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Rubber Plants: How they keep our Air Clean

Some years back, rubber plants were a staple of trendsetting households, but as fashions and tastes changed they fell out of favour. In more recent times, the humble rubber plant has been making something of a comeback, not least because it is attractive and low maintenance, but it also scores highly for keeping the air clean.

© radachynskyi / Adobe Stock


Rubber plants uncovered

Native to Southeast Asia, the rubber plant is a member of the fig family, and goes by the Latin name of Ficus elastica. It's also known as the rubber bush, rubber fig or Indian rubber tree.

Rubber plants should not be confused with the rubber tree, or Hevea brasiliensis, which is the plant used to produce rubber for commercial purposes. However, there are some similarities between the two, particularly with the fact that they both produce a white, milky sap called latex that is toxic if ingested and can irritate the skin and eyes.

Unlike the rubber tree, rubber plants aren't used for rubber production but are for ornamental purposes only. In hot climates, they will happily grow outdoors, but mostly they are regarded as a houseplant.

Although they are easy to maintain and can be grown in areas of poor light, rubber plants are lofty specimens that will need regular pruning to prevent their growth getting out of hand. Left to their own devices, they'll happily grow up to eight feet tall!


Environmental benefits

A virtue of the rubber plant is that it's highly effective at cleaning the air. NASA conducted a study in 1989, named 'Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement', where it looked at plant species that had the ability to remove toxic chemicals from the atmosphere and improve air quality. As part of this study, NASA concluded that the rubber plant was one species that had outstanding air cleansing properties. Further studies have since corroborated this.

How exactly does the rubber plant clean the air? Rubber plants boast very large leaves that have the ability to absorb chemicals in the air. These pass down through the plant to its roots, where they get dumped in the soil. Microbes in the soil then break the chemicals down, rendering them harmless or even converting them into nutrients that the plant can then use.

There are various chemicals and contaminants that rubber plants can absorb. Exhaled carbon dioxide is one of them. The plant takes in the carbon dioxide and mixes it with hydrogen, creating oxygen, which is expelled back into the air through the plant's leaves. This oxygen helps to purify the air.

Mould spores and bacteria can harm a rubber plant, so as a form of defence, these plants are also highly effective at zapping them in the air. Not only is this good news for the plant, but also for those who use the room. Indeed, studies suggest that rubber plants can eliminate these bacteria by up to 60%.

Studies have also concluded that rubber plants are top scorers when it comes to removing chemicals found in furnishings and household cleaning products, which may contaminate the atmosphere or even contribute towards so-called sick building syndrome. In particular, the rubber plant can remove trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene from the atmosphere.

Rubber plants are certainly a great addition to any space if you're looking to improve the environment, but rubber in the form of products is also indispensable to our everyday lives. If you're looking for a wide range of high-quality rubber product solutions, you'll find Coruba hard to beat.

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