Dust, mold, chemicals, and the output of our electronics into the air in our homes isn’t something we normally fret about, considering home is our sanctuary from the outside world. Amazingly, there are billions of particles, carcinogens, gases, and other harmful substances that surround us daily, and while that sounds intimidating to tackle, the answer is quite simple: nature. Plants are complex in the sense that their functionalities go far beyond just looking beautiful. Find out what those functions are and which plants do the most work for your clean air.
If you don’t have a ton of square footage or live in a city with hardly any direct sunlight, that’s not a problem because this hearty, climbing vine thrives in small spaces and does just fine with little sunlight. Its dense foliage excels at absorbing formaldehyde—which is present in wood floorboard resins and synthetic carpet dyes and is fantastic for alleviating symptoms of those who have problems with allergies or asthma.
The Peace Lily is another plant that thrives in low light. It is one of the few that flower, so it is one of the prettier options, but beware—it is poisonous to pets if ingested. Its specialty is clearing the air of carcinogens found in furniture wax and polishes, and it also rids the air of acetone, which is shockingly an emission of our electronics and can also be found in certain household cleaners. The Peace Lily is also known to rid the air of benzene, a carcinogen that can be emitted from gas ranges during use, making this plant a great option for the kitchen.
If you’re anti-plant because you’re just sure you’ll kill it once it enters your home, consider this one: the Lady Palm is an easy-to-grow plant which does take quite a while to sprout, but when it does, its leaves are pretty to look at and are quite functional. It tackles ammonia, which is another largely found ingredient in cleaners and furniture dyes.
If you’re a newbie in the plant care department, maybe you should steer clear of ferns. They are a needy little plant, constantly demanding moisture and humidity. Despite the fern’s list of demands, it does look great in hanging baskets and is at the top of lists when it comes to the best air-purifying plants out there. They are famous for removing formaldehyde, which is found in some glues as well as pressed wood products, including cabinetry, plywood paneling, and furniture.
Also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue” for its sharp leaves (if you have a mother-in-law you’ll understand why this is so funny), this long-leaved plant thrives in low light. The snake plant absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen overnight, which is why keeping this one in the bedroom would be fantastic for sleep. It’s also known to absorb toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.
The Wax Begonia needs a ton of sunlight so make sure this one is in a sunny window at all times so it can flourish. This semi-woody succulent will produce pretty clusters of flat white, pink, or red flowers during the summer. It is a pretty plant to look at but is also a heavy hitter in filtering out benzene. You really can’t ask for anything better than a plant that tackles a carcinogen.
Aloe vera is a multifunctional plant that is easy to maintain and is a cool fixture in any room. Aloe Vera pumps tons of oxygen into the air overnight, improving your sleep. It’s also the perfect plant for treating burns; just snip a bit and squeeze the aloe out, giving your skin the royal treatment straight from the leaf.
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