Unless you live on a pristine mountain top or in a remote forest, you are exposed to a high amount of man-made toxins and pollutants.
These toxins are products of exhaust fumes, furniture, plastics, deodants, beauty products, cleaning products and pesticides (to name a few).
Concentrations of these toxins are typically higher in our homes. Air flow is low, and the source of pollutants is high. Unfortunatley these toxins are making their way into our bodies destroying our health and making us sick (for more on how toxins make us sick and fat read Toxins and Fat Gain: What You Need To Know).
But don't rush out to buy the latest HEPA filter just yet... There is a natural, cheaper and 'nicer' option to reduce toxins in your home - indoor plants.
In 1989, NASA conducted a study on the effectiveness of plants at reducing indoor air pollutants.
The scientists wanted to see if plants - more specifically, the leaves, roots, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants - could remove high concentrations of indoor air pollutants. Pollutants such as cigarette smoke, organic solvents, and even radon.
What they found was quite profound - that household plants, requiring low levels of light to grow - could absorb pollutants from spaces with high toxin concentration and low airflow.
Though they then focused more on ways to increase this filtration effect using carbon filter, these findings have lead to more studies looking at indoor plants and their detoxification effects. (You can read the original NASA report HERE)
Now we know that plants are effective air filters, we need to look at the specifics.
What plants are best?
How do we care for them?
Where do we put them in our homes?
What do they filter?
Don't worry, I have provided answers to all of these questions below.
Oh, and if you've never watered a plant in your life before, don't worry about that as well. In THIS free cheat sheet I created, you can quickly see what plants are best for beginners, where to leave them in your home and how often you should water them.
CLICK HERE to download this free reference guide.
Otherwise read on.
Below you will see I list what toxins the plants are best at filtering. These chemical names may be foreign to you, so I have included a list of where these chemicals are commonly found.
I also recommend you read this article - Toxins: What You Need To Know
Benzene - glues, paints, plastic, detergents, dyes, pesticides, exhaust fumes.
Formaldehyde - car exhaust, partial board, cleaning products, personal care products, gasoline, foam, waxed paper, insulation, tissues, plywood, synthetic fabrics.
Trichloroethylene - dry cleaning, inks, paints, varnishes, glues, paint remover.
Xylene - solvent used in leather and rubber, tobacco smoke, exhaust fumes
Ammonia - cleaning products, fertilisers.
About: Not only a great air filter it is a popular medicinal plant. Known as the ‘plant of immortality’ in Egypt, the leaves hold a anti-inflammatory fluid. Commonly used to treat skin conditions, especially sunburn. Can be used as a laxative.
Growing Conditions: Easy to grow. Loves sun. Needs well draining soil. Infrequent but deep watering.
Good Locations: Sunny kitchen or bathroom window. Garage also good if you have a sunny spot.
Filters: Formaldehyde & Benzene (byproduct of paints and chemicals)
About: A native to Southeast Asia, it can grow up to 2.5m tall, so keep this in mind when choosing your location!
Growing/Care Notes: Grow in bright, but indirect light, with reasonably stable temperatures. Water infrequently and let the soil occasionally dry out. Toxic to animals.
Good Locations: Living room. Remember it can grow tall
Filters: Formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene. Good to help with off gassing furniture.
About: Easy care indoor plants. Plus the summer time seashell shaped flowers look really nice! Top of NASAs list for removing the most common VOCs. Also acts as a natural humidifier. Really good all rounder.
Growing/Care Notes: Shade and a weekly good watering (soil shouldn’t dry out too much). If flowers don’t bloom in summer it means they didn’t get enough light.
Good Locations: Entrance ways, bedroom, Dining Area, office (great to mitigate chemicals from cleaning and whiteboard products etc)
Filters: Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, xylene and ammonia.
Toxicity: Toxic to cats, dogs and children. Skin contact can cause irritation to adults.
About: Note - From india, create interesting looking plants.
Growing/Care Notes: Bright rooms. But avoid direct. Water to keep soil moist. Prune leaves occasionally.
Filters: Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide.
Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs.
About: Tropical evergreen flowering plant. In their natural habitat they grow low in rainforests - so keep them out of direct light. These can be a little more challenging to grow.
Growing/Care Notes: Bright indirect light. Keep soil well draining and lightly moist. Needs higher humidity conditions - you may need to mist.
Good Locations: Kitchen or bathroom out of direct light (for higher humidity levels).
Filters: Formaldehyde, Xylene, Toluene Ammonia
Toxicity: Very Toxic to animals and children. Causes skin irritation to adults.
