Purify With Plants (and not chemical sprays)

Collection of house plants in white pots.

Temperatures inside rise as the ones outside dip. It’s not really the season to open the windows and get in all that fresh air. I know your place is going to start to get a little stuffy, but step back from the (synthetic) air fresheners. Instead, look to gorgeous, green and clean plants.

Here are just some reasons why air fresheners aren’t cool:

Independent researchers have conducted their own tests on a variety of household air fresheners and found they contained alarming rates of phthalates (as found by Gina Solomon, a physician with the Natural Resources Defense Council), VOCs, and the hazardous air pollutant acetaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen.

Slate magazine via Apartment Therapy

I am sure you’ve heard so much about VOCs. They talk about it in paints too. But they’re a big deal, not just for the planet, but for your health too.

In 2004, a long-running study by the University of Bristol, which has followed the health and development of 14,000 children since before birth, published its conclusions about the effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on the children. It said common sources of VOCs, such as air fresheners and aerosols, could make babies and mothers ill, with 32% more babies suffering diarrhoea in homes where air fresheners (including sticks, sprays and aerosols) were used daily, compared with homes where they were used once a week or less. They also suffered significantly more from earache.

University of Bristol

But what if trendy, macramé-hung, pottery-cupped household plants could help you ditch the air freshener, help purify the air and look on point? Spider plants to the rescue! Snake plants on guard!

Here is just a snippet of what I have at home. I love my house plants. Yes, I clean them, wipe them, pet them and talk to them.

NASA provided us, thankfully, with a list of the best air-cleaning plants found here on Earth. According to them, household plants’ main benefit is acting as an air purifier. The listed plants have been found to be best at removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from our surroundings – chemicals that have been linked to adverse health effects like headaches, dizziness, eye irritation, and others. And you can get them all at your local nursery. Here are pretty plants to help purify your yucky indoor air:

  • dwarf date palm
  • boston fern
  • Kimberley queen fern
  • spider plant
  • Chinese evergreen
  • bamboo palm
  • weeping fig
  • devil’s ivy
  • flamingo lily
  • lilturf
  • pothos
  • snake plant (mother in law tongue/bedroom plant)

I know there are those that say that house plants don’t really purify the air. I mean, just looking at their surface area alone, in comparison to let’s say, a dust-collecting throw pillow, would make you question the theory. But, you know what doesn’t make sense? Supporting a company that creates carbon emissions to produce toxic products to be sold to “clean” your house when all it’s doing is polluting your air, irritating the effects of allergens and being gross. One of the biggest manufacturers of air fresheners is owned by a massive, multinational company that is destroying the planet, including deforestation. So if you think that “pine fresh” scent is good for you, remember, it’s just killing other trees all over the world. It’s just a faux “tropical” scent masking nasty smells that’s nastily burning up tropical forests.

In my “Where Can You Learn More?” section I talk about documentaries that have opened my eyes. Sean Penn backed this doc all about nasty chemicals in our lives.

The Human Experiment tells the personal stories of people who believe their lives have been affected by chemicals and takes viewers to the front lines as activists go head-to-head with the powerful and well-funded chemical industry.

Another option is to, of course, make a homemade spray. I’m a huge fan of David Suzuki’s Queen of Green. She is such an inspiration, and she (and I) recommend that you use vinegar to kill bad smells (if you’re really aching for a room air freshener). Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer! So do a 50/50 of water with vinegar in a spray bottle with some of your fave essential oils like lemon, lime or peppermint as select ones also disinfect and deodorize. Go spray happy!

So really, why not jump on the Pinterest-worthy bandwagon, this time, if it means you’re saving money by no longer buying expensive and wasteful (and brutally bad) air fresheners sprays and plugins? This is easy on your decor budget because these house plants will never go out of style. It’s clearly easy on your health. And if it means one less plastic bottled-filled, chemical thingy made, then better for the planet.


Like what you read? Want to increase your foliage collection? Are you green with envy over others’ plants? I got all my plants at a local plant shop called Sweet Violets* in Guelph (or grew them from clippings I’ve propagated). I can get you 10% off your purchase at Sweet Violets. From now until March 2020 you can get 10% off your purchase on all their house plants when you mention you’ve read this blog. Have fun and get cleaning that air.

*I am not compensated. I only endorse products I use or love.

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