Houseplants add a touch of decoration indoors, but they also have a practical use. Most people know plants add oxygen to the air, but many do not know that some plants also clean the air. Although smoking should always be done away from children, sometimes residual smoke is unavoidable. Place a few plants in the area where smoke is a problem to help rid the air of unpleasant scents and unhealthy toxins.
Odors and toxins from cigarettes can be found for months after smokers move out of a residence. Surprisingly, plants may be your best option for cleaning that unhealthy air. Even after they’ve been cleaned and repainted, homes where smokers once lived can contain cigarette smells and toxins for months afterward.
So, how do you clean cigarette smells out of a home? It may come as a surprise but the most effective and natural way to get rid of tobacco smoke odors and pollutants is with plants. How does it work? Plants emit a water vapor, which creates a pumping action that pulls in contaminated air and converts it into food for the plant. It’s an incredible win-win situation provided by Mother Nature: The air is cleaned and the plants are fed. In addition, the humans don’t have to lift a finger to make it happen.
This can be particularly important if you have small children. Residue and particles left behind by smokers contain heavy metals, carcinogens, and even radioactive materials. The toxins in lingering cigarette smoke include toluene, formaldehyde, acetone and ammonia.
In the early 1970s, NASA became concerned by the amount of pollution in the air in the Skylab space station. After all, the astronauts in the Skylab couldn’t simply open a window to let in some fresh air. NASA needed a sustainable way to clean and freshen the air in the space station. To that end, NASA contacted and eventually hired Bill Wolverton, an environmental scientist who worked for the U.S. military and had become famous for his work in using plants to filter pollutants. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Wolverton published dozens of papers detailing his findings on how plants can be used to remove contaminants in the air.
Wolverton’s studies did not specifically focus on tobacco smoke. But the studies did find that several common houseplants are effective at ridding the air of formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide, among other toxins. These are all chemicals in cigarette smoke. Of the thousands of other chemicals in cigarette smoke, more than 70 of them are known to cause cancer. This is especially concerning when it comes to children and secondhand or even thirdhand smoke. Georg E. Matt, a professor at San Diego State University, in a study published in January 2011 in the journal “Tobacco Control,” found that smoke becomes trapped on surfaces, such as carpets, walls and ceilings, even long after smokers have left the residence. Even if you don’t smoke, your children could be exposed to the toxins in tobacco smoke left in the home.
The best plants for improving indoor air quality include the philodendron, spider plant, English ivy, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm and golden pothos. Some of the more effective plants to clear out formaldehyde include the Boston fern, dwarf date palm, bamboo palm, English ivy, weeping fig and lady palm.
Gerbera daisies and English ivy have been shown to remove benzene, another toxin in cigarette smoke, while the daisies also get rid of trichloroethylene, which is found in inks, solvents and paint. Chrysanthemums are helpful in removing carbon monoxide from the air, and add a cheerful spot of color to the decor.
Compared to costly manufactured air purifiers, nature’s version of cleaning cigarette smells and toxins is inexpensive, requires no electricity, and adds beauty to your home.
Most of the plants listed require minimal care, and can provide years of purifying action with just a bit of watering, leaf-dusting and pruning. Research also suggests that plants add a psychological perk to a home or office, and that individuals recovering from illness do so faster in the presence of plants.
Know of other ways to clean cigarette smells with plants?