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Purifying Plants to Detox Your Home

Remove harmful air pollutants easily and cheaply

The air inside our homes is considered more polluted than the air outside. Chemical gases from furniture and flooring, cleaning products, paint and personal care products (to name a few) disperse into the atmosphere and are absorbed into the body with each breath taken.

Indoor air pollution compromises health and contributes to chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. It can also cause breathing problems, headaches, dizziness, and itchy eyes. Exposure to toxins or pollution of any nature weakens the immune system.

The good news though is there is a cheap and easy way to dramatically reduce your exposure to indoor air pollutants by using plants, especially if an air purifier isn’t an option. Not only do plants add splashes of greenery to your home, they are highly beneficial to your health.

Learn how plants purify indoor air, which pollutants pose the most risk and the best plants to clean the air inside your home.

 How do plants purify indoor air?

Plants act as natural air filters through a process called transpiration whereby they pull airborne pollutants into their leaves and roots. The toxins are absorbed through microscopic openings in the leaves and transformed into non-toxic molecules. Plants also naturally clean the air through photosynthesis and respiration where they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air. According to NASA research, rooms filled with plants contain up to 60% less airborne mould than plant-less rooms.[1]

Certain indoor plants such as peace lilies and English ivy can absorb a range of toxic pollutants including ammonia, formaldehyde, nitrates, benzenes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In a room that is 10 x 10 metres or 100 square foot, one 6-inch (15cm) diameter plant is said to absorb 87% of the toxins in the room.[2] Most rooms in a house will require two plants, so in a house with five rooms, you will need ten plants.

[1] https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930072988    [2] https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930072988

Which indoor air pollutants are most toxic?

ToxinWhat it isWhere it’s foundPotential health risksBest plant
FormaldehydeColourless gas with a strong odour used as a preservative and disinfectantFurniture, paints, glues, carpeting, softener in napkins, toilet paper and tissues, cosmetics, baby creams, washing up liquids, plywood, foam insulators, fertilizers and pesticides, vaccines, animal feed.Irritation and burning to the skin, lung, eyes, nose and throat.

It’s a known carcinogen linked to cancerous tumour growth.

  • Bamboo palm
  • Spider plant
  • Golden pothos
  • Dracaena marginata *
  • Peace lily *
  • Snake plant *
BenzeneSolvent to dilute other substancesHousehold cleaning products, personal care products, paint, fabrics, pesticides, cigarette smoke, plastics, rubber, oil.Drowsiness, headaches, loss of appetite, neurological problems, heart and lung complications, anaemia and bone barrow diseases.
  • Bamboo palm
  • Gerbera daisy
  • English ivy *
  • Snake plant *
  • Peace lily *
TrichloroethyleneAn industrial degreasing solventCleaning wipes, carpet cleaners, printing ink, paints, varnish, paint removers, tool cleaners, dry cleaning spot removers.Irritation to skin and eyes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, mood depression. It’s a known carcinogen – linked to kidney and liver cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Bamboo palm
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Dracaena marginata *
  • Peace lily *
AmmoniaColourless gas with a pungent, suffocating smell used as an industrial chemicalCleaning products to remove stains, glass/mirror cleaning products, leathers.Burning, itching and irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory tract.
  • Bamboo palm
  • Flamingo Lily
  • Lady palm
  • Peace lily *
Carbon monoxideOdourless, colourless gas produced by burning carbon-based fuelsCigarette smoke, central heating boilers, gas stoves and heaters, open fires – both wood and gas.Lack of oxygen delivery to the brain causes dizziness, confusion, headaches, fatigue and in some cases, death.
  • Bamboo palm
  • Golden pothos
  • Dracaena marginata *
  • English ivy *
* Poisonous to cats and dogs

Bamboo Palm

Flamingo Lily

Spider Plant

Gerbera Daisy

Golden Pothos

Dracaena Marginata *

Peace Lily *

English Ivy *

Snake Plant *

Only buy organic plants that haven’t been treated with systemic pesticides or chemicals. Most plants found in garden centres are imported, set in plastic pots and filled with peat compost which contains no nutrients for the plant. A good way to obtain organic plants is go to local plant swap group where you can get a cutting from someone. Alternatively, you can grow your own from organic seeds.

Caring for your plants

  • Water your plants with filtered water. The fluoride and chlorine that is added to tap water is incredibly damaging to the soil of the plant, causing the plant to wither.
  • Don’t over-water your plants by allowing them to become soggy. Each plant requires different amounts of water so be sure to check the care guidelines when you purchase your plants.
  • Ensure your plants have the best environment to flourish – if your plants are healthy, they can keep you healthy. Some plants are best kept out of sunlight whereas others thrive in it.
  • Jasmine plants are a great alternative to toxic synthetic air fresheners. With its sweet-smelling scent, jasmine neutralises horrible odours in the same way that a candle or air freshener would. Jasmine is an evergreen climbing plant with stems that twine and beautiful white, pink or yellow star-shaped flowers that bloom in summer or winter. The best type of jasmine to buy for indoors is Jasminum polyanthum.


Learn more about household toxins and how to detoxify your home and body.

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Blog/Article content reflects the author's research and diverse opinions, not necessarily CNM's views. Items may not be regularly updated, so represent the best available understanding at the time of publication.

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