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10 Best Houseplants That Clean the Air in Your Home

The 10 best houseplants that can clean the air in your home and make it look nicer

Nature’s Air Purifiers

A plant's filter zone is approximately 100 square feet of indoor space per plantPlants 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.

Indoor air pollution - Sources for common contamination infographicWe 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. [1] 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

BenzeneInks, paints, dyes, oils, plastics, rubber, detergent, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, tobacco smoke and synthetic fibers

FormaldehydeDrapes, grocery bags, waxed paper, cigarette smoke, natural gas, coating products, foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products, adhesive binders in floor coverings and fire retardants

TrichloroethyleneAdhesives, 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

AmmoniaCleaning supplies

RadonRadon exposure (the second leading cause of lung cancer according to the American Lung Association) is found in the bedrock beneath a home and should be tested for

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

Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa' - A beautiful flowering plant with its unique blooms. This is a fairly easy plant to care for; it likes shade and only needs to be watered weekly. Filters: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene, toluene and ammonia

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’) – A beautiful flowering plant with unique blooms. An easy plant to care for, it likes shade and only needs to be watered weekly. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene, toluene and ammonia

#2 Florist’s Chrysanthemum

Also known as the Florist's Daisy, Florist's Chrysanthemum is a beautiful perennial with great filtering ability

Florist’s Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) – Also known as Florist’s Daisy and Hardy Garden Mum, is a beautiful perennial of the family Asteraceae. It requires monthly fertilization and watering 2-3 times a week. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene, toluene and ammonia

#3 Red-Edged Dracaena

Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena reflexa) - This native of Madagascar is an evergreen shrub with a mesmerizing irregular stem and elegant red edges. Filters: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene and toluene

Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena reflexa) – This native of Madagascar is an evergreen shrub with a mesmerizing irregular stem and elegant red edges. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene and toluene

#4 Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue is an evergreen perennial

Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) – Common nicknames for this perennial evergreen are Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Saint George’s Sword. It is known for it’s long, stiff green leaves with yellow highlights. This is a pretty hardy plant that doesn’t require a lot of light and can handle irregular watering. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene and toluene

#5 Golden Pothos / Devil’s Ivy

 

Devil's Ivey or Golden Pothos is a beautiful climbing vine that is great at detoxifying formaldehyde

Golden Pothos / Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) – A beautiful climbing vine that despite not liking a lot of sunlight stays bright and luscious green. It’s a great hanging plant as the vines will naturally grow downward. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorethyelene, xylene and toluene WARNING: Poisonous to pets and children

#6 Gerber Daisy / Barberton Daisy

Gerber Daisy is a bright flowering plant that requires a lot of sunlight and does a fantastic job at filtering trichloroethylene among others

Gerber Daisy / Barberton Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) – A stunning flowering plant whose bright blooms can be red, yellow, pink or orange. It requires more sunlight than the plants we’ve mentioned so far. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde and trichlorethyelene

#7 Broadleaf Lady Palm

The Braodleaf Lady Palm is a beautiful species of fan palm that's not very fussy in terms of care

Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) – This species of fan palm is a favorite for offices and malls because it requires little sunlight and humidity. It’s saw-toothed leaf-ends are a distinguishing feature. FILTERS: Formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia

#8 Lilyturf

Lilyturf is a grass-like evergreen that yields flowers

Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) – This detoxifier is an herbaceous, flowering evergreen that has a grass-like appearance. FILTERS: Formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia

#9 English Ivy

This common clinging vine is one of the best home air purifiers, being #1 at filtering formaldehyde

English Ivy (Hedera helix) – This evergreen clinging vine is none other than the common vine you see adorning old tutor cottages in England. It’s incredibly easy to grow, requires moderate sunlight and NASA considers it the BEST plant to filter formaldehyde. FILTERS: Benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene

#10 Flamingo Lily

Flamingo Lily is a beautiful flowering plant that is an excellent houseplant for removing common toxins from the air

Flamingo Lily (Anthurium andraeanum) – A breathtaking flowering plant that requires minimal light, moist soil, moderate temperature (60-72 F) and a weak fertilizer monthly. FILTERS: Formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia

More Resources on Plant Air Purification

Use of Living Pot-Plants to Cleanse Indoor Air – Research Review - Tarran, Torpy and Burchett

http://plantsolutions.com/documents/PlantsCleanseIndoorAir.pdf

Interior Plants: Their Influence on Airborne Microbes inside Energy-efficient Buildings - B.C. Wolverton and John D. Wolverton

http://www.wolvertonenvironmental.com/MsAcad-96.pdf

The impact of plants on the reduction of volatile organic compounds in a small space – Song, Kim and Sohn

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18174668

How Indoor Air Pollution Works – HowStuffWorks.com

http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/tips/indoor-air-pollution1.htm

Fantastic Book, Highly Esteemed Author

How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by B.C. WolvertonIf 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.

About Doctor Scott Health

Dr. Scott McLeod, PharmD is an independent researcher, health advocate and author living in Los Angeles, CA. For more information about Scott and Doctor Scott Health please visit the 'About' section, here.

2 comments

  1. Like the list of plants. You’re right on with the info. I knew some of these, but I haven’t heard a handful of these, off to go shopping!

    • Hi Jonas, I’m glad you found a few new plants you hadn’t heard of. There are so many great one’s to have in your home and they really add something to the overall atmosphere. Good luck with your shopping!

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