Reduce Your Home’s Indoor Humidity… With Plants?

by ziggy on May 25, 2010 -- 7 comments -- Follow

Can this plant lower indoor humidity levels?

April and I have been doing research about how to lower the indoor humidity levels in the house. Recently, the outdoor temperatures skyrocketed to the mid-80s after several weeks of 60 degree temperatures, so everything is really humid and damp… Including the house.

So humid, in fact, that mold started to develop all over the earthen floor, especially around the rugs. We took all the rugs out and I mopped the floor with water, but that was a bad choice… since it didn’t dry easily. A couple days ago, we wiped the floor with vinegar to help kill the mold, and set up a box fan to blow air over the floor (thanks to our neighbors for lending us electricity!) to help it really dry out.

We borrowed a digital thermometer and humidity reader thingy, and it read humidity levels of around 80% inside the house! Hopefully it wasn’t totally accurate… But nevertheless, it’s clear we need to rectify this humidity situation. We definitely don’t want a moldy living environment.

Since we don’t have electricity to run a dehumidifier, April has been researching ways to decrease indoor humidity levels through other means. There’s big silica gel bags that you can hang up to soak up moisture from the air, and then heat up/bake later to dry them out to reuse… But who wants big bags of weird silica gel hanging in their house? We might have to do it if the humidity stays constant, but I thought this was the most interesting possibility….

Air plants – can they reduce indoor humidity?

Air plants! Huh? Plants of the genus tillandsia grow in tropical regions and thrive without soil or root systems – they gather moisture and nutrients from the air itself.

All moisture and nutrients required by the plant is absorbed directly through the leaves by means of the tiny silver scales which cover the plant. The thin walls of these scales permit water to enter the leaves, but prevent its escape. The silvery colour of the scales also helps the plant remain cool by reflecting a portion of the sunlight that reaches the plant…. As you might expect, a plant that is able to cling to the top of a tree, and supply its needs from rain and dust is quite easy to take care of. If they are placed where they will receive bright filtered sunlight and normal room temperatures tillandsias demand very little else. Their need for water can be supplied by either frequent misting, or for those who cannot remember to mist a plant every few days, the entire plant can simply be immersed in room-temperature water for about half an hour every week to ten days. This will permit the plant to absorb all the moisture it will require for the next week or so.

Check out more about tillandsia here. Presumably, if you place the air plant in a humid or moist environment, such as in a bathroom or near a kitchen sink, you don’t even have to worry about misting the plant. Is is then safe to assume that if your whole house is humid that the plant will thrive by capturing some of that moisture from the air, and in effect, lowering your home’s humidity levels? Maybe… but we are so intrigued by the possibility that we just purchased a dozen tillandsia.

Hopefully these plants will help to keep the house drier. If not, it’s still an interesting experiment…

Do you have any ideas about how to passively lower indoor humidity levels? If so, let me know!

p.s. For those that do have electricity, you can read dehumidifier reviews to find the best options available.

Image credit: HK James Ho

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