Types of Houseplants To Clean Indoor Air
Why invest in expensive electrical air purifiers when you could purchase a few types of houseplants to clean and filter the air naturally and inexpensively?
Much of the research on these beneficial houseplants has been done by NASA scientists researching ways to create suitable space station habitats. All indoors plants (flowering or not) are able to purify indoor air to some degree through their normal photosynthesis processes. But some were found to be more beneficial than others in removing harmful household toxins, even removing 90% of chemicals in the air in only twenty-four hours!
The three main household toxins of concern are:
These carcinogenic chemicals are used in the manufacturing of synthetic substances and materials and are off-gased from new materials for some time (up to several years, depending on the material of product in question). Benzene can also be emitted from gas ranges during use, making some types of houseplants below great for use in the kitchen.
This means these types of houseplants may just decrease your risk of cancers, asthma, allergies, auto-immune disorders and other diseases.
Tips for Choosing and Caring for Your Plants
Below you'll find the common name and botanical name of each plant, its benefit to you and your home and a few ideas of the type of care it needs.
Along with a corresponding photo and the following tips, you can decide which plant is best for your home.
- Choose one 10- to 12-inch potted plant per 100 square foot of your home for the most effective air purification.
- Cross-reference several care guides to check for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
- Because common names can very, be sure to cross-reference the botanical name of any plant you get to ensure it will do the job you need it to do.
- Consider where you might place your plants and the amount of sun they will receive to ensure your plant will thrive in that area.
- Make note of the water needed and write it on a calendar so that you can keep the watering schedules balanced.
- Periodically dust the leaves of each plant with a damp cloth to ensure proper absorption of air particles and toxins.
- Keep their soil replenished with rich compost or compost tea. Avoid non-organic or synthetic fertilizers.
- Whenever possible, capture rainwater for your plants. All types of houseplants thrive best with natural sources of water.
IMPORTANT: Please note that these houseplants are good for purifying air, but that doesn't mean they are safe for pets or kids who like to put things in their mouth. Check out this list for more details, read the descriptions of each plant, and do some research on any plant you bring into your home.
Nineteen Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air
The following list of beneficial types of houseplants should get you started in finding the right plants for your home.
Common Name: Aloe Vera
Botanical Name: Aloe barbadensis
Benefits: Not only can it be used for burns on the skin, it is also known to remove formaldahyde from the air.
Notes: Needs well-drained soil with slight drying between waterings, full sun is best with protection from high heats. Although largely known for its healing properties, it is considered to be an irritant to some.
Common Name: Areca Palm
Botanical Name: Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
Benefits: General air purifier, especially as it grows larger. It's known for being one of the better performers in purifying the air.
Notes: Moderately drought tolerant and prefers partial sun and well-drained soil.
Common Name: Baby Rubber Plant
Botanical Name: Peperomia obtusifolia or Ficus robusta
Benefits: These houseplants clean the air by emitting high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde or other toxins.
Notes: Likes filtered light, infrequent watering and rich soil. I've found conflicting information as to whether or not this plant contains any poisonous parts.
Common Name: Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm
Botanical Name: Chamaedorea seifrizii
Benefits: According to NASA, it removes formaldahyde and is also said to act as a natural humidifier.
Notes: Likes bright, indirect light and prefers to remain moist but not too much and doesn't like sitting in water.
Common Name: Boston Fern
Botanical Name: Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis
Benefits: Said to act as a natural air humidifier, removes formaldahyde and is a general air purifier. Said to be among the best in air purifying houseplants.
Notes: Likes bright light and damp soil but can be tolerant of drought or partial light.
Common Name: Chinese Evergreen
Botanical Name: Aglaonema sp.
Benefits: Emits high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde, benzene or other toxins.
Notes: Does well with full shade and good draining; variegated plants need more sunlight. The sap of this plant is considered poisonous and is an irritant.
Common Name: Corn Cane or Mass Cane
Botanical Name: Dracaena massangeana or dracaena fragrans Massangeana
Benefits: Known for removing formaldahyde and known generally as one of the houseplants that clean the air.
Notes: Does great with low light and low water.
