House Plants versus Manmade Air Fresheners

The Judge

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I've never used air fresheners as a matter of course -- I've always found their smells to be too chemical -- so if you like them/are used to them, I don't know whether you'd find plants a substitute. I understand plants do absorb smells and help air quality, but they don't -- to my mind, anyway -- give a fresh smell if that's what you're looking for. I'd still recommend you get some, though, if you haven't already, since studies show they can have beneficial effects on mood, as well as atmosphere.

I've got plants in practically every room (including kitchen and bathroom) and I think my house is usually non-odiferous. Cooking smells might linger overnight -- we don't have an extractor fan -- but that's about it. We do tend to keep doors and windows open as much as possible, though, which helps, and certainly in the spring we have a thorough airing.

However, none of the plants I've got at present give off scent. The closest are a couple of lemon-scented pelargoniums (geraniums as was) which don't scent the air on their own, but if you touch the leaves the scent is diffused. Otherwise, at present all I've got are bog-standard spider plants and some Christmas cacti, both of which can tolerate benign neglect, and some dormant (possibly dead... ) orchids. Usually in the summer I have fresh herbs on the kitchen window sill, and I always had African violets and streptocarpus plants in my office when I worked, since they were attractive and easy to keep. Over the years I've had umpteen other plants, such as various ferns in the bathroom, but most didn't survive long, save for a swiss cheese plant which had to go when it took over the living room.

If you like scent, I have had jasmine and gardenias indoors before now, which are highly scented, but too much so for my taste and they didn't last long. Otherwise, what about having pots of natural pot pourri? I've got dried lavender in pots all over the place and give it a stir now and then. I also keep meaning to bring in some sweet woodruff to dry, since that was used as a strewing herb in the past -- the coumarin means it gives off a sweet scent and keeps off moths.

NB One plant I can definitely recommend, save that it goes berserk in creating off-shoots in a bid to take over the house, is aloe vera. It's not particular pretty, but you can break off stems and use the sap to help heal wounds, particularly burns.


EDIT: I did some rootling around and found a couple of good-living-type sites which talked about plants to use in place of air fresheners. Of course you never know how credible they are, but I was interested to find they both included spider plants and aloe vera. But here's an article which is a bit more science-based which might be of interest -- CUTTINGS; Need an Air Freshener? Try Plants I've had some of those it mentions, but do be careful of the devil's ivy if you have pets, as it's toxic to cats and dogs.
 
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Venusian Broon

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I've never used air fresheners as a matter of course -- I've always found their smells to be too chemical -- so if you like them/are used to them, I don't know whether you'd find plants a substitute. I understand plants do absorb smells and help air quality, but they don't -- to my mind, anyway -- give a fresh smell if that's what you're looking for. I'd still recommend you get some, though, if you haven't already, since studies show they can have beneficial effects on mood, as well as atmosphere.

I've got plants in practically every room (including kitchen and bathroom) and I think my house is usually non-odiferous. Cooking smells might linger overnight -- we don't have an extractor fan -- but that's about it. We do tend to keep doors and windows open as much as possible, though, which helps, and certainly in the spring we have a thorough airing.

However, none of the plants I've got at present give off scent. The closest are a couple of lemon-scented pelargoniums (geraniums as was) which don't scent the air on their own, but if you touch the leaves the scent is diffused. Otherwise, at present all I've got are bog-standard spider plants and some Christmas cacti, both of which can tolerate benign neglect, and some dormant (possibly dead... ) orchids. Usually in the summer I have fresh herbs on the kitchen window sill, and I always had African violets and streptocarpus plants in my office when I worked, since they were attractive and easy to keep. Over the years I've had umpteen other plants, such as various ferns in the bathroom, but most didn't survive long, save for a swiss cheese plant which had to go when it took over the living room.

If you like scent, I have had jasmine and gardenias indoors before now, which are highly scented, but too much so for my taste and they didn't last long. Otherwise, what about having pots of natural pot pourri? I've got dried lavender in pots all over the place and give it a stir now and then. I also keep meaning to bring in some sweet woodruff to dry, since that was used as a strewing herb in the past -- the coumarin means it gives off a sweet scent and keeps off moths.

NB One plant I can definitely recommend, save that it goes berserk in creating off-shoots in a bid to take over the house, is aloe vera. It's not particular pretty, but you can break off stems and use the sap to help heal wounds, particularly burns.


EDIT: I did some rootling around and found a couple of good-living-type sites which talked about plants to use in place of air fresheners. Of course you never know how credible they are, but I was interested to find they both included spider plants and aloe vera. But here's an article which is a bit more science-based which might be of interest -- CUTTINGS; Need an Air Freshener? Try Plants I've had some of those it mentions, but do be careful of the devil's ivy if you have pets, as it's toxic to cats and dogs.
The only plant, and it's not really a house plant, that gave off a powerful scent, all the time, was when I decided to grow tomatos on a windowsill (I had a second floor flat, so it was the only option.)

It also attracted birds, and I did get a small songbird come in and live in my living room for an hour or so.

So I totally agree with your advice to open windows most of the time as plants aren't really going to cut it.

If you want scented however, perhaps a few hours of naturally scented candles? They can be pretty powerful.
 

The Judge

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Apparently, the findings of the NASA research on this issue should be limited to enclosed environments -- potted plants don't improve air quality for ordinary homes, and opening windows is a better bet.

I think this has been reported in a number of papers, though the BBC has fought shy of it, but here's one science-based site discussing it Study: Actually, potted plants don't improve indoor air quality and for those who want the original research Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efficiencies

(Not long after you posted here, Serendipity, I had a look at your blog and saw you'd discussed this subject before. Were you planning a story around it?)
 

-K2-

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Not being a Debbie-Downer, but there is another kooky option if you want your home to smell fresh (past the excellent advice above to open your windows), clean it.

Don't leave dirty clothes lying around, use the vent when cooking, reduce dust traps, get dust out from under things, and bathe every now and again. Most of the stink in a home (and dust) is your sweat soaked-- fungus/bacteria growing-- vapor/stink emitting-- sloughed off skin. You can bathe the room in any scent you want, but, like I always say, "A gold painted cow-pie isn't gold. It's just a gold painted cow-pie."

Funny how that works ;)

K2
 
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