Breathe easy: 5 household plants that improve air quality

This natural cleaner sounds almost too good to be true. The idea of cleaner, fresher air in your home without spraying dangerous chemicals are scrubbing sounds unfathomable. Yet, it’s a real thing.

Houseplants, experts have confirmed, have been known for decades to improve (or clean) air quality in offices and homes.

According to environmental scientist Bill Wolverton, who contributed to a This Old House blog post "10 Clean-Air Plants for Your Home," chemicals cause indoor air pollution from projects like installing new carpet or painting walls. The way plants improve air quality is one of nature's fascinating processes, since select plants reduce ozone concentration indoors, as reported in Science Daily

According to the University of Hawaii's Cooperative Extension Service publication "Using Houseplants to Clean Indoor Air," plants absorb volatile organic compounds from the air into their leaves and then channel them to their roots to allow microbes to break them down. Some pollutants even become food for microorganisms in the soil. Air that reaches root tissue directly can also be purified in that way.

Other ways plants favorably impact indoor air quality include an increase in relative humidity and a decrease in allergy-provoking dust accumulation.

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When you choose plants to take advantage of their ability to clean air, you should also consider how easy they are to grow and their light requirements, according to the extension service.

Here are five of the most reliable household plants that work hard to improve air quality, compiled from suggestions from Wolverton and experts at Mother Nature Network:

Aloe(Aloe vera)
An easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent, aloe helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) 
This hearty, climbing vine thrives in small spaces and excels at absorbing formaldehyde.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Among the few air purifiers that flower, the peace lily adapts well to low light but requires weekly watering and is poisonous to pets. It rids the air of the VOC benzene, a carcinogen found in paints, furniture wax, and polishes. It also sucks up acetone, which is emitted by electronics, adhesives, and certain cleaners.

Credit: Contributed by ThisIsLove/Shutterstock

Credit: Contributed by ThisIsLove/Shutterstock

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
This is a great plant for beginners since it's hard to kill. It also battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. It's also safe for pets if you have them.

Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii') Also known as mother-in-law's tongue, snake plants are great for filtering the formaldehyde common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. They are recommended for the bathroom, since they thrive in low light and humidity.

The best news is there's virtually no limit on the number of As for household to purify air, Wolverton told This Old House . He estimated at least two plants for each 100 square feet of space per household under ordinary circumstances would be fitting.
Wolverton, who is also the author of "Plants: Why You Can't Live Without Them," also cautioned homeowners tapping the benefits of household plants not to overwater the greenery. Too much moisture in the soil can lead to mold growth, which detracts from the very air quality you are trying to improve.

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