11 Best Air Purifying Plants For A Clean House

Can plants really make a difference in the fight against air pollution? 

As early as 1989, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) together with the ALCA (Associated Landscape Contractors of America) did a Clean Air Study.

Their goal was to discover the best ways to clean the space station air. The research demonstrated that a group of houseplants naturally clean the air of some toxins. In fact, formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and trichloroethylene were studied.

While it’s really not necessary to sing the praises of houseplants, their beauty alone suffices. There are plants that have hidden talents, such as detoxifying the air in their environment. Some of these plants are especially appealing because they are easy-care, low-maintenance plants.

By adopting one, you get color, beauty, vibrancy, and cleaner air all rolled into one. And even if you think you have a brown thumb, there is an air cleaning plant in this group just for you.

Here are the best air purifying plants for your home. Many are popular houseplants already.

Best Air Purifying Plants

1. Aloe Vera

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Aloe vera is a beautiful houseplant known for the watery gel in its leaves. The gel has healing qualities for burns and insect bites, with both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Even while it does all that, it also purifies the air. It is recommended for kitchens to absorb benzene, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde, a common ingredient in dishwashing liquids and detergents.

As a succulent, aloe vera prefers a bright, sunny spot. But be careful that its fleshy leaves aren’t burned by direct sun exposure. Unfortunately, it is toxic to pets, so you’ll want to be careful where you place it if you have pets. 

Read the Aloe Vera Plant Care Guide

2. Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata)

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Ranking 9th in the top ten in NASA’s Clean Air Study, the Boston Fern was noted for its capability to clean the air of formaldehyde. This toxin is present as an ingredient in numerous household products, including detergents and adhesives.

Formaldehyde can also be found in cosmetic products and is produced by smoking. So, if you haven’t quit yet, you might want to invest in a Boston Fern. It filters formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene.

This plant loves humidity and does exceptionally well when located in bathrooms, helping to clean the air of other harmful pollutants. 

Read the Guide to Caring for the Boston Fern.

3. Bromeliad Plant

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Recently, the State University Of New York Oswego chemists found that bromeliads can remove as much as 80 percent of volatile organic compounds from environmental air within twelve hours.

An exotic-looking houseplant, the bromeliad easily adapts to different environmental conditions. The bromeliad likes humidity, so a bathroom or kitchen location makes for a good option.

They offer both color and texture to your indoor decor. Blooms are quite showy, and they feature gorgeous foliage with long leaves in green, red, yellow, orange, and even purple and patterned.

Bromeliads are drought-tolerant, so if you leave for the week, your plant will be healthy and waiting for your return.

Read the Bromeliad Plant Care Guide.

4. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

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Happy with any type of environmental light, this is a forgiving, easy-care plant if you have tendencies to overwater. The Aglaonema or Chinese Evergreen plant can survive in a variety of indoor spaces and is a favorite indoor houseplant.

Native to Asia, it grows naturally in rain forests close to the ground and prefers indirect light, as opposed to direct sunlight. If you have a south-facing window, this plant will thrive there.

The Chinese Evergreen also loves humidity, so a bathroom or kitchen perch is ideal, or you can mist.  It filters formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and carbon monoxide.

Be careful with this plant if you have pets, because it’s toxic to both dogs and cats.

Read the Chinese Evergreen Complete Guide.

5. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

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The dragon tree is a striking indoor plant resembles a miniature palm tree. The Dracaena marginata is a houseplant that can adapt to various light levels and still thrive. It is better off when not subject to direct sun exposure.

The dragon tree is drought tolerant, so if you forget to water, don’t worry. It’s a great house plant for beginner gardeners. 

It’s good at clearing the air of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. Unfortunately, it is toxic for house pets.

Learn more in the Dragon Tree Care Guide.

6. English Ivy (Hedera Helix) 

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The English Ivy which covers walls, buildings, and trees, will also do well when cultivated indoors. This plant gave its name to the Ivy League colleges. This plant is known to remove mold and other common pollutants from the air, making it ideal for people suffering from asthma or allergies. 

