We all know that plants & trees are the lungs of our planet – cleaning the air & supplying fresh air for all. So when we talk of pollution in our urban lives, we all have read the golden piece of green decor advice to breathe clean air – plant more plants in your house. But could this also turn out to be ineffective? Could there be a way to make plants work harder at cleaning the air in our homes? Could there be some plants which make better candidates for the pollution fighting army? Read to find out how to make the best pollution fighting army in the world.
In our initial article on indoor air pollution (read here) we already explained to you the various kinds of pollutants that can exist in the peaceful safe looking environs of our sweet home.
The EPA, US estimates that the level of indoor air pollution can be 2 to 5 times higher than the pollution level outdoors. These indoor pollutants which are of three types – Chemical, Organic & physical (read here), can cause mild to serious problems.

  • From nasal irritation, headaches to asthma, pneumonia or even cancer (even in small trace amounts, continued exposure can cause cancer).
  • We also did a special feature on asbestos-exposure related illness mesothelioma. Though banned in most countries acroos the world back in the 90s, this illness can take almost 20-30 years to start showing symptoms. To get more info on illness or how you can get financial & medical aid – check here.
  • Indoor pollutants are especially harmful to young children as they still have developing bodies & a weaker immune system compared to adults (for more details read here). So indoor pollutants especially need to be checked if you have young kids in the house.
  • Indoor pollutants also hamper sleep – and bad sleep is a global epidemic already and we are all feeling its ill-effects. Read more on how bad indoor air quality impacts sleep here.
  • Even in the sealed. clean environs of our modern glass & concrete office buildings, we aren’t safe from indoor air pollution as we covered in our special feature here.


What are indoor air pollutants & how do plants fight these?

Indoor air pollution takes one of these three forms, based on the nature of pollutants:

  • Chemical pollutants: Chemical pollutants are found in things like cleaning agents, airfreshners, gases emitted from various machinery and heatling appliances etc. volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, radon, formaldehyde etc.
  • Organic contaminants: Organic pollutants are biological allergens like mold, household allergens from dust mites, pets and cockroaches, pollen, etc.
  • Physical pollutants: Physical pollutants are actual particles that may mostly be used in the construction of your building etc. particles and fibres (asbestos, artificial mineral fibres), etc.
Studies have shown that plants take up pollutants via their roots and accumulate them in the leaves or stems. In the Philippines for instance, a plant species bio-accumulates nickel from the ground. Rinorea niccolifera prospers where the soil is rich in heavy metals; over the course of evolution it adapted genetically. And plants are able to absorb chemicals from contaminated soil. For example: Poplars clean the soil on a disposal site for chemical weapons and industrial waste in the U. S.
The University of Technology in Berlin, Germany has researched how plants are capable of transforming contaminated water into drinkable water. Mouse-ear chickweed, Water milfoil and Waterweed for instance can filter poisons, heavy metal and other pollutants from lakes, ponds, rivers and even rainwater. The plants have learnt how to transform toxic substances & are
using them for growing (Source: Airy).
They are able to regulate the indoor climate. We usually perceive an indoor climate with an air humidity of 45 to 50 % as pleasant; it should not climb above 65 % or drop below 30 %. The latter can be difficult during heating period, as warm air absorbs more water vapor than cold air – room air dries out fast. And not only dries out the room air but the nasal mucosa as well, so that bacteria and viruses have an easy game.
So without a doubt plants are the best bet to fight indoor pollution. Add a little method & science to it and you have literally got a weapon of mass-destruction against pollution. (In the end we also tell you about a superpower of an innovation – a pot that helps your plant cleans 75% more toxins from air).

