As homes become more energy efficient, they also become more airtight than homes built previously. Most of us spend as much as 90% of our time indoors, and the quality of the air we breathe may have an influence on our health.

The typical American home has over 100 chemicals that are concentrations 10 to 40 times that of outdoor levels. These chemicals are often a source of air pollution and come from carpeting, glued particleboard, plastics, paints, cleaning materials, and insecticides. Additionally, house dust, dander, mold and mites are all common indoor allergens that are likely lurking in your home.

Usually we have household plants to enhance the appearance of our surroundings; however, plants may be a solution to poor air quality due to their extraordinary ability to remove a wide array of pollutants and allergens. For example, a single Boston Fern can remove 1,800 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air in about an hour. One of the best room’s to place a houseplant is in the bedroom. The ability of plants to purify and add oxygen to bedroom air can be an important contribution to sleep quality and overall health.

Some guidelines for the use of plants as “air cleaners” include:

  • Use plants with lots of leaves so that contaminants are more likely to adhere to the plant and be deactivated;
  • Use at least two plants per room (preferably of different types); and
  • Keep humidity levels between 35% and 65%.

If you are concerned about house plant soil developing mold and mildew, cover the potting soil with a layer of aquarium gravel. Additionally, wipe down the plant leaves with a damp paper towel once a week or so to prevent dust buildup, which can exacerbate allergies.

A partial list of plants that are especially effective as air cleaners includes:

  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern
  • Spider Plant
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English Ivy
  • Philodendron
  • Snake Plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Dracaena

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