Naturally Clean Your Indoor Air For Healthier Children, Pets and You!

by Aaron Turpen

We’ve all heard the admonitions from the commercials trying to sell air cleaners and purifying products.  These products usually have costly electrical needs or use nasty chemicals to “clean” pollutants.  What these commercials aren’t lying about is how much higher the germs, dander, and contaminates are concentrated in the average home’s air as compared to outside.

Unless you live in LA or New York or somewhere.  Then the outside air might be more nasty.  I wouldn’t know.  I live where you can see stars at night and all the smells in the air are natural.

Even those of us who live in the country have contaminated houses, though.  Especially when your home is shuttered during the colder months.  Air circulation and rejuvenation is important to everyone’s health, including your pets.

The more natural way to clean the air in your home is with house plants.  The not-so-natural, but really necessary addition to the house plants’ work is the use of filters in your furnace and air conditioning units.  All homes have these devices and they are responsible for most of the nasties that circulate through your house.  Your filters should be replaced regularly, the actual frequency depending on the unit’s specifications.  In our home, for instance, the furnace filter is replaced once per year.  Our furnace is not forced-air, however (which are common), which requires more frequent filter changes.

Research in Australia has shown that toxins can be reduced to nearly insignificant levels in a room which has at least three large potted plants in it.  The rule of thumb is to place one large plant, two medium plants, or four small plants per 100 square feet.  To measure the square footage of a room, simply measure wall-to-wall in one direction, then in the opposite direction (north-south then east-west) and multiply the two numbers together.  So a room that is 10 feet by 12 feet is 120 square feet of space.

House plants, believe it or not, pose their own hazards.  Nearly all plants will help purify the air.  Some more than others, but most will contribute at least a little bit to healthier air.  If you have children or pets, however, there are other dangers with those plants.

One of their primary hazards is in what they might contain thanks to the grower, not the plant itself, and the soil it’s in.  Children of a small age and some pets love to chew, dig in, and otherwise get physical with your plants.  That could be bad if the plants are covered in pesticides, the soil is full of chemicals, or the plant itself is less than safe for consumption.

Some favorite plants that are friendly to both pets and kids are:

  • Most orchids
  • Palms such as Bamboo, Date, Cane, etc.
  • The Boston Fern
  • American Rubber Plant

These plants are the most common for sure.  Another plant that is great for multiple things, but that should be kept out of reach of children (pets are OK) is your Aloe Vera plant (children might eat it and get sick).  Most of your kitchen herbs are also a no-no for pet and child consumption.  Be aware that if you’re a Flax grower and you have cats… Yeah, you probably already know that they love that stuff.  Large potted plants with a lot of dirt in the bottom?  Dogs and cats will use it as a sandbox and/or lunch-stash location.  You can avoid that by placing old lace, cheese cloth, netting, or other “base covers” around the pot under the plant.

Hint: we bought huge lace curtains at the thrift store for $1 because they were stained.  After washing them with vinegar, most of the stain was gone and we just cut circles to match the pots from them and placed them around the pot (held in place with tied string) like you would a Christmas tree rug.

There are tons of great benefits to come from having plants to clean your air.  Not only do they keep your air healthy, but they aesthetically improve a room and really ad to the ambiance and cheery feel of an area.  There are also other benefits to plants in your home.  If you have high places to put smaller plants your children and pets can’t reach, you could grow food as well.  Baby carrots, green onion (scallions), sprouts, all kinds of edibles can be grown year-round indoors if you have the space and ingenuity.

I promise to do an indoor garden DIY in the near future to show you how to make a food source that operates year-round and doesn’t require dedicated space or a specialized sun room or window setup.  Watch for that.

In the mean time, plant something!