Indoor air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) exist in homes, schools and the workplace and can be hard to avoid. For instance, a VOC known as benzene can be found in plastics, fabrics, tobacco smoke and even office equipment. Formaldehyde is another common VOC that is found in household items many people own, like dish detergents, carpet cleaners and fabric softeners.
Unfortunately, poor indoor air quality is much more than just a nuisance — it has been linked to mild to severe health issues such as headaches, tiredness and itchy or irritated throat, nose and eyes. More serious conditions it can cause include asthma, respiratory disease and even cancer.
Houseplants Can Make a Significant Difference
In the 1980s, scientists at NASA researched whether indoor plants could be used on space stations to help keep the air clean. Other well-known universities conducted similar studies.
The results suggested that many types of houseplants do indeed serve as effective air purifiers, absorbing dangerous indoor gases into their leaves and roots. Living microorganisms in the soil also help neutralize harmful VOCs and other indoor air pollutants.
Many of these houseplants are easy to find and grow — and you may already have some of them in your home.
Best Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
- English Ivy: English ivy is a vining plant that can be trained to stretch across a table or over a window frame. It is fairly hardy but should be kept away from heat sources.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is a remarkable plant. Not only can it help absorb harmful gasses, the gel it contains inside its leaves can be used as a salve to help heal cuts and burns.
- Corn Plant: The corn plant prefers a well-lit area. If you have a green thumb, it’s possible to grow one inside that reaches 10 feet tall.
- Mums: When mums are in season in your area, you can often find them sold in many places including your local grocery store. Enjoy them inside; and even after their flowers fade, the plant itself will still be working hard to remove VOCs from your home.
- Pothos: Pothos is a vine with heart-shaped leaves. It does well in hanging baskets and is hardy and easy to grow.
- Peace Lilies: Peace lilies have slender flowers, lush leaves and can grow up to three feet tall.
- Rubber Plant: The hardy rubber plant can reach an impressive height of nearly eight feet. It can thrive in many conditions — even in low light and cool temperatures — and is great at removing indoor air toxins.
How to Propagate Indoor Plants
If you already have some of these plants — or know someone who is willing to let you take a small cutting from an existing plant — you can easily make new plants (propagate). Pothos are especially easy to propagate.
If you have access to a pothos plant, just snip off a leaf including a bit of the stem, then put it in moist soil or water and soon you will begin to see roots appear. Propagating plants can also be a fun and free way to share the gift of plants — and better indoor air and health — with your friends and family.
Why not add some more houseplants to your home office or school today? It is a simple step you can take that will bring healthy rewards every time you breathe.