Green Solutions to Poor Indoor Air Quality
In the 1980s, NASA began research on the possible use of household plants to create cleaner, fresher air in space stations. What they found was that some households plants are superstars at removing toxins and chemicals from the air you breathe. They comprised a list of these plants in the research they published in 1989.
Using plants to purify the air in your home may sound like a simple solution, in theory. A few summers ago I had the brilliant idea of planting a garden in my backyard. Putting it all together was the easy part but keeping it alive was not as simple. The 100+ degree Arizona summer weather paired with a busy schedule made for a deadly combination. After about three weeks, the whole garden had withered away. The moral of the story: keeping plants alive is harder than it looks.
There may be hope yet. The following list is comprised of plants that are (nearly) impossible to kill and also NASA approved. Just don't forget to water them.
This plants was definitely one of NASA's top picks. Over a 24-hour period, it removed 61% of formaldehyde, 53% of benzene, and 41.2% of trichloroethylene. This plant is not only efficient at removing common household toxins, but it is also affordable and commonly found in most garden stores. They can even be planted outside when they've finished blooming, giving you a two-for-one deal. They typically last anywhere from 6-8 weeks when in bloom and are easy to care for. They require direct sunlight and water 2-3 times a week.
**Word of warning to pet owners, these plants are toxic to animals if ingested. You may want to stick to another plant on the list if you are a pet owner. **
Aloe vera may not be the champion of air purification, but it is a well known plant because of its natural medicinal abilities. It is still efficient at removing formaldehyde from air along with other toxins, according to NASA's study. The liquid in an aloe vera plant contains enzymes that are useful for wound healing and anti-inflammatory purposes. This plant is a go-to for beginners because you are supposed to let the soil dry completely before watering again, meaning you may only have to water every two or three weeks.
3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
This plant is also known as mother-in-law's tongue, maybe because it's nearly impossible to get rid of. It requires only very occasional watering and thrives in dry climates. During NASA's study, this plant removed 52.6% of benzene and 13.4% of trichloroethylene. It is perfect for those who tend to forget watering.
NASA's study stated that the peace lily was the most efficient at removing airborne toxins (benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde). It is a common household plant because it is generally regarded as easy to care for. The leaves of the peace lily may even burn if put directly in sunlight, so it is better to keep it in a dark area. Water once a week and you will have a thriving air purifier. It is also mildly harmful to animals and humans, so be careful where you place it.
Chinese Evergreen are easy to find at any garden store or grocery store. They are especially easy to take care of if you live in a humid climate, as they like warm, humid conditions. They require little light and water. Like aloe vera, you should let this plant's soil drain before watering--don't over water it. Chinese Evergreen removed 47.6% of benzene in NASA's experiments.