Ever wondered about the air quality in your home? If the answer is no, you may want to give it some thought. Cumulatively, we spend rather a lot of time in our homes and the air we breathe whilst we’re there greatly impacts our health and well-being.
Air quality is constantly being compromised by anything from carpets and cleaning products to the paint we may have used on our walls, so what can we do to improve the air quality in our home environment, and moreover, lessen the hazard to our health?
In 1989 NASA conducted a Clean Air Study looking at how introducing common houseplants to an environment could make a difference to the air quality. Some houseplants absorb unseen toxins and release oxygen into the air increasing our ability to recover from colds and other minor illnesses.
Fast forward thirty-odd years and we’re still realizing the health benefits of humble houseplants. Whilst so much has changed over the years, one thing hasn’t – houseplants are good for us.
Alongside their many benefits to our health, numerous studies show how introducing a variety of greenery to our home environment can help us to de-stress and promote a feeling of calm. However, not all houseplants are equal. Read on to find out which ones are top of the list for their air-cleaning qualities. (in no particular order).
If you own one already, go you! Cut a gel-filled frond in half and use the gel for cuts, grazes and bruises to aid healing. This wonder shrub can absorb benzene which is commonly found in paint and certain chemical cleaners. Do yourself a favour and find a spot for one in your home.
We all have that houseplant we can’t bear to part with and comes along with us no matter where life takes us. Our ever-faithful Peace Lily belongs to my husband and became part of our family when we decided to live together, quietly flourishing over the years into a happy, healthy-looking plant. When content, the Peace Lily will produce a Lily/s in autumn and again in the spring, flowering for around two-months.
Peace Lilys are great at absorbing harmful vapours and toxins from acetone benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde and improve air quality by up to 60 per cent. Another amazing fact: a Peace Lily absorbs mould spores through its leaves and circulates them through its roots to use as food. Place yours in your bathroom to keep it free from the dreaded shower curtain loving mildew. NB: Peace Lilys are poisonous to cats and dogs so it’s advised to keep yours out of harm’s way. However, we have two dogs who pay no interest to any of our house plants.
The spider plant.
Throughout the ’90s, Spider plants could be found on every corner shelf in the majority of homes and are a common, easy to grow houseplant. Don’t knock its unkempt appearance – introduce one to your home and within just two days, it’ll remove up to 90 per cent of the toxins in your air, particularly carcinogenic formaldehyde. Isn’t nature impressive?
The fast-growing leaves also help it absorb other harmful substances and allergens such as mould spores. If you or another family member/s suffer from dust allergies, it really is your perfect partner. It’s also claimed the Spider plant can absorb traces of carbon monoxide which we all know poses a health risk.
Dracena marginata (Dragon tree).
The Dragon Tree is a member of the Palm family with air-cleaning qualities aplenty including the ability to remove nasty toxins often found in hairspray and furniture polish which linger in the air.
I could talk about Eucalyptus all day, it’s a firm favourite of mine. Try rubbing a leaf between your fingers and you’ll instantly recognise the scent from cold and flu remedies you may have come across. Perfect for nasal congestion and keeping common colds and other minor ailments at bay. It’s no wonder Eucalyptus has been used medicinally for centuries.
I’m often taking clippings from my in-law’s tree but fully intend on planting one in my own garden this spring. In terms of finding a Eucalyptus house plant, you may not be so lucky as they are mostly found in tree form and best suited to the garden. However, if you fill a vase with freshly cut sprigs you can make the most of the fresh, menthol scent whilst they hold their own.
On a final note: Caring for your houseplant’s leaves is essential. Clean the leaves regularly to allow the continuation of photosynthesis which is essential for your plant’s health. Leaves covered in a layer of dust won’t be effectively absorbing toxins either so make sure you wipe them with a soft cloth and lukewarm water, as and when needed.
Avoid artificial air fresheners and scented candles
A no-brainer – avoid cheap or artificially scented, paraffin-based candles. They may appeal to your nose but they’re literally poisoning you slowly by puffing out volatile, toxic and carcinogenic chemicals including soot, acetone, benzene and toluene. These harmful chemicals are commonly found in diesel fuel emissions and are known cause of hormone disruption, allergies, asthma attacks and skin problems. Also, it’s worth noting that young children and babies are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution. Please do also consider your fury-eared family members who may well be allergic to the toxins they’re unwittingly breathing. The chemical-laden air produced by the above and will most certainly affect animals in the same way it does humans.
If you love to fragrance your home with candles choose natural or eco soy wax, infused with 100% pure essential oils for the best scent throw, and only burn them for short periods; or, at most, until the wax has melted right across from edge to edge, otherwise, you’ll end up with a candle resembling a wax tube. Whilst Soy wax is considered safe, be mindful that what you see is not always what you get. For a candle to be touted as pure Soy, it’s only required to include 51 per cent pure Soy wax and as yet, there aren’t any specific guidelines around the use of paraffin in candle waxes. The use of lead wicks was outlawed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2003 but it’s still worth double-checking yours. 100% pure cotton wicks are the safest option.
Personally, I prefer to burn pure English beeswax tealights in my home, and here’s why…
- 100% pure beeswax emits negative ions as it burns, purifying the air by neutralising mould spores, odours and unseen toxins in the air.
- Beeswax candles have a warmer, brighter, low-burning flame that sits within the spectrum of sunlight.
- Soot free and clean-burning.
- A renewable and sustainable by-product of honey production. (Bee Colonies aren’t harmed). See NB below.
- Denser, allowing for longer burn time.
Unlike Soy which a good scent carrier, Beeswax isn’t. However, if you sprinkle a few drops of pure essential oil into the tealight or around it in its holder that should suffice.
NB: Before you hit purchase on your beeswax candles check the source first. Some beeswax may originate from bee farms where this kind of intensive production isn’t sustainable. Make sure yours are from a reliable beekeeper only taking surplus wax from the comb so there’s enough left for the bees.
Ever wondered where the wax goes?
As a candle burns, the melted wax is drawn up the wick by capillary action, whilst the heat produced by the flame turns the melted wax into a hot gas. Another good reason to choose the non-toxic variety!
Switch up your favourite cleaning products for eco-friendly alternatives
More often than not, we don’t think about the products we use to keep our home clean, we mindlessly pick up the same products time after time but spraying volatile chemicals around isn’t going to help keep your air clean. I like to use non-toxic products where possible with white vinegar being a favourite. It’s really effective for windows and glass surfaces and won’t break the bank at around £1.50 per bottle. We can sometimes be duped into thinking a product is “natural” just because the label says so., however, guidelines allow manufacturers to use the word “natural” when in fact, the product only contains a small number of natural ingredients so just be mindful. A good selection of 100% natural, eco-friendly cleaning products can be found at nu-eco.co.uk.
Finally, where possible, open your windows and/or doors to get a through draft going and let some fresh air into your home on a regular basis.
If you’d like to discover how to improve your wellbeing by strengthening your digestive and immune systems read my ultimate guide for a healthier microbiome.
How about you? Will you be improving the air quality in your home this year? If you have any of your own tips to share, please do.