s hear it for green and growing things, indoors as well as outdoors.
Amen! Thanks, Laurie.
Lovely plants and great info. I have a few plants, but I also leave a couple windows cracked…
Daily air exchange is a good idea. Some recommend to open windows for 5 minutes air exchange a day. Thanks, Lisa.:-)
Just five minutes??? That might keep me a little warmer. Thanks!
If you have two opposite windows, the exchange is surprisingly rapid. We open one on the east side downstairs and one on the west side upstairs and whoosh, it pulls right through, like a chimney!
Excellent news. I’ve just been leaving two cracked all the time, which makes for a bit of unpleasantness when it’s very cold.
It’ll ease your fuel bills, too! 😉
Great & informative post! I would add that the fragrance of plants, flowers & soil also heal the spirit.
Makes even this avowed “No houseplants” woman want to go get some! 🙂
Thanks, it is compelling, isn’t it? 🙂
Beautiful series of plants, and lots of great information. I wish I could have house plants. The cats try to eat them which is not always a healthy thing for them to do. There is also my brown thumb. I have killed every house plant I’ve ever had except the cacti currently enjoying the heat of the wood stove in the living room. I put them outside once a month when it rains. Otherwise, I leave them alone and they seem to respond best that way. They’re even flowering right now which surprised me. 🙂
Thanks, Robin. That surprises me that you have a brown thumb with your love of nature. 🙂
It’s a strange thing, Eliza. I’m getting better, at least outdoors. I started with zinnias in the scrounger’s garden and have added to it each year. Most of what I planted grew. Zinnias are easy, but I like them so much that I plant them again every year. I even branched out (pun not intended) and planted butterfly bushes, a dogwood, and a redbud. They all survived their first year and some bloomed.
My mother had an amazingly green thumb. She could grow anything. She even brought what appeared to be dead back to life. And her orchids! She grew them in the kitchen window and they thrived and flourished.
Your mother’s plants sound wonderful! And you’ve made a good start outside. Tending plants is second nature to me. I guess it simply requires keeping them in mind and checking them regularly. Most are watered once a week or so (depending on soil dryness) and fertilizing every few weeks. You might try putting it on a calendar to remind yourself to check them. Overwatering tends to be the biggest problem – one must touch the soil and only water pot completely (no small sips) when dry to the touch. No standing in water either – drain saucers if they fill up. Hope that helps! 🙂
Great post, Eliza! This year I plunged into an indoor garden and love it. I’ve covered an entire chest of drawers and a table, so they are clustered together. The air is noticeably more humid and pleasant around them and I find myself gazing happily at them at odd times in the day. Good for the mind as well as the air 🙂
Thank you, Melissa. Green growing things are definitely healthy for the mind as well as body! I esp. crave them in winter. 🙂
Thanks Eliza! Are all those plants in your house? They are beautiful!! So healthy. Just looking at them makes me breathe easier.
Thanks, Mary. No, most of them were taken at our local college greenhouse. They have ideal humidity and light, so they are extra healthy! I have mostly peace lilies, snake plant and ferns.
Great info! Didn’t know most of it
Thank you, Ellen. Yes, it is pretty scary to learn about how polluted our indoor air is!
Great article and photos Eliza. I need to buy some new plants!
Thank you Mike. Yes, plants make awesome housemates! 😉
Great post, I love all the images. I had a post similar to this one, and I used an extremely interesting link from Pinterest:
Thank you, Maria. Send the link.
I thought I sent it. Is it not showing? It’s kind of like a thumbnail link. It’s not working?
Let me see if it works like this (https://www.pinterest.com/defendor/house-plants-that-clean-the-air-nasa-research/)
They are just photos of the plants. I was amazed that the Chinese Evergreen was one of them.
What is sad is that the plants that came out in the study are plants that I’ve seen people throw out, simply because they wanted to renovate a facade or got tired of them.
Where you live is like a huge garden! But if you have closed doors and windows with air conditioning, the indoor air quality is probably the same as someone in a cold climate.
Plants thrown out to the curb would be adopted by folks like me!
It is! Some of the condominiums get into Christmas renovations and they hire ornamental landscapers. Thet pull out all plants out regardless and replace them with others. Many also swear that air conditioning is good for the plants that like shade, because it simulates the rainforest cool air. Nonesense, what happens is that AC eventually causes sooty mold and other problems.
So much good stuff in here! We are, after 15 years with a plant-eating cat, enjoying some houseplants now. I just need to work on their containers and I’ll be a happy, healthier gal 😉
Yes, indeed. Thanks, Heather. 🙂
Your first photo has such lovely greens, Eliza! I have lots of plants on the available windowsills but could use more windowsills on the other side of my house which has a roof overhang.
Thanks, Hannah. Plants help us, body and soul!
What a great post, Eliza! When I’m in a plant-full environment I always feel soothed and more peaceful. I wonder how much of that is the clean air and how much is plant-vibe?
ps – love your Title, and that first plant, and that NASA article.
Thank you. 🙂 Nature is a healer and proven stress-reducer!
If only my plants would live! I have had plastic plants die – a rubber tree lost its leaves one by one. 🙂 Seriously, you make me want to go out right now and find an indoor plant to nurture.
😀 Funny, Dor! See my note to Robin about care, it might help. 🙂
Interesting that many of those ‘best performers’ are the most common, easiest cared-for houseplants.
