The world outside our homes is full of irritants—seasonal allergens, standstill traffic, that one overly-talkative neighbor. And although our homes feel like refuge from external troubles, fumes from paint and other building materials, as well as from synthetic carpeting, fireplaces, mold, and any number of other toxins are regularly filling our living rooms—and the air we breathe.
The Daily Mail reports that more than 900 different chemicals could be present indoors at any time, including the dangerous substances formaldehyde, trichlorethylene, and benzene. At their most innocuous, these agents are linked to itchy eyes and coughing, but in their more nefarious forms, they can cause cancer, heart disease, and other serious ailments.
That may be enough to put you into a cold sweat for sure, but luckily there is one thing you can do to purify the air in your home and keep your stress levels from sailing off the charts. Houseplants don’t just add a pretty note of color to your kitchen window, they also work hard to restore sanity and purity to your space. An often-quoted study from NASA showed that, in addition to adding precious oxygen back to the air, many plants do double duty, filtering out toxic chemicals to keep enclosed spaces healthier and cleaner. Of course, some species do more heavy lifting than others. If you’re looking to make your home a low-chemical paradise, these are your best bets for detoxifying.
They may be called rubber, but they’re 100 percent green, and are experts at taking formaldehyde out of a room. A member of the ficus family hailing from Southeast Asia, they do best with plenty of filtered bright light and moist soil.
The name just sounds like it will do wonders for your home. And it lives up to the hype: peace lilies help filter out acetone, a chemical given off by electronics. Despite their tranquil moniker, though, they’re mildly toxic to pets, so they work best in pet-free homes.
Broadleaf Lady Palm
All that bleach may kill off noxious bacteria, but the ammonia found in common cleaning agents can be harmful to your respiratory system. Undo the damage with one of these palms, which thrive with plenty of indirect sunlight and frequent watering.
This is for all the black thumbs out there. Extra-hardy spider plants can stand up to almost any abuse you can dish out, only requiring occasional watering and repotting. Plus, they’re purifying pros—this overachiever removed 95 percent of toxic materials in its environment during NASA’s study.
Flowers aren’t just a pretty token for your sweetheart—they’ve also been shown to have a positive impact on depression and stress levels—and not just when they come attached with a loving missive. These mums possess all those benefits, plus air-improving aplomb. To keep their blossom power at its peak, make sure to fertilize about once a month.
This tough little succulent sucks down benezene—a chemical found in paint—like it’s a job. And when it comes to your health, it packs a double punch: the sticky juice inside its leaves makes a great salve for burns and bruises alike. Just make sure not to overwater, as there’s nothing it hates more.
Not only do their frothy fronds absorb formaldehyde, ferns also release elevated levels of oxygen, increasing humidity levels, and making the air much cleaner and healthier. They do best in a cool area where they won’t be exposed to too much light, and they like to be kept moist—they even respond well to an occasional misting here and there to work their humidifying magic. With houseplants this helpful, you’ll breathe easier in no time!
About our contrubuting guest: Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin,Texas where she currently works as an Editor for Modernize. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Remodeling and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker and About.com.