The Snake plant Sansevieria trifasciata is often referred to as Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, this evergreen perennial plant is another houseplant that is known to improve your indoor air quality. According to NASA, it is one of the best houseplants for absorbing airborne toxins, including formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene.
Even though it is native to Western Africa, Sansevieria trifasciatahas risen in popularity over the last few decades and is now widely grown all over the world. It’s a great plant to have indoors, as it can endure low amounts of light at long durations. However, it prefers to have plenty of bright light. Just make sure you don’t overwater this plant, as it is likely to rot if the soil is too moist for too long.
If you have no houseplants around your home, then Sansevieria trifasciata is one of the best for you to start off with. They grow well both inside and out, and they require very little maintenance. Just be careful if you have pets, as this plant may be toxic when it is ingested.
Studies show that plants can offer a natural and benign way to assist the filtration of indoor air.
Plants can remove toxicants and absorb pollutants by metabolizing them into harmless byproducts and by isolating them via incorporating them into plant tissues.
- A 1989 study published by NASA found that plants were effective at removing airborne VOCs such as benzene, toluene, octane, and trichloroethylene.
- Another study found that indoor plants could also remove concentrations of formaldehyde from the air (Claudio, Luz, 2011, October).
- Studies also show that no plants are known that help remove tabacco smoke from the air. (they can remove benzene, a component of the smoke)
However, not all plants are equally beneficial when it comes to removing harmful airborne substances. Also it is not clear if all toxins can be removed by plants.
And there are some limitations.
- Houseplants are most effective in removing VOCs in energy-efficient, non-ventilated buildings.
- In highly ventilated buildings, the rapid exchange of inside and outside air limits the benefits of using houseplants to clean the air (Zhang, Jensen, Wang, Zhiqiang, & Ren, Dacheng, 2010, December).
That’s why scientists conclude that:
“It is not yet possible to project the true potential of plants for purifying indoor air,” “At this time the role of plants, though appearing [generally] positive, is not totally clear.” said Stanley J. Kays, University of Georgia
What exactly do we mean by indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within buildings and structures, as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ can be affected by many things, to include:
● Gases (such as carbon monoxide, radon, and volatile organic compounds [VOCs])
● Microbial contaminants (molds and bacteria)
● Stressors that can induce adverse health conditions.
The primary methods of controlling IAQ in most buildings include source control, filtration, and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants.
Let’s say, taking the limitations in account, you will use plants for their purifying properties. Which types are best?
The top 10 best houseplants for cleaning indoor air
In studies houseplants were assessed on their ability to clean indoor air based on the following criteria:
- removal of chemical vapors,
- ease of growth and maintenance,
- resistance to insect infestation, and
- transpiration rates.