25 Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air
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25 Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air

Explains which houseplants are the best for cleaning indoors air and other simple ways to clean the indoor air.

All winter you have the house closed up and the furnace on. A good part of the summer you have the house closed up and the air conditioning on. When you think about it, not much fresh air gets through. And with today’s newer homes being built tighter to make them more energy-efficient, more indoor pollution gathers and doesn’t have a chance to escape or let fresh air in. This could lead to the sick building syndrome or you feeling sick all the time. There are specific types of houseplants you can easily grow to diminish indoor pollution plus other simple ways that can clean the air inside your home.

Some of the poisons and indoor pollution that are found in homes are benzene, formaldehyde, acetone, carbon tetra chloride, chloroform, dichlorobenzene, ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, trichloroethylene and xylene. More than 350 chemicals were found in the common home in a 1984 study. NASA has conducted studies with houseplants and indoor poisons. A more comprehensive study in 1990 by PCAC and Wolverton Environmental Services, Inc expanded on the NASA study and tested fifty houseplants for their ability to remove these various toxins and gases and clean the indoor air.

Formaldehyde might be the most common found in homes, it is in foam insulation, plywood, particle board, floor coverings, carpet backing, adhesive binders, tobacco smoke and most common household cleaning products to name a few. Benzene is found in tobacco smoke, gasoline, synthetic fibers, inks, oils, plastics and detergents. Trichloroethylene (TCE) is another commonly found poison in inks, paints, dry cleaning, varnishes and lacquers. Other toxins removed by listed plants are xylene, toluene and ammonia.

Houseplants by themselves can reduce and eliminate a certain amount of poisons, toxic gases and odors from your home. You can enhance the removal of these toxins by surrounding the roots of the houseplants with activated charcoal. According to the NASA study, the activated carbon or activated charcoal absorbs larger quantities of the toxins and poisons and retains them until the roots, soil and microorganisms degrade and assimilate these toxins.

You can put the activated charcoal on the top of the dirt and also at the bottom of the houseplant pots to attract the harmful toxins into the pots. One brand that I know that you can buy at the garden shop is called Hoffman horticultural charcoal. This also keeps the soil fresh