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get these plants to improve your health and reduce your risk of cancer

These houseplants will help you be more healthy.

These houseplants will help you be more healthy. 4306 6459 fortheindoorsy

plants that make you healthier

So I have this thing with houseplants.

When I go to Home Depot or local nurseries and load up a cart full of plants, I am sure things are getting a little out of hand, partially because I see no one else with near as many plants in their cart and partially because when I say “this is getting out of hand” a cashier will agree with me.  But then I bring all my plant babies into my house, name them, and I realize that — if we’re being honest here — I think I might should have bought a few more because my house is nowhere near as lush as the Amazon (the actual place, not the retailer). And if there ever was such a thing as too many plants, give it one more week, and my not-green thumb will cause at least two plant casualties (RIP every orchid I’ve ever owned).

I would love for Zach not to notice the growing amount of green in our living room (it would be even better if he didn’t comment on how many plants I kill), but alas, he has eyes. It’s also kind of hard to miss the small forest I’ve created in our window sill.

So whenever my spidey senses tell me we are about to have the “Bailey, you spend too much money on plants” discussion, I drop some houseplant knowledge and remind him how great they are for our health.

When we’re talking about plants (loljk what losers talk about plants… 👀) most of the discussion is around style (lookin’ at you, fiddle leaf fig), but no one digs in beyond aesthetic or environmental perks to talk about how important houseplants are to our health.

But it turns out, there actually are people who have been talking about this since 1989. And by people, I mean NASA. In case you have no idea what the Milky Way is (not the candy bar kind), NASA is comprised of people who study space and like to design actual experiments and not the social experiments I refer to when I invite my two single friends over for dinner and set up shop with a bottle of wine to watch what happens (™ Bravo).

Back to NASA. They all know indoor air quality is a legit concern, and the folks at the EPA cite indoor air quality as the “cause [of] thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year” (more info here). This doesn’t even include outdoor air pollution. Even undetectable amounts of volatile organic compounds (AKA VOCs — think paint, your wood/laminate floors, the chems from your dry shampoo, etc.) can be hazardous since our houses aren’t open-air vortexes with amazing ventilation. And thank goodness by the way, because the last thing I need is for my dog-walking neighbors to see me perched up on the couch eating “charcuterie,” which is really just the grown-up version of a lunchable, watching political thrillers on Netflix sans pants.

But plants help absorb these VOCs. So because I don’t foresee me ever abandoning dry shampoo, I am calling on houseplants. As it turns out though, some houseplants are more effective than others at sucking up these harmful chemicals, and there are also ways we can increase their capacity to do this.

The first and most obvious way is to not kill them. Easier said than done, I know. Thus, all the houseplants I’m mentioning are going to make that easier on us (not lookin’ at you, fiddle leaf fig). If a plant requires water more than once a week, it’s not on this list because #needy.

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own these houseplants to be more healthy

Mother in Law’s Tongue // AKA Snake Plant

This is the big Kahuna of houseplants that improve indoor air quality. With 5-6 of these in your house, you would virtually eliminate the need to ever leave and get fresh air (note: not advice). They are literally the easiest things to grow and need basically no water for a few weeks and can do well without much light. There are lots of varieties of snake plants, but the only things to keep in mind are 1) overwatering is bad and 2) don’t put a tiny plant in a big pot; they like being crowded and tucked into the soil tightly. When you do water, give them a quick rinse and let the water run through the dirt quickly and drain.

own these houseplants to be more healthy

Ficus Elastica // AKA Rubber Plant

There are many different varieties of Ficus (lookin’ at you Fiddle Leaf Fig), but one that’s effective for removing formaldehyde is this one. Everyone knows formaldehyde from middle school science class, and while it’s super useful for preserving frogs (yeah, ew), it’s not very great for your long-term health. The only problem is that it’s naturally occurring and found in both wood and laminate floors. This particular ficus also comes in a green color, but I have the burgundy and I’m obsessed with the dark leaves against my white walls. I keep it alongside a window and will occasionally set it outside for a day every couple of weeks to get additional sun, but just as the other houseplants, I give it minimal water.

 

own these houseplants to be more healthy

Philodendron Brasil // AKA heart-leaf philodendron

This one likes a decent amount of water, but is pretty low maintenance. I keep this one in a window sill and any time it’s feeling a bit unhappy, it will turn yellow, so I just snip the yellow leaf, give it some water, and call it good.

 

own these houseplants to be more healthy

Dracaena // AKA dragon tree

Turns out there’s a bunch of types of this plant, all of which I can’t pronounce. The easiest way to kill them is to overwater, which is pretty easy actually. You’d think I’d google the care instructions after I killed the first one, but lol. Once I got to my third one, I realized I had been paying too much attention to it and I needed to treat it the same way I treat people’s advice to completely cut out carbs — ignore it. It chills in our living room on the same wall as our sliding glass door, so it gets an okay amount of light, and I haven’t watered it in 2 weeks. When I do, I just set it in the sink, give it a quick douse (the water will zip right through the soil because it is seriously so dry), and then let it drain completely before moving it back to its happy place.

