The right to clean air is a fundamental right. Yet we rarely ever get to breathe clean air, especially in cities. Since Americans spend most of their time indoors, healthy air quality should be a top priority.
Indoor plants are not only beautiful to look at, many of them can clean the air in your home too. Yes! All plants are natural air filters (thank you mother nature!), but some are better at removing toxins than others.
Can indoor plants really purify your home?
People lined their windowsills with greenery in increasing numbers after NASA released a series of studies dating back to the late ’80s, stating that indoor plants could purify the air.
Sadly, it seems there was a little wishful thinking going on back then. Researchers now say you’d need 680 plants in a 1,500-square-foot home for the foliage to truly go to battle against toxins.
But indoor plants have other air-boosting and health benefits that you don’t have to create a wall-to-wall jungle to enjoy. Even a modest amount of foliage might enhance indoor air quality. So why not add a few easy-care plants to your living space?
Health benefits of air-purifying indoor plants
Although it would take filling your home or office with ridiculously massive amounts of foliage to impact VOC levels, indoor plants can still improve your air quality.
Indoor plants can
- reduce irritation to eyes, ears, nose and throat
- prevent or ease coughing and congestion
- lower your stress
- boost your attention capacity
Purifying indoor plants reduce levels of CO2 and increase relative humidity. In other words, they help get rid of stale air and act as a natural humidifier, which can prevent or ease irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, and even lungs.
Beyond improving air quality, foliage just makes people feel better. Interacting with your indoor plants can reduce stress, for example.
That doesn’t mean you have to chat up your aloe vera – unless you want to. We’d never judge. Repotting, pruning, or watering your air-purifying indoor plants will do the trick.
Similarly, just by being in the room with you, that ficus can help you maintain focus when you’re slogging through a tough task like a school paper or a report for work.
12 of the Best Indoor Plants that Clean the Air
1. ALOE VERA
A healing aloe plant is a lovely addition to your kitchen windowsill, as it loves a sunny spot. While being on hand to soothe any kitchen burns, this succulent will be purifying the air of formaldehyde and benzene, found in varnishes, floor finishes, and detergents.
This plant will thrive in a sunny location. It doesn’t require frequent watering, so it is perfect for new plant moms and dads.
2. PEACE LILY
According to a 1918s NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America study, peace lilies can absorb benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene. Peace lilies are a perfect plant for those among us with a brown thumb
They are easy to grow and require minimal care. Just put them in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without over watering. These plants will flower for much of the summer.
Please note that those flowers (like all flowers) do contribute some pollen and floral scents to the air, so you may want to avoid having a room full of them. To maximize the plant’s air-cleansing potential, keep the foliage dust-free.
3. BAMBOO PALM
All palms are great air purifiers. The surface area of the leaves of palms extracts more carbon dioxide from the air as you breathe at night and returns oxygen to the room that they are in.
Since the bamboo palm, or reed palm, prefers part sun or shade, it makes a great houseplant with the added benefit of aiding in the removal of harmful elements such as benzene and formaldehyde.
For the greatest success, place it in a spot where it gets mild morning or afternoon sun. It also has normal watering requirements, just don’t overdo it.
4. SPIDER PLANT
For those of you who are houseplant newbies, the resilient spider plant is a perfect choice. It will quietly battle toxins including carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the printing and rubber industries. If you have pets, this is one of the few houseplants that are non-toxic to animals.
You can also repot the tiny ‘spiderettes’ and grow a whole family of plants that will pretty much take care of themselves… and you.
5. GERBERA DAISY
Arguably the prettiest entry on the list, the Gerbera Daisy is often used as a decorative element in gardening. However, the Gerbera Daisy is also distinct for its ability to produce high levels of oxygen at night while removing harmful chemicals, such as benzene and trichloroethylene. Beneficial for those suffering from sleep apnea and breathing disorders, keep this one on the nightstand for better sleep.