Select the best green candidates for each battlefield

Living room, children’s play room / study & kitchen

Problem: Expect to find toxic VOCs like formaldehyde, benzene & toulene due to presence of furniture, adhesives, paints etc. And given how these toxins impact children more than adults, pack your little one’s study space or play-area with greens. While you should opt for emissions free furniture. Besides this, even the kitchen where you whip up healthy delicious foods, can also be laden with toxic chems due to carbon monoxide emissions from cooking gas & all the regular VOCs.
Plant combat: Spathe flower or Peace Lilly plant is the jenny-from-block that looks pretty, requires minimum maintenance, resistant to pests & has tremendous cleaning powers –  filters the air to a large extent from formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
Screenshot from 2016-05-18 18-32-03
Spider plant too is in the running for top spot when it comes to fighting formaldehyde. Screenshot from 2016-05-18 18-32-03
Another one is the Golden Cane Palm or Butterfly plant that defintely outgrows itself in its combatting of indoor air pollution and is nontoxic, so it is safe for your children or pets.
Here are the other top candidates.
The following plants prefer east-facing or west-facing windows:

  • Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Flamingo Flower (Anthurium sp.)
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)

North-facing windows are preferred by:

  • Dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera sp.)
  • Fruit salad plant (Monstera sp.)
  • Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron sp.)
  • Ivy (Hedera sp.)



Problem: Bathroom is full of fragrance-packed cosmetics & harsh chemical-laden cleaners. Firstly dump these chemical cleansers & move to natural or safe solutions.
Plant combat: Our favorite is Orchid. Don’t be fooled by its dainty appearance. It’s like lady Helen Mirren in the movie Red. Looks gorgeous but certified VOC assassin. It comes in many pretty colours & needs to be sheltered from direct sunlight. So your perfect bathroom singer.
All kinds of plants that appreciate warmth and high humidity, are comfortable in the bathroom

  • Cornstalk plant (Dracaena sp.)
  • Flamingo flower (Anthurium sp.)
  • Spathe flower (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
  • Sward fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)


Office / workstation

Problem: We already gave you an in-depth knowledge on what causes pollution at workplace. Office furniture specially tends to be made from particleboard. Add to that the army of copiers, printers, gadgets and we have got a greenhouse going with the sealed glass & zero ventilation. The result can be Sick Building Syndrome (read here).
Plant combat: Besides regulating humidity, soothing our stress (plants are supposed to do that too!), office greens are a necessity for fighting pollution at workspace. Our favorite here is Ivy. To begin with, darker the leaves, the more in shade you can keep the plant and therefore a perfect choice for the sealed office station. Ivy purifies the room air and controls the air humidity for comfortable indoor climate, constantly. The other favorite is The Broadleaf Lady Palm – air condi­tioning and filter in one. Like many palms, it is perfectly suitable for offices where it disposes of xylene and toluene (from printers and photocopiers) and formaldehyde. Also again a smart idea is a Spathe flower or Peace Lily.
For the reduction of those, the following pollution controllers can be applied here:

  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum/A. modestum)
  • Cornstalk plant (Dracaena sp.)
  • Devil’s ivy (Epiprenmum aureum)
  • Dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera sp.)
  • Fruit salad plant (Monstera sp.)
  • Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron sp.)
  • Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  • Snake plant (Sanseviera trifasciata)
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Sward fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  • Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
  • Spathe flower (Sapthiphyllum wallisii) or Peace Lily



Bedroom & baby nursery

Problem: Furniture is the usual suspect. Also if there’s a lack of oxygen in the bedroom, our deep sleep cycle gets impacted. And we all know that children need more sleep than adults.
Plant combat: Snake plant is the front runner for your bedroom. It’s resilient, purifies the air of benzene and trichloroethylene, and since it does not form oxygen during the day but at night! Greenery that absorbs carbon dioxide at night too:

  • Orchids
  • True aloe (Aloe vera)


Now how can you make each of these plants work harder?

Did you know: typically eight plants are needed for roughly 20 m2, area to clean air effectively. But if a plant is potted in the superpower  AIRY pot, one is sufficient! You ask us how? Read our feature on AIRY here.
(We thank our dear green friends from AIRY for all images).

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