Indoor Plants That Clean the Air and Remove Toxins

Air purifying houseplants on window sill

As people become more concerned about our impact on the environment, more scientists are delving into the effects of air quality on our health. And one of the most disturbing revelations of all is that we can’t simply hide indoors from bad air.

According to the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA), we spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, where the level of pollutants can be as much as five times higher than those found outdoors.  

Along with contaminants like mold and allergens like pet dander, we also need to cope with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the products we use and from the materials we use to build and decorate our homes.

VOCs are emitted from everything from air fresheners to cleaning products. Long-term sources of these toxic gases include carpets, upholstery, and paints.

spraying air freshener at home

Science Provides Answers to VOCs

Nearly everyone knows that plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. But in 1989, scientists at NASA discovered that some plants can do so much more.

According to the original report, “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement,” many common household plants can remove chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air. And who knows more about the importance of keeping indoor air clean and safe than NASA?

Since that time, further studies have shown that they can also remove other dangerous substances and gases from our air, like xylene, ammonia, and methylbenzene.

potted green indoor plants

How to Choose Plants for Cleaning Indoor Air

Before shopping for new plants for improving your home air quality, keep the following in mind:

Some plants might look perfect with your décor, but make sure that you consider their needs as well as their appearance.

Consider the safety of your pets and any small children that can be harmed.

Think about the light levels in your home or consider purchasing an LED grow light to keep them healthy.

Look for plants that can handle the drier air of bedrooms and living rooms, but don’t forget that moisture loving plants do well in bathrooms. 

Almost all flowering plants will require some type of artificial light to bloom.

modern bathroom interior with green plants

The 3 Safest and Best Indoor Plants for Clean Air

While we think adding any kind of plant to your indoor space is sure to spruce it up, these are plants that have been scientifically proven to remove toxic chemicals from your home. Best of all, all three are non-toxic to your pets.

  1. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
    picture of bamboo palm

    These dramatic houseplants will give any room a tropical feel. Their feathery foliage is light and delicate, but it still helps remove benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from your air. Use it wherever you have furnishings and fixtures that have been varnished or painted, as well as in rooms with carpeting and upholstery.

    Bamboo palms need bright light and steady watering. They’re subject to spider mites, but you can remove them with a soapy water spray.

  2. Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
    picture of gerber daisy

    These flowers from South Africa can clean your air while adding pops of color throughout your home. They come in a wide range of colors to match any preference, from red to cream to pink to purple. These flowers can also absorb VOCs from paints and carpeting.

    Although you may usually see them outdoors in flower gardens, they’re also easy to grow indoors with plenty of light and a little care. LED grow lights are perfect for Gerber Daisies, because while they need a lot of light to bloom, they can be sensitive to too much heat.

    Allow your Gerber Daisy to dry out a little between watering and fertilize weekly when it’s in bloom. Don’t over water your plant, because they’re susceptible to fungal disease.

  3. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
    picture of boston fern

    Boston ferns add a bit of charm to any room, and they can remove formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene from your indoor air. This makes them perfect for kitchens and bathrooms, plus they like a little moisture in the air.

    They also prefer a bit of cool air, so don’t place them too close to heat-generating appliances. They prefer bright, indirect light, so they do well under cooler LED lamps rather than on hot windowsills. Mist them regularly or place them on a tray of pebbles with a little water to keep them moist.

    Boston Ferns don’t need a lot of fertilizer, but they can get spider mites and mealy bugs. Luckily, you can wash them off with the soft spray in your sink or shower.

Caring for Indoor Plants

Houseplants are trouble-free if you do a cursory check on them once a week. Check the foliage for any parched or scorched marks that may mean they’re too close to a window. Look for any insects or disease and treat immediately. And finally, make sure they’re staying moist but not swamped. Too much water can be worse than too little.

By adding beauty to your home and cleaning your air of toxic chemicals, you’ll find that the benefit of adding houseplants to your home far outweighs their small requirements.