NASA is constantly looking into all aspects of science concerned with expanding the frontiers of exploration. Their ships and rockets of the future are designed around small living spaces built from metals, plastics, and other synthetics. But what they’ve found in their search for the best space technology is that the best way to filter some of the dangerous toxins that leach into our air from these everyday materials is also totally organic!
In 1984 NASA conducted a study into the air-cleaning ability of plants. While we already knew that they pulled carbon dioxide from the air and produced oxygen, NASA’s scientists also found that some species of common plants were incredibly hungry for other chemicals in the air. These plants are not only adorable and easy to care for, but they thank you for hosting them in your home by working to make your air a little healthier too.
Toxins at Home
Dangerous chemicals in the air aren’t just a problem for rocket scientists! Many of the materials in our everyday lives slowly add a cocktail of toxins into our air. Anything from furniture, paint, old furnaces, pressed wood, and even many fabrics can end up releasing chemicals into the air. Fortunately some of the most popular house plants are experts at removing toxins like formaldehyde, mold, benzene and others.
Air Cleaning HouseplantsOur plants breathe (or “transpire”, if you ask a scientist) just like any living being. Part of this process uses carbon dioxide from the air and releases oxygen. What many of us didn’t learn in school is how plants use chemicals they pull from the air and send them deep into their roots. Certain species of plants have a symbiotic relationship with specific microbes that help them turn these toxins into nutrients. Your houseplants not only remove chemicals from the air, but they can even use those chemicals to help themselves grow healthier.
When it comes to cleaning the air, some houseplants do a much better job than others. Lucky for us, some of the plants that are hungriest for toxins are also some of our favorites!
The same NASA study that discovered these plants’ abilities recommends 2 average-sized air-cleaning plants for every 100 square feet of your home. If you’re doing any renovations, painting, or bringing new synthetic materials home, you could benefit from a few extra ones too. Here are some of our hardest-working air cleaning plants:
Boston Fern: It only makes sense that one of the most ancient houseplants is also an efficient toxin and mold filter. They will thrive in moderately well-lit rooms, and will boost ambient humidity while devouring formaldehyde.
Peace Lily: This plant couldn’t make purifying your air look any easier. It thrives in low-light conditions, has an elegant aesthetic with iconic white flowers, and eagerly consumes acetone and the carcinogen benzene. This is a great plant to place next to your electronics, or to introduce during renovations, where its appetite for toxins can be optimized.
Bamboo Palm: Also known as the “Reed Palm,” this plant is a compact space-saver that is ideal to tuck away in corners. Not only is it pretty, but it is the best living benzene and trichloroethylene filter you can find.
English Ivy: This vine is incredibly easy to grow and rewards you for your care by aggressively cleaning mold from the air. Ideal for allergy sufferers (and anyone else who enjoys fresh air at home), it also works hard to remove waste products in the air. Ironically, however, the plant is toxic and should be kept away from children and pets.
Spider Plant: This plant has a beautiful and almost alien aesthetic, and is nearly impossible to kill. It requires minimal light, can tolerate drought if you forget to water occasionally, and absolutely loves to eat up formaldehyde and benzene. It also takes on carbon monoxide, which could be accumulating over time in your home.
The best thing about NASA’s list of air-cleaning plants is that they work hard to take care of you without you having to work tirelessly to take care of them. These are some of our favorites for their cute aesthetic and easy care. Adding a few of them to your spaces is the perfect way to start freshening up the air in your home the natural way, even if you aren’t sure if you have a green thumb yet!