Five Indoor plants to help clean pollution from your home and office, and why you need them

9 December 2014
I unashamedly would love to turn my home into a jungle. Well, just parts of it – mainly the lounge room. Plants in the home are a must, especially choosing ones that will help keep the air clean and deal with some of the nasty toxins that make their way in via furniture, appliances and building materials.
Five Indoor plants to clean help clean pollution from your home and office
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According to the Australian Government Department of the Environments website, Australians spend 90% of their time indoors so it is no wonder we create toxic pollution inside. And with our homes built to stop drafts and cold air form entering, the pollution from inside stays inside. Much of the pollution comes from the materials that are used in the building of our homes such as glues, paints, and wood. Add our appliances and furniture plus toxic cleaning products, smoke and dust to the mix, and you might think you need to open the windows each and every day to combat it all.

NASA completed the first Clean Air Study in 1989. The study found that a selection of indoor plants can help keep our homes clean of common toxins. Originally the study was conducted to keep the air clean on NASA space stations.

Specific research found that toxins such as formaldehyde (found in plywood, synthetic fabrics, shampoos, cosmetics) benzene (found in paints, plastics and detergents), trichloroethylene (found in soaps, dyes, plastics, disinfectants, flame retardants, clothing, furniture), xylene & toluene (found in paints, nail polish, glues) and ammonia (found in cleaning products) could be reduced and removed by mostly tropical or subtropical plants; the kind of plants that flourish in homes without the need to rely on direct sunlight.

Indoor plants have also been shown to reduce stress levels and make us happy, limit colds, improve memory and add humidity to your home. Kansas State University placed plants in hospital rooms and found that it increased the rate of recovery while keeping a steady heart rate and lower blood pressure, aid fatigue and anxiety symptoms. Washington State University found that dust reduced by 20% with indoor plants.

Plants make great presents – I love gifting plants. It’s hard not to with all the added benefits that go beyond being kind to the eye.

Five Indoor plants to help clean the pollution from your home and office

I love ferns. The way the delicate leaves fall gently over one another softens any part of the home. While they look meek the Boston Fern is a powerhouse and will remove formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Kept in a indirect light, a misting of water two times a week and making sure the soil is damp will keep this fern green and lush.

English Ivy does well in indirect light if it is well looked after. Ivy will grow fast and you can keep the long runners at bay by cutting them back. But most indoor ivy will not go as crazy as it does outdoor if looked after. During winter mist with water. Like most indoor plants it is easy to look after. The green waxy leaves soak up formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. Moderately poisonous to children and pets – keep up high away from children and pets.

The Spider Plant has long striped leaves that like the fern will cascade over the pot. These guys soak up formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from your home and will one day produce small white flowers. These hardy plants are the easiest to grow as they can adapt to different conditions. Don’t water too much rather space out your watering’s.
If you are looking for plant that will take up a bit of room then the Bamboo Palm might be for your home while it actively gets rid of formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. It will grow well in low light and needs water when the soil is feeling dry. While it is an easy plant to look after it will require repotting as it grows.
Not only does the humble peace lily remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia. It also helps remove mould from the air. Some might find Peace Lily's are a bit common but I think the white flowers with deep green leaves look lovely. Only water when the soil is dry. If they droop after a week of being watered you might need to move to a bigger pot. Something I have learnt recently. Mildly poisonous to children and pets – keep up high away from children and pets.

While plants can do a lot for our health and help to reduce pollutant levels there is still the added benefit of opening windows to allow air to get it and take the nasties out. While indoor plants will help reduce the dust, know that dust will still accumulate on the plants like any other object sitting inside a home. Just take a wet cloth, preferably made of natural fibers, and wipe over the leaves to remove the dust. For more delicate leaves take the plant outside and give them a shake.

Did you know more indoor plants die from over water rather than neglect? Follow your plants care instructions and your plants will be happy. Happy plants, happy home.

Hey, what about the plastic?!

Yes, it is hard to buy a potted plant not in plastic. Really, I have tried. With vegetables it is easy but finding seeds and cuttings for many of the above is a little more difficult. Apart from trying to grow from seed or cuttings the next best thing is to move your plants to a ceramic pot and take your plastic pot back to your nursery or plant store for reuse. I have yet to encounter a nursery that will not reuse plastic pots.

What is your favorite indoor plant?

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