How to Filter Indoor Air With Plants

Best ways to improve indoor air naturally sing houseplants that are safe for children and pets

Ive heard it said that a person can go three weeks without food, three days without water (roughly) and three minutes without air (roughly). With those numbers, it seems that air quality should be an important consideration for health, as we proportionately consume more air than any other substance and as chemicals can be easily absorbed through the lungs.

Indoor Air Quality

Turns out, outdoor air pollution isn’t the biggest offender either. Indoor air has been shown to be 2-5 times as contaminated as outdoor air in some places, and indoor air is often much more stagnant.

Substances like chemical-based cleaners, air fresheners, scents and detergents can further pollute indoor air and contribute to poor indoor air quality. An easy way to reduce this type of indoor air pollution is to switch to non-toxic options for cleaning. Here are some of my favorite natural cleaner recipes:

Natural Stain Treatment Reference Sheet
Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe
Natural Oven Cleaning
Natural Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe
Easy Homemade Scouring Powder Recipe
Home Organizing & Cleaning Checklist

Plants as Air Filters?

I did a lot of research to find the best type of air filters to use in our home. One of our children has allergies, and I wanted to find ways to reduce his allergy reactions in our house. I was ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a top-notch filter and the research I did showed that a much cheaper option might be the best. (We also currently use a basic filter to filter dust and large particles)

According to this article:

“In the late ’80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. Other studies have since been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science, further proving the science.”

Since then, research has narrowed down which plants are the best at filtering indoor air and which plants filter which chemicals the best. Plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but certain  plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene.

According to this article: “The recommendation of NASA is to use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in six- to eight-inch (203 mm) diameter containers in a 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) house.” This page (PDF) has a good list of specifically which plants are best at filtering each chemical and which plants are toxic to indoor pets.

At our house, we don’t have indoor pets, but finding plants that were safe with kids around was a priority. I also needed plants that were relatively easy to take care of and pretty resilient.

Best kid and pet friendly houseplants for filtering indoor air

The Plants We Use

I found a short list of plants that were good at filtering indoor air, were resilient and were considered non-toxic for children, and these are the house plants we currently have :

  • Aloe Vera (also great for burns)
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – Very resilient and it produces runners (smaller plants) that can be transplanted.
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) Also called “Mother in Law’s Tongue” – “This plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.” [source]
  • Dracena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’) – Also known as Corn Plant , this plant can reach a potential height of 12 feet. “Best for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline.” [source]
  • Christmas Cactus- Great at cleaning the air, and colorful too.
  • Boston Fern- Easy to grow, good at filtering the air, and resilient.
  • Bromeliads – Tropical looking and colorful – great at filtering the air
  • Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii) “Also known as the reed palm, this small palm thrives in shady indoor spaces and often produces flowers and small berries. It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. They’re also a good choice for placing around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde.” [source]
  • Yucca- Good at filtering the air but needs a lot of light.
  • Succulents and Hens & Chickens – Succulents aren’t the best for filtering the air, but they are easy to care for.
  • Herbs –  Also not necessarily known for their air-filtering ability, but I use these and have them in the kitchen anyway.

Summary

To improve the air quality in our home, we try to focus on the following steps:

Do you have any indoor house plants? Why or why not? Share below…

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