About: Tropical plant. Can produce flowers and small fruits. Regarded as an easy houseplant s it will grow nearly anywhere.
Growing/Care Notes: Easy to care for plant, quite hardy. Survives in low light and low water conditions. does like humid air, mist daily if your air is dry.
Filters: Formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide,
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs.
About: Grows 1-2 metres. Act as a mild humidifier. Also called ‘reed palm’. Can produce flowers and fruits. Filter a lot of formaldehyde.
Growing/Care Notes: Likes humid spots, in bright light (direct or indirect). Don’t overwater.
Good Locations: Near new off gassing furniture.
Filters: Trichloroethylene, benzene Formaldehyde and Xylene
About: Extremely resilient. You can grow new plants by cutting new shoots and placing in pot. Acts as a mild humidifier.
Growing/Care Notes: Survives in a wide range of temperatures. Easy to grow. Thrives in slightly cooler temps with drier soil. Indirect but bright spots. Water twice a week. Mist occasionally.
Good Locations: Most well lit places in the house.
Filters: Formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene.
About: Commonly referred to as ‘Mums’ and often gifted on mothers day. Neat decorative flower plus often used for medicinal purposes. Available in a range of colours. Great air purification properties. Make sure you get an indoor variety not a garden version. Note - if its not flowering it’s not that great at air purification
Growing/Care Notes: Sunny spots with some direct sunlight, need well draining soil. Keep soil damp. Fertilise in between flower blooms.
Filters: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Ammonia, Benzene, Xylene.
Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs
About: This is a climbing vine plant, so grow next to a pole or trellis, or you can hang it and let the vines drop.
Growing/Care Notes: An easy care, low maintenance indoor plant. they only need indirect light.
About: Can grow to 2m tall.
Growing/Care Notes: Can be sensitive to fluoride in tap water (leaves brown leaves)
Good Locations: Great on decks or close to varnished floors.
Filters: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene
About: Can spread easily, especially outdoors as they are an invasive species. So keep maintained in a pot. Will climb if you let it.
Growing/Care Notes: Well watered soil. Needs a few hours of direct sunlight daily.
Good Locations: Close to or in bathrooms (as long as it gets direct light). Or around a window sill (just keep its growth in check)
Filters: Formaldehyde & airborne fecal particles.
Toxic: Toxic to animals and humans. Skin contact can cause skin reaction in adults.
About: Has a large flower.
Growing/Care Notes: Prefer cooler & humid air. Mist if not humid environment. Fertilise twice a year. Remove dead leaves from the pot.
Good Locations: basement or garage if cooler. As long as it gets some bright light.
About: Often referred to as ‘mother-in-laws tongue’. Extremely resilient. Great for beginners.
Growing/Care Notes: Water occasionally. Some sun is ok.
Good Locations: Bathroom.
Filters: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene
About: Has a bright flower, so great for bringing some colour into a dull room.
Growing/Care Notes: Well drained soil (holes in the pots) and lots of direct sunlight (5-7 hours a day). Mist a few times a week.
Good Locations: Kitchen, living area, veranda.
About: Easy to grow as long as you keep the soil moist. Great plants to reduce formaldehyde levels.
Growing/Care Notes: Keep soil moist, a fortnightly deep water with more frequent small top ups. Prefer higher humidity and indirect light. Fertilise a few times a year.
Good Locations: Garage or entrance ways.
Filters: Formaldehyde, xylene, benzene,
About: Easy care, extremely resilient.
Growing/Care Notes: Water when soil is dry.
Filters: formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide,
Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs
Hopefully that list has inspired you to add some plants to your home environment.
Remember, if you are a total garden newbie, you can download THIS simple chart to help you determine what plants to start with, where to put them and how to care for them.
It's a free download, just CLICK HERE to access it.
Once you have that chart, I would print it out and head off to your local gardening store. Find a sweet old lady worker (they know the most about plants!) and ask her for some help with indoor plants.
Be honest and say you're new to gardening and you want some easy to maintain plants to get started. Then hand her the list and go from there.
You can see how I did it here:
Start with 3 or 4 plants and care for them for a few weeks. As you build your routine and confidence, then you can add more to your home.
Ideally you want 2 or 3 plants for every 10 metres squared in your home. If you live in a big home, this is a lot of plants. But you don't need them in every room. Just focus on rooms you spend a lot of time in and or that are most likely to be polluted (if you need helping determining this, I recommend you read my article Are You Being Exposed To Dangerous Flame Retardants? to get started).
And remember to download my FREE cheat sheet indoor plant maintenance guide HERE
Otherwise, leave your questions and comments below!
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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