Common Name: Dwarf/Pygmy Date Palm
Botanical Name: Phoenix roebelenii
Benefits: Said to remove formaldehyde and xylene (a chemical found in plastics and solvents) from the air.
Notes: Loves lots of sun, moist soil and warm water.
Common Name: English Ivy
Botanical Name: Hedera helix
Benefits: It's known for removing the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, detergents, pesticides, and the off-gasing of other synthetic materials, is said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies and also removes formaldehyde.
Notes: Can be invasive, making it great for a potted plant.
Common Name: Ficus alii
Botanical Name: Ficus maeleilandii alii
Benefits: Said to be a great overall air purifier.
Notes: These types of houseplants love indirect sunlight; be careful not to overwater. Those with allergies to latex may react to this plant!
Common Name: Gerbera Daisy
Botanical Name: Gerbera sp. or Gerbera jamesonii
Benefits: NASA says this plant is fantastic at removing benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical. It also absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep!
Notes: Likes bright light
Common Name: Golden Pothos
Botanical Name: Epipremnum aureum syn. Scindapsus aureus
Benefits: NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldhyde. Also known for removing carbon monoxide and increasing general indoor air quality.
Notes: Needs less water in colder temps and partial sun.
Common Name: Janet Craig
Botanical Name: Draecana deremensis
Benefits: Lady Palm is said to be a good overall air purifier, removing most air pollutants.
Notes: Prefers indirect sunlight, and watering without fertilizers.
Common Name: Kimberly Queen Fern
Botanical Name: Nephrolepis obliterata
Benefits: These types of houseplants clean formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene out of your home.
Notes: Prefers bright but indirect sunlight, with dry soil between waterings (but not dry for too long).
Common Name: Lady Palm (plus 10+ varieties)
Botanical Name: Rhapis Excelsa
Benefits: These types of houseplants are said to be a good overall air purifier, removing most air pollutants.
Notes: Prefers partial sun all day and shade in the winter, with more frequent water in hotter months, but never allow to sit in water or be overwatered.
Common Name: Marginata or Dragon tree
Botanical Name: Dracaena marginata
Benefits: Known for purifying the air of the carcinogen, benzene, commonly found in the off-gasing of synthetic materials, ciagerette smoke and other household chemicals. Also known for removing formaldahyde, xylene (found in varnishes, paints and paint thinners) and trichloroethylene (found in solvents) from the air.
Notes: It requires little attention, tolerates dry soil and irregular watering and prefers no direct sunlight. It is, however, susceptible to fluoride toxicity (so fluoridated water sources may need to be avoided).
Common Name: Moth Orchid
Botanical Name: Phalaenopsis
Benefits: Said to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldahyde commonly off-gased from paints, solvents and other synthetic materials.
Notes: Thrives in high humidity, lots of light (but not hot, mid-day sun) and thorough waterings with, unlike many types of houseplants, almost complete drying out between.
Common Name: Mums
Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum sp. or Chrysanthemum morifolium
Benefits: Very effective at removing benzene, a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) associated with most chemicals, plastics, cigarettes and off-gasing. Also removes trichloroethylene (found in solvets and cleaners), formaldehyde and ammonia.
Notes: Likes partial sun, and lots of water. Although they're among the houseplants that clean the air, they only flower once and are generally annual plants, especially when planted outdoors.
Common Name: Peace Lily
Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum sp.
Benefits: Known for removing benzene, a common household chemical and known carcinogen. It's also said to remove mold spores in the air, making it great for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms; purifying the air of trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents; and removing alcohols, acetone, and formaldehyde.
Notes: Easy to care for, it prefers lots of water, less often and bright, indirect light.
Common Name: Philodendron
Botanical Name: P. cordatum, P.scandens or P. selloum
Benefits: Also noted by NASA among the best tyoes of houseplants for removing formaldahyde, especially higher concentrations.
Notes: Philodendrons are considered poisonous, so keep out of the reach of children and pets.
Common Name: Snake Plant
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Benefits: Found by NASA to absorb toxins, such as nitrogen oxides and formaldahyde.
