Our houses can make us sick. Especially in the winter, when our windows are shut tight and our furnaces or fireplaces are going full blast. According to researchers at the University of Hawai'i, poor indoor air quality can both cause and exacerbate health problems. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts indoor air pollution among the top five public health threats. There is good news, though, in that there are houseplants you can grow that will help to clean the air of potential toxins. Use one potted plant per 100 feet of floor space in your home, advises the University of Maine.
The English ivy is an evergreen vine that is easy to care for. It is tolerant of low light and neglectful watering habits, although it prefers to be watered when the top inch of soil is dry. English ivy can help to remove traces of benzene, a chemical compound and known carcinogen, from the air in your home. This toxin is produced by tobacco smoke, detergents and synthetic fibers.
Owning a spider plant is a little like owning your own plant machine. It will shoot out long stalks, on the end of which is a baby spider plant that you can snip off and plant. This plant needs sun or indirect light and moist soil. Mist the plant every day, as it loves humidity. The spider plant will help clean the air of formaldehyde, a byproduct of foam insulation, carpeting, furniture and certain household cleaners.
The peace lily is another low-maintenance plant. It prefers a little sun but it will also do well in a darker corner of the home. Let the soil dry between waterings and keep it out of drafts and the peace lily will repay you by cleaning your indoor air of benzene and trichlorethylene, a chemical compound emitted by dry cleaning solvents, paint and varnish.
The heart-leaf philodendron is a tropical vine that will take a lot of abuse. Place it in a light area of the home, fertilize it once a month with a houseplant food and keep the soil moist, and it will thrive. The heart-leaf philodendron tackles formaldehyde in the air.