Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to buy a new plant with the goal of improving your indoor air quality.
I’m all about the simple things.
Green plants add ambiance to a room, make people feel happier and more peaceful, and, if you choose the right ones, they’re not too time consuming to care for.
When they can even help improve your physical health, I say, why not?
Although I have a special talent for killing living things with roots in my care, I have managed to keep a houseplant alive since college (it was from my Busia’s funeral), and the plant I bought about a year ago when I was looking into the issue of indoor air quality is still alive and looking fairly well, so it’s probably time to add yet another to the family.
As you’re looking into houseplants, keep this list handy. It includes plants that NASA determined to be particularly good at cleansing the air, going beyond the normal “green plant job” of trading carbon dioxide for oxygen and stepping up to remove toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toulene, and ammonia from the air. (top photo source)
List of Air-Filtering Plants
If you have children or pets, there’s one other nugget of information to take into account when buying houseplants. Some plants are harmful when nibbled on by said animals or curious toddlers, so it’s important to check whether they’re poisonous, edible, or somewhere in between.
Filters all 6 above toxins:
- Peace lily (but is toxic to dogs and cats)
- Pot Mum or Florist’s Chrysanthemum (but poisonous if eat by dogs, cats, horses)
Filters 4-5 of the toxins:
- English ivy (toxic to cats)
- Golden pothos (but poisonous to pets and children if chewed)
- Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (toxic to cats and dogs)
- Red-edged or Warneck or Janet Craig dracaena (toxic to cats and dogs)
Click over to the Wiki list to see if your favorite houseplants are on the list and to find some that are non-toxic to cats.
NASA also recommends 15-18 houseplants (6-8″ diameter pots) in a home that is 1800 square feet, so I’ve got some more plant purchasing to do to make a real impact! Source: Wikipedia
You Said WHAT is in My Air???
Why are we looking for plants that filter formaldehyde, benzene, toulene and those other weird –enes anyway? Is that stuff really in the air we breathe?
If you have carpet, pressed board furniture, permanent press clothes and standard mattresses, give a big welcome to formaldehyde, which offgasses from those and more.
Got plastic or polyester in your closets or furniture? Hello, benzene.
Hoping you don’t have trichloroethylene in your home? If you have paint, varnished wood, or adhesives – think on your counter, cupboard faces, baseboards, and wooden furniture – you’re out of luck.
We’ve been talking about offgassing in the Kimball home recently. Nothing but good times and a barrel of laughs here, aren’t we? As our kids grow, buying new (or used) beds and mattresses is a fact of life (although if the kids could vote, I’m sure they’d be cool with sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags on a regular basis!). We’ve been discussing what kind of mattress to get for our almost-5-year-old Leah, and I’m wishing to replace our older son’s mattress, which may be older than me. *cringe*
Conventional mattresses are treated by law with flame retardants, much like all the fuzzy, footie pajamas that my kids love (more on avoiding flame retardant sleepwear). Those chemicals are nasty and offgas as formaldehyde and more. To avoid the chemicals, you have to either spring for an organic cotton mattress or, generally, get a doctor’s prescription and go right to a factory to get one made from rubber/latex without the chemicals.
You can expect to pay double, triple, or even quadruple what you’d fork over for an inexpensive, basic mattress. Le sigh.
My husband, ever the skeptic – and I think becoming even more so the more I get into natural health – said during our mattress conversations, “Is this offgassing thing even real?? What if it’s just a good marketing scheme to sell expensive mattresses to gullible people?”
After a day to Google search, he came back with: “Okay, it looks like the offgassing is a real thing. The story holds water.” From the mouth of the biggest skeptic ever!
We’re still not sure what we’re going to do about a mattress exactly, but my baby step philosophy says this:
Clearly just about every home has something, probably dozens of items, that are offgassing yucky chemicals right now. It’s impossible for the average family to replace all their furniture, carpet, wall covering, counters, etc. with perfectly natural materials that won’t offgas. We could either have a stress-related heart attack or invest in some inexpensive plants.
I say – buy some plants!
And put a reminder in your calendar to water them weekly or bi-weekly.
Fight Mold and Allergies with Plants
I’m becoming more than a little impressed and enamored by the English ivy, which may improve indoor allergies as well as a commercial air cleaner, reduce airborne mold by up to 60%, and best yet, it’s tolerant of low light and lazy watering.
I think we’re made for each other!
One of the more frequent issues people struggle with when trying to cut bleach from their house is mold, especially in bathrooms, as evidenced by the comments in last week’s natural disinfectant post. English ivy can start reducing mold spores within hours of being put in a room. How awesome is THAT for an easy, ongoing, natural solution (that doesn’t require any elbow grease)?
It’s definitely going on my list. Way cheaper than this air purifier I reviewed, which is hard to pinpoint whether it really works or not, anyway.
Note: If you have ivy as a houseplant, be sure to never toss cuttings outside or plant them in the soil – apparently it’s an invasive species in N. America and can take over forests! Thanks to an astute commenter for that note!
How many houseplants do you have? Do you think they make you feel better, physiologically or emotionally?
Sale on MAM’s Children’s Health Guide
Modern Alternative Mama is running a sale on all editions of A Practical Guide to Children’s Health, a well-documented overview of natural perspectives on such issues as picky eaters, vaccinations, childhood obesity, teeth, sleep, and more – just about everything parents encounter in the adventure of raising healthy children. There are even a handful of kid-friendly recipes and information on safe personal products and home environment considerations.
A Practical Guide to Children’s Health is a good introductory book, probably perfect for new parents or those just beginning their natural health journey. If you’ve already been using essential oils and herbs for a few years and spent dozens of hours doing your own research on vaccinations and chemicals in bathtime products, you might find it too simplistic for your needs.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Modern Alternative Mama from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.