Notes: It tolerates low light levels and irregular watering (and needs only a few waterings throughout winter).
Common Name: Schefflera, or Umbrella Tree
Botanical Name: Brassaia actinophylla
Benefits: Said to remove benzene (a carcinogenic substance) from the air.
Notes: Can be toxic to pets and children. Prfers bright but indirect sun and lots of water and humidity.
Common Name: Spider Plant
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum
Benefits: NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants that are great at removing formaldahyde. Also removes carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities.
Notes: Likes bright, indirect light and lots of water while growing.
Common Name: Warneckii or Dracanaena warneckei
Botanical Name: Dracaena deremeusis or Dracanea deremensis warneckei
Benefits: Known for removing trichloroethylene, a chemical found in many solvents, dry cleaning solutions and refrigerants. Also said to remove benzene, a carcinogene.
Notes: Moderate sun and water needs, but, like most types of houseplants, dislikes sitting in water. Avoid fluoridated water sources.
Common Name: Weeping Fig or Ficus Tree
Botanical Name: Ficus benjamina
Benefits: Known to remove common airborn toxins and increase oxygen levels.
Notes: Prefers bright light and sun, but is also shade-tolerant. Moderate water needs for these types of houseplants.
I live in an apartment on the 2nd floor. The people below me smoke. It comes through the air vents (I think) in the bedroom and bedroom bathroom. The bathroom gets absolutely no light. The bedroom has a large window facing southeast but also gets late afternoon sun. What kind of plants might survive in the dark shower/toilet area? What plants for very indirect lighting in the sink and dressing area? What plants for the bedroom? (For the moment I have open baking soda containers in each area.) Thank you so very much. - Susan S.
Hi Susan! I'm so sorry to hear about this. What a yucky situation. All plants need at least some light, but from my own personal experience the plant that has been the best for us has been Philodendron (a pic of which can be found above). We've had it in some really low light situations and it still lived (although didn't thrive until it gone a little more light). What you might find necessary though is to take your plants and outdoors for a few hours or place it in a full sun window, doing either 1-2x a week.
If that doesn't work it may well be worth it in this scenario to invest in an air purifier (or even a grow light for hydroponic plants that you can use a coupe hours a day, perhaps on a timer). I'd also highly recommend looking into local laws as I do believe that the apartment management may be liable by law to better seal the vents or air exchange between apartments for this reason. I hope this helps! Good luck!
Here is some more reader feedback that may help you too:
I did some extensive research and problem-solving on that topic a few years ago. Smokers tend to be in denial that it’s even possible for smoke to go through a wall. The wall, however, is so receptive to the smoke that it’s near impossible to plug every avenue of entry. I have often wanted to get the word out about this. Many people suffer with this problem...sometimes the smoke is getting into their children’s bedrooms, it’s very sad. People go so far as to move to escape it (only to run into it again). The trick then is not to make enemies of your neighbors, nor to fight a losing battle with the wall.
The trick is to create a slight draft that sucks the smoke into a small air filter. Air flows much like water does and takes the path of least resistance. A small draft into the air filter will prevent it from wandering through the other available cracks and holes in the wall...much more effective that trying to find and plug up every possible opportunity the smoke can have. My shared wall was a kitchen wall and had lots of opportunities for the smoke to get in what with the plumbing and all that. I had an outlet under my sink and I placed a small air filter in that cabinet, turned it on, and never smelled any smoke again until it was time to change the filter about 2 months later. It’s important to put the air filter on the shared wall or as close to it as possible so the smoke enters the filter before it has a chance to waft around under your nose.
The air filter I used is this one. The appliance is small and only $15. A small price to pay for breathable air.
Looking for more ways to purify the air?
Sometimes we need a little boost in the air. Maybe the flu is going around, or you've recently painted and you want to purify the air.
Essential oils have been shown to remove odors from the air, as well as protect against environmental threats. Popular oils for air quality commonly include lemon, lime, pine, citronella, melaleuca, cilantro, and other oils.
Essential oils can be easily diffused to make them airborne. You can also add it to homemade cleaning products, washing machines, or create a room spray with distilled water.