How Common Houseplants Help Purify Your Indoor Air

houseplantsMaintaining good indoor air quality in an urban area like Greater Los Angeles isn’t always easy, but adding a little greenery to your home can help. Many of the plants you can find at any home and garden center can take pollutants right out of your air.

How Air Contaminants Build Up

Dust, pollen, and mold spores aren’t the only contaminants you have to watch out for. Many common household materials and substances emit harmful gaseous contaminants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCS). These are chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and terpenes. Carpeting, wallpaper, air fresheners, and cleaning products are common sources. Good ventilation helps get rid of these contaminants, but if you have a modern airtight home that’s lacking in ventilation, contaminants can quickly build up to unhealthy level. Not even high-efficiency air conditioner filters can control VOCs because these filters aren’t able to trap gases.

Using Plants to Clear the Air

Plants have pores on the surface of their leaves that allow them to absorb gases in the air. As plants take in the carbon dioxide gas they need for photosynthesis, they also absorb and neutralize some of the VOCs in the air. They then release oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Better yet, certain microorganisms that live in the plants’ soil also do their part to destroy air contaminants by converting some of them to nutrients the plants can use.

Almost all leafy plants can help you get better indoor air quality, but some especially good choices are:

  • Wheatgrass
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Ficus
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Dracaena

Avoid overwatering your plants, which not only harms the plants, but also encourages mold growth and raises your indoor humidity, worsening your air quality. Likewise, while two or three plants in a room can help clean the air, much more than this can cause humidity issues. For additional VOC control, consider using an activated carbon air purifier.