The Gerbera Daisy prefers bright sunlight during the summer, spring and fall, and indirect light during the winter. It needs to be watered regularly with the soil being kept moist. Due to the decorative nature of the flower, the amount of recommended flower pots is up to the discretion of the planter.
6. DRACEANA PLANT
There are more than 40 different kinds of Draceana plants, making it easy to find one that’s a perfect fit for your home or office. Pet owners might want to select a different plant, however, as these are toxic to cats and dogs when consumed.
Draceana plants often grow to three feet tall so they require larger pots and more space. They like to be misted rather than watered.
This plant doesn’t need much sunlight, making it the perfect indoor plant to have. It can remove harmful toxins in the environment while also providing oxygen to purify stagnant air.
7. GOLDEN POTHOS
Pothos is a low light lover that makes a good entry point into growing houseplants. It handles a wide range of conditions and still performs well. Ideally, it should have low to moderate light and should dry out between waterings.
It is a powerful plant for tackling formaldehyde. This fast-growing vine will create a cascade of green from a hanging basket. Consider it for your garage since car exhaust is filled with formaldehyde. It tolerates a lot of neglect and is forgiving when over-watered – It thrives when grown in hydroponics environment.
8. CHINESE EVERGREEN
The Chinese Evergreen is one of the most common household plants and for good reason. This plant emits a high oxygen content while purifying indoor spaces of harmful chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and other toxins. As its name suggests, it is quite popular in China specifically for its high efficiency in removing harmful pollutants from the air.
While this plant doesn’t need much sunlight, it does need regular doses of H2O, as it’s a tropical plant. Make sure to at least mist the ends with water if you notice them turning brown.
9. ELEPHANT EAR
This cool looking vining plant not only cleans the air, but can grow to be very large, with huge leaves. EE philos have average watering needs, and adapt extremely well to shady spots.
This plant works wonders at removing formaldehyde, especially at higher concentrations. Just keep them out of reach of young children as they are poisonous.
10. SNAKE PLANT
Plant otherwise known as the Mother-In-Law’s Tongue is unique for its nighttime oxygen production, and ability to purify air through the removal of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.
Not only are they one of the best houseplants for clean air, snake plants are also tough, and thrive on neglect. They grow well with minimal light and water, and love to be pot-bound.
11. RUBBER PLANT (FICUS)
While rubber plants (Ficus robusta) are grown as easy-care houseplants, they also improve indoor air quality. Their large leaves can absorb airborne chemicals and break them down, rendering them harmless. They absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and convert it to breathable oxygen. Rubber plants also eliminate bacteria and mold spores in the air.
Rubber plants are tolerant of neglect and so can be grown easily by those with little experience with plants. They should be allowed to dry out between watering.
These pretty blooms help to filter out a host of toxins including ammonia and benzene, which is often found in plastics, detergents, and glue.
This plant loves sunlight, so place it in a spot near a sunbathed window. You can brighten up your kitchen or living room with a chrysanthemum.
Why does indoor air quality matter?
Whether sleeping, binging Netflix, or working in an office, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And that time spent inside exposes us to indoor air pollution.
Causes of indoor air pollution
- dry-cleaned clothing
- synthetic building materials
- cleaning products
- outdoor pollution that enters
You probably don’t think of your coffee table as emitting gasses, but if it’s made of particleboard, it does. The paint on the walls and the upholstery on the furniture are just some of the other items in a home or office that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like formaldehyde.
Levels of VOCs are typically two to five times higher inside than outside. We’re all exposed to some amount of indoor air pollution, and it’s likely not causing issues. But, in some cases, when ventilation is bad, or for people who may be highly sensitive, it can make you feel sick. Headaches, nausea, and fatigue are some of the symptoms, and it’s sometimes called “sick building syndrome.”
Add a couple clean air houseplants to the rooms that you use the most, like your bedroom, living room, or office, and you’ll be breathing easier in no time. This list of my top picks for the best indoor plants that clean the air is a great place to start.