House plants do a lot more than just brighten up a room—they also help remove the toxins that cause indoor air contamination. According to the EPA, our homes can have three to five times more pollutants than the outdoors. You could be living in a “sick” house and not realize it. Adding detox plants can help you live in a healthier home.
Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.
Former NASA scientist Bill Wolverton harnessed his knowledge of the purifying powers of plants with his recent invention of a high-tech air filter that looks just like an ordinary potted plant (www.phytofilter.com).
However, we prefer the real thing. These five household plants do exceptionally well at removing formaldehyde (found in carpeting, plastics, and synthetic fabrics), which the EPA lists as a possible carcinogen.
Spider Plant: Talk about a plant that keeps giving. It removes impurities from the air like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. NASA’s study found that spider plants removed 95 percent of formaldehyde from a sealed plexiglass chamber in 24 hours. Even better, the main plant sends out shoots, called “spiderettes” that flower and eventually grow into baby spider plants that you can transplant.
Peace Lily: Blooms in medium light; keep soil slightly moist.
Broadleaf Lady Palm: You’ve probably seen this in shopping malls, offices, and hotel lobbies because they tolerate low levels of light. With a maximum height of around six feet, they are perfect as a stately and dramatic feature for the low sunlight corners of your home. They do need regular watering and moist soil, but you’ll benefit from the plant’s ability to cleanse the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, and toluene.
English Ivy: If you work in a salon or do at-home salon treatments with keratin, hair coloring, perms, hair-straightening, nail polish, or nail polish hardeners, consider placing some English ivy in the room. It filters out four toxic agents—trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene, which are found in these salon products.
Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Snake Plant): Very durable and grows well in all lights; be careful not to overwater.