Nature’s Air Purifiers
Plants are an excellent idea to have in your home. They have been demonstrated in studies to reduce stress and add an element of relaxation. Houseplants also provide a positive ambiance and can help add a decorative flourish to help fill in those “lonely” areas in your home that could use a little “extra something.”
Plants not only transform carbon dioxide into clean, freshly oxygenated air but some plants also have demonstrated the ability to filter out common toxic chemicals that float around our homes like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia.
Indoor Air Quality and Health
We usually think indoor air is clean but the truth is that indoor air is typically far more toxic than outside air. It’s stagnant, provides reservoirs for microorganisms to flourish and contains items created with toxic chemicals. Even with quality air filtration and optimal environmental conditions within your home, you can have a toxic buildup of dangerous compounds and your health can suffer because of it. The American Lung Association provides good information on indoor air quality to help identify and mitigate this serious threat.
We underestimate the pollutants and toxins we have circulating in our household air. From harsh cleaning chemicals to cooking byproducts, there’s a lot of harmful stuff floating around the house. We can’t forget about toxins of a biological nature either; mold, mildew, bacteria, viruses, pollen and animal dander also pose a grave threat to our health. The EPA has provided a resource to reducing exposure to biological contaminants.
NASA Study Provides List of Detoxifying Plants
In the late 1980’s, NASA, conducted a study to determine the ability of certain plants to filter out common contaminants found in space vehicles / structures.  Other studies have been conducted since then that contribute to this information. These same airborne contaminants are also in our homes.
Some plants are better than others at removing these toxins from the air. Wikipedia actually has a fantastic table that illustrates a comprehensive list of plants and their ability to filter out various toxins, all based on the peer-reviewed published studies I just alluded to. They also include whether each plant is safe for your pets or children if they happened to ingest the plant.
Household Chemical Contaminants & Their Sources
Benzene – Inks, paints, dyes, oils, plastics, rubber, detergent, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, tobacco smoke and synthetic fibers
Formaldehyde – Drapes, grocery bags, waxed paper, cigarette smoke, natural gas, coating products, foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products, adhesive binders in floor coverings and fire retardants
Trichloroethylene – Adhesives, spot removers, printing inks, paints, lacquers and varnishes
Xylene – Paints, lacquers, adhesives, rust preventers, thinners, gasoline and permanent magic markers
Toluene – Gasoline, paints, coatings, synthetic fragrances, adhesives, inks and cleaning agents
Ammonia – Cleaning supplies
Luckily, we live in a remarkable time where we have achieved enough of an understanding of our world to not only identify toxic substances in our environment but also research plants that can remove them. Here is my list of the 10 best houseplants that can clean the air in your home.
The 10 Best Air Detoxifying Houseplants
#1 Peace Lily
#2 Florist’s Chrysanthemum
#3 Red-Edged Dracaena
#4 Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
#5 Golden Pothos / Devil’s Ivy
#6 Gerber Daisy / Barberton Daisy
#7 Broadleaf Lady Palm
#9 English Ivy
#10 Flamingo Lily
More Resources on Plant Air Purification
Use of Living Pot-Plants to Cleanse Indoor Air – Research Review – Tarran, Torpy and Burchett
Interior Plants: Their Influence on Airborne Microbes inside Energy-efficient Buildings – B.C. Wolverton and John D. Wolverton
The impact of plants on the reduction of volatile organic compounds in a small space – Song, Kim and Sohn
How Indoor Air Pollution Works – HowStuffWorks.com
Fantastic Book, Highly Esteemed Author
If you want to dig more into this house plant business you might want a guide that teaches you how to take care of these little biological air purifiers. How to Grow Fresh Air – 50 House Plants That Purify Your Home or Office was written by B.C. Wolverton, the same guy who did the original NASA research on house plants removing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) referenced in this article. The book is great and even has each plant rated for effectiveness at removing VOCs. He explains how to nurture and take care of these plants.
Some of these plants are fussier than others; there are little tips and tricks to keep your plants flourishing. You should be able to find everything you need on the internet but sometimes its nice to have a quality resource like this that has everything you need all in one package.