Yes, probably a bit of the chicken-and-egg going on there. 🙂
Looks a bit that way 🙂
I should put some more plants alongside my African violet and peace lily. Love the pilea.
I have plants in every room. They are worth the effort of maintenance. Best of all, they don’t talk back! ;-D
Beautiful and informative post, thanks Eliza! I love breathing! 🙂
Me, too! 😉 Thanks, Julie.
This was such a great posting, Eliza. I am looking around my house thinking we could certainly add some plants. You have given me some great ideas!
Glad to hear it. Thanks, Kim. Happy, healthy breathing!
Great post Eliza and timely reminder, many years ago I worked in a school where every room was filled with plants to absorb the fumes from various plastics, I had forgotten how important it is, we have very few indoor plants at home. These chemicals are quite disgusting.
Thank you, Julie. Smart school admins! A healthy child learns better. It’s easy to forget the invisible dangers, but they are there. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Such gorgeous greenery Eliza! I used to have the plant that’s pictured first. I loved that plant – it was so “puckery” and fun to touch. I don’t worry too much about a toxic household since our house was built in 1876! and we ripped out all the upstairs carpet, foam mat and particle board from the flooring. Soon, we will rip out the carpet downstairs as well. I only use natural cleaners, too – vinegar and cheap vodka! (The vodka is to drink while I clean – just kidding! – it’s supposedly a great disinfectant.) Although of course, I would love more plants, more plants, more plants but I don’t want to kill anymore over winters. Maybe I will find a way to enjoy them summers and donate them (senior home?) before I leave for winter. This winter I have brought a few with me and they are a little chilly right now outside but they already look so much better being in the humid air!
Yes, you’re in the perfect plant paradise right now! I am cognizant of the dangers of chemicals so use vinegar as well – it cleans the best, I think, and baking soda and borax work well, too. I stay away from fragrances other than natural oils. Tougher to get around is upholstered furniture, but most of ours is no longer new. Hopefully, the plants I have are taking care of the traces!
A very informative post Eliza, we have quite a few orchids in the house, I don’t know had good they are. Where would man be without plants and insects?
Any plant is better than no plants! Thank you for your visit, Brian.
Thank you so much for this information! Going to the nursery ASAP;)
What fun! Plant shopping is always a delight!
I am definitely using this as an excuse to purchase more plants for the house (and my office) – thank you!
A worthy excuse! Thanks, Sarah. 🙂
Reblogged this on Daily Echo.
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Interesting. Over the years I’ve given up on the traditional list of house plants (because I am an intermittent waterer), so mostly I have succulents and orchids. I doubt that they are so great at cleaning up the air? The textures in your pictures make me want to try harder though.
Thank you. The top ten are super easy-care, so it might be worth another try!
Reblogged this on stevetanham and commented:
Wonderful blog about using house plants to protect against domestic poisonous gases…
Thanks for the reblog, Steve!
Most welcome, Eliza.
Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
Very important advice about improving your living quality.
Reblogged. Very important advice on how to create a healthier living space. Thank you so much for posting.
Thank you for the reblog, Adele!
Fascinating post. Living on a boat, we have to keep our vents free, and try to air our home as often as possible to prevent the build up of condensation, mold and mildew. We got through last winter without so much as a sniffle, but when we went to look after our friend for a week, we both had constant headaches and had colds by the time we got back. Modern homes nearly all have double glazing, central heating, wall to wall carpets, insulation and ways of keeping out draughts. You might be keeping the ‘bad things’ out, but what about the bad things you take into your home that can’t get out?
Thank you, Diana. Indoor pollution can really cause serious health challenges and few folk even realize the dangers. Thanks for your visit!
Thanks for your reply.
Reblogged this on Edgewise Words Inn and commented:
We all can use a little fresh air, and my husband is the King of Houseplants. Now I know why his efforts make our home so pleasant! Author and blogger Eliza Waters tells us how to brighten the environment and improve the atmosphere inside our homes.
Thanks for your kind comments and the reblog, Connie. It’s good to spread the word!
Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Blog and commented:
Using plants to help you breathe easier. Great advice.
Thank you for the reblog, Kim and spreading this healthy idea.:-)
Thanks Eliza, great post about the power of plants and the natural world!
Thanks, Deb. Nature heals us in so many ways!
What a wonderful post! Looks like you’ve enjoyed a field trip, Eliza, to a marvelous greenhouse. All of your photos are delicious, but your last photo of the Begonia steals my heart! Everything you’ve said is absolutely on target. Plants also keep our air rich in oxygen and moist, and they are very peaceful and comforting companions. Thank you for this beautiful ‘public service announcement,’ Eliza<3<3<3
Thank you so much, E. 🙂 So nice to have your visit!
Thank you, Eliza. I’m so glad I looked in on you 😉
You’ve been missed! 🙂
😉 I’m very happy to have some more time, now that it is January, to spend visiting around again. You are always top of my list ❤
Aw, thanks! ❤ 🙂
On Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 10:00 PM, Eliza Waters wrote:
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Interesting and informative post… and nice to see some green! Great job!
I am amazed and tickled to have a reason to buy more house plants. Thank you for this very interesting post. Go green! Yes, I am a spartan fan.
Glad to oblige. 🙂 A house can always use a few more plants!
I agree so much with this great post. I am trying to get house plants into every room I work in or ever have to visit. They clean the air and sooth the soul!
Yes, indeed. Thanks for your visit and comment, Cathy!