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There are a lot of other varieties that are great for indoors, but these are the ones I’ve kept the longest with the least amount of issues. If you’re interested in the original NASA study, you can find it here. Also, here’s a low quality video with high-quality information and a book on the topic if you’re more into that.

If you’re not into reading studies though, here’s the highlight reel:

  • low light plants are better at reducing VOCs than their bright-light counterparts
  • the most effective plants studied originate in tropical or subtropical climates
  • don’t let your plant’s foliage cover the soil; if it does, trim it back because the dirt also has VOC-absorbing properties

Give me a shout if you have any of these in your crib or if you have some plant knowledge you want to share!

Mohawk Drawbridge Oak

The unicorn of wood floors.

The unicorn of wood floors. 400 400 fortheindoorsy

I know I have given plenty of illustrations of how renovating a house feels, and I’m sure some of them are so great you probably feel like you’re right there with us. Unless you are Zach’s parents reading this (pic below — aren’t they so cute), then I’m happy that this isn’t your reality because it has been a teensy bit brutal.

Zach's parents on a ladder

We haven’t given a ton of updates lately because it turns out this home renovation deal actually takes over our lives. To give you an example, let’s talk about wood floors.

In regards to aesthetics and price point, here is the most perfect floor of all the wood floors I’ve scouted (and trust me, there have been many).

light white oak distressed floors

This is the Artisan Lilith by Green World Industries at about $4-$5/sqft. Isn’t she a beaut?! Distressed just enough, light but not whitewashed, just enough character and texture, all at a great price. The only problem? I was just about ready to sign on the dotted line, when he shows me the documentary 60 Minutes did on Lumber Liquidators, which found horribly high levels of formaldehyde in products manufactured in China.

His primary concern stemmed around the fact that the certifications many wood floors and companies advertise are actually certifying that the factory in which the product is produced is compliant. What this means is that the factory or manufacturer is capable of producing compliant products. In the documentary, one of the employees profiled reiterates this by saying that while it’s possible, it’s also very expensive. All this amounts to products not actually being made at the compliant levels the companies advertise and, as a result, off-gassing ridiculous amounts of formaldehyde. And if you don’t remember what formaldehyde is, then #TBT to middle school science class when you were forced to dissect a frog — that’s what preserves those guys (R.I.P.) and is formaldehyde’s most infamous use.

Here’s where we dabble in conspiracy. Are these Chinese manufacturers always lying? Who knows. Do the new compliance regulations and certifications assess each product that ships or samples of these products? Not clear.

So even though we’re probably in the clear, we decided to cut our losses and avoid the ambiguity by trying to find an American-made engineered hardwood at a price point of $4 – $5 that’s bonded with formaldehyde-free glue and has a a 2mm wear layer. So I’m basically looking for the equivalent of a unicorn.

I think half of this criteria was given as a way to entice me to buy wood-look tile instead of wood floors. But I’m way too stubborn to back down. It’s too hard and too cold and I don’t always want to have to wear socks with rubber grips on the bottom (even though I do love those). And Zach breaks everything. Less than an hour ago he broke a glass, it was a bowl a week ago, a wine glass as soon as it was opened out of the box — a lot of broken things. If we get tile, then picture frames, mirrors and vases will all be at risk. And with this new shared credit card thing, the “you break you buy” doesn’t really work in my bank account’s favor.

So my search has continued over the past two months and I’ve got very few things to show for it besides a ton of wood samples I now own because I’m too attached to their beauty to give them up. I’ve looked at a ton of  eco-friendly or green wood floors, but as weird as this sounds, we’re more concerned with safety. In my opinion at least, a company planting a tree for every tree they knock down doesn’t really solve for the fact that the glue in the floors they make may be slowly causing cancer cells to grow in my body. Fun fact: formaldehyde occurs naturally in wood, and thus, wood floors, so there isn’t much that can be done about that. But as the guy at TreeHouse says, “it’s not like you walk through a forest and say ‘wow, the air quality in this forest sucks.'”

With all that in mind, we’ve come up with one brand that’s actually everywhere that fits most of our criteria: it’s American made with PureBond, a formaldehyde-free glue. It doesn’t look exactly how I want it to look, but I think it’s a decent compromise.

Mohawk Drawbridge Oak

Alas, I bring you Mohawk Drawbridge Oak. It’s a little more consistent in it’s coloring than I wanted with a little less of the wire-brushed character, but it will do (I hope). And for our house, I still think wood flooring (even if it isn’t perfect) is better than tile. Granted, I’m not saying I won’t change my mind on which hardwood we actually purchase; I’m really good at that.

I also have a serious do-it-right-or-don’t-do-it-at-all/go-big-or-go-home mentality when it comes to principles. So if we’re caring about air quality, sustainability, and energy efficiency, we’re going to really care about it. Which is why we’re thinking about American Clay instead of texture and paint. But more on that if we actually do it because who really knows where we’ll end up on this.

I’m trying to get caught up on posts, so more later!

Cheers,
Z + B