With its lush hanging vines and light airy appearance, vines can grow to 50 feet or longer. The vines are filled with green, heart-shaped leaves, often in variegated patterns. To cultivate ivy indoors, know that it prefers cool evenings and humidity.

Ideally, this climbing should be given something to latch onto or grown in hanging baskets where it can trail. Ivy will thrive in various levels of light, and both partial and full shade. But it can use direct sunlight for 4-6 hours a day.

Ivy is a good indoor air purifier as it filters formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene. Unfortunately, it’s toxic for family pets.

Read more in the Complete Ivy Plant Care Guide.

7. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

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The groundbreaking NASA clean air study found that the Peace Lily plant is a highly effective plant at breaking down harmful toxins and gases like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene.

The fact that it is also beautiful with elegant, long-stemmed white blooms doesn’t hurt either, as it adds to any room’s decor.

The peace lily likes indirect light and plenty of water. If it’s thirsty, the leaves will droop to let you know that it’s time for watering. As long as you remember to keep the soil moist, it’ll help with keeping harmful chemicals out of the air. 

Toxic for both cats and dogs, so keep your peace lily out of their reach.

Read more on How to Care for Peace Lily Plants.

8. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

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The Golden Pothos also referred to as “devil’s ivy” is one of the easiest air cleaning plants to care for. It calls the tropical forest its home, but lives and flourishes happily inside all types of homes.

This is perhaps the easiest indoor plant to take care of successfully. The pothos will flourish all year long with good care. It can thrive in low light and does not require a great deal of attention.

Featuring jungle vines that fill up with vibrant green heart-shaped leaves, it adds color and decoration. Most will be variegated, although some versions may have solid green leaves.

These are great indoor air cleaners with their removal of pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene. But it is toxic for dogs and cats if ingested.

Learn more with the Complete Pothos Plant Care Guide.

9. Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)

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A non-toxic houseplant for dogs and cats, the Ficus elastica is a stunning plant for any location. They have good-looking oversized waxy leaves in a dark green tint.

The ficus loves indirect, bright light. It will need weekly watering as it likes moist soil during the growing season. No need to water excessively or its leaves will drop with overwatering.

This plant has an imposing presence and indoor versions can grow from six to ten feet tall. With large leaves, it will be removing quite a bit of air pollutants like carbon dioxide from its corner.

Read more about How to Care for Ficus Plants.

10. Snake Plant – Variegated San Seviera (Dracaena trifasciata laurenti)

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The Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law Tongue is one of the absolutely easiest plants to grow indoors. It has a sculptural aesthetic quality that doesn’t take up a great amount of space as it grows upward instead of outward.

This is a drought-tolerant, hardy plant that thrives in bright or low light conditions, making it ideal for any home. It does boast a particular talent that makes it the perfect plant for a bedroom perch. The snake plant is one of few plants that continues to release oxygen at night into the air.

Known to filter formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene, what’s not to love about this plant! It is toxic to both cats and dogs, should they decide to chew on it.

Read more at the Snake Plant Care Guide.

11. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

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The Spider Plant has nothing to do with spiders is named for its long wiry leaves and stems. Originally from South Africa, it is an incredibly popular and sturdy plant that will prosper in all conditions.

Slender, arching leaves will grow longish stems and small plantlets. Each spiderette (baby spider plant) will grow its own roots. Spider plants are generally cultivated as hanging plants for their cascading leaves. Perfect on shelves, atop furniture, or in a window that receives indirect sunlight will give you a happy thriving plant.

The curly spindly spider plant brightens up any location. It is an easy plant to cultivate indoors as it requires less watering than other plants. It grows in artificial light, as well as natural light. Its toxin-removing talent does well against formaldehyde and ethyl benzene. This is a pet-friendly plant that is non-toxic.

Learn more at the Spider Plant Care Guide.

What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?

Compounds denominated as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are released from a variety of substances and objects, including chemicals, detergents, furnishings, and paints. These common household toxins can adversely affect our health. Bacteria and fungal, mold spores also add to increased pollution indoors.

With continuing indoor air pollution, your home can fall victim to SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) causing numerous unhealthy symptoms like headaches, inflammation, soreness, fatigue, and irritability.

