Colder weather means most of us – especially seniors – will spend less time outdoors and more hours inside with windows and doors closed. That also means contending with stale air, or as experts call it, indoor air pollution.
Our cozy homes can emit potential health hazards from carpets, curtains, and all the synthetic materials found in a modern house. One way to counteract this silent pollution is with air purifiers. That can get expensive, with the commercial purifier for a single room costing $100 or more. A less expensive and more aesthetically-pleasing way is with — plants. It’s also an excellent way to bring the outdoors inside. After all, it’s the beauty of the outdoors that adds Utah’s high quality of life.
Yes, certain houseplants are natural pollution filters. NASA has discovered some houseplants are effective in controlling potentially noxious pollutants. After several tests, the space agency discovered, “Plant roots and their associated microorganisms destroy the pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, eventually converting all of these air pollutants into new plant tissue.”
NASA says plants can reduce up to 87 percent of toxins in your home within 24 hours. Aside from filtering pollutants, indoor plants can improve your health, reduce stress, help you breathe easier, and improve your mood. That’s a lot more than a $100 air purifier can do.
Here’s a sampling of plants proven to filter pollutants that can be harmful to your well-being:
1. Areca Palm
This big plant is the favorite of scientists for filtering toluene, a family of harmful substances found in glue, paint thinners, nail polish removers, and other common household products. It also acts as a natural humidifier and tolerates most indoor environments.
2. English Ivy
Pretty in a pot or hanging basket, this venerable favorite can grow with just a few hours of sun per day and can last for years. If you have a place in your bathroom, this plant is great for filtering pollutants specific to that room.
This fall favorite will thrive anyplace where it can get good sun. It’s especially helpful in kitchens where it can zap toxins like benzines and ammonia, which are common in household cleaners.
4. Aloe Vera
The darling ingredient of skin care products also doubles as a sieve for the harmful vapors of detergents and varnishes. Like mums, it prefers sunny locations.
5. Snake Plant (Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
Despite its unsavory names, this plant battles airborne chemicals and produces oxygen at night, making it a good choice for bedrooms. Don’t over-water it because it’s susceptible to root rot.
6. Spider Plant
If you’re all-thumbs-but-green, this might be the perfect choice because it grows with little care. It’s especially good at absorbing carbon monoxide and is one of the few houseplants that’s completely harmless to pets, so you can put it anywhere.
7. Peace Lily
This houseplant is as pleasing as its name implies, but wages war against carbon monoxide. Content as a pot-dweller, it requires minimal upkeep other than watering when its leaves begin to droop.
8. Rubber Plant
This has been an indoor favorite since great-grandma’s day. Because it grows tall, it’s excellent in a floor pot and can thrive in partial sunlight. The Rubber Plant bounces formaldehyde vapors, which are found in many household products.
9. Bamboo Palm
Resembling a giant palm/fern hybrid, this big beauty can filter a host of chemical vapors and does double duty as a natural humidifier.
10. Chinese Evergreen
This is a worker bee of a little plant that absorbs a number of harmful chemical vapors and gets better at it as it ages. It’s also easy to grow and is happy in low sunlight.
Most of these pollution fighters are at least mildly toxic to pets, so it’s important to choose locations with that in mind. Placed about your home, they can be a real comfort as you snuggle in for the winter!
Contributed by Eva Williams
Eva loves the outdoors. She loves it with a campfire and s’mores or après ski in a nice lodge with a glass of wine and has written about it for two decades.