Opening windows and doors for good ventilation will combat indoor pollution. But if you live in a cold climate with harsher climate conditions, this will not be a year-round solution.

Indoor air pollution can come from chemicals, furniture, building materials, any number of products, and even the family dog or cat. Most of the time, these pollutants are only irritants, but in some cases, they can do serious harm. Even the fire in your fireplace can release harmful elements into the air through combustion.

Some pollutants will be the result of natural environmental conditions, such as mold or bacteria. These pollutants may cause short term health problems, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritation to the eyes
  • Nose irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Runny nose
  • Head cold
  • Asthma-like reaction

The last 3 symptoms are similar to a common cold, which can make it difficult to identify the problem as indoor pollution.

Long-term exposure to pollutants can cause more serious health problems like heart or respiratory problems, and even cancer.

Some common causes of indoor pollution include:

  • Air fresheners
  • Carpets
  • Chemicals in shampoo, soap, deodorant, or lotion
  • Cleaning products and disinfectants
  • Dampness or high humidity leading to mold
  • Furnaces, fireplaces, and air conditioning
  • Furniture
  • Gas stoves
  • Glues, markers, arts and craft paints, polymer clays
  • Nonstick pans or pots
  • Paint
  • Pesticides
  • Pet dander
  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Naturally released radon

The best solution is to look for eco-friendly products, ventilate as much as possible, and a houseplant or two certainly won’t hurt. Houseplants can bring health benefits to you and those around them.

How Do Plants Purify the Air?

During photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to feed themselves, they absorb carbon dioxide present in the environmental air and convert it into oxygen.

Humans breathe in air and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants, on the contrary, absorb water, light, and carbon dioxide to manufacture food. Oxygen is created as a byproduct of this chemical process. Therefore, we need plants to survive. While air filtration systems do a phenomenal job of cleaning the air, they do not create or manufacture oxygen.

NASA’s landmark study specifically examined if and how houseplants diffuse toxic chemicals found in the environmental air. This study was done because space travel employed closed-in spaces for astronauts, but the results were far-reaching and went beyond space.

Plants also produce their own phytochemicals that protect them from disease, pests, and microbes that can harm them. Phytoremediation is used by plants to mitigate air, water, and soil pollution. 

Indoor plants will emit phytochemicals and water vapor to move the surrounding air and then pull environmental air toxins into leaves, stems, and roots in a process called stomata. 

Best Air Purifying Houseplants Final Thoughts

There are many benefits associated with having an indoor plant. They purify the air, reduce stress levels, improve moods, increase productivity, lower blood pressure, help you sleep better at night, and provide beauty all year round.

Many houseplant newbies look for ornamental plants to beautify their houses. What’s better than to get air cleaning indoor plants that look great and will also remove airborne toxins. 

Other plants that you can look at that are beneficial for the air include the Bamboo Palm, Kimberly Queen Fern, Lady Palms, Flamingo Lily, Barberton Daisy, Areca Palms, and a number of others. 

Other articles to learn more about houseplants:

Air Purifying Houseplant FAQs

What houseplants are best for cleaning the air?

According to the NASA study, the Boston Fern is one of the best, although it is not the easiest plant to grow indoors. The Golden Pothos Plant is also highly recommended because it is an easy to grow houseplant.

Which plant purifies the air the most?

Rather than purify, think about which plants produce the most oxygen, and especially those that can do so around the clock. The Aloe Vera and the Snake Plant are two houseplants that work through the night to keep the oxygen flowing.

How many plants are needed to purify the air in a room?

The lead scientist on NASA’s study, reports “it’s impossible to guess how many plants might be needed to clean a room of contaminants.” But he suggests two “good-sized” plants for one hundred square feet of space indoors.

What air purifying plants are safe for cats?

The Spider Plant is a good choice according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The spider plant is non-toxic for cats and dogs. Other pet-friendly houseplants are the Boston Fern, the Bromeliad, and the Rubber plant are all friendly to our feline family members.

What air purifying plants are safe for dogs?

The same non-toxic air purifying plants for cats are also non-toxic for dogs. So, the Spider plant, Boston Fern, Bromeliad, and rubber plant will purify your air while keeping your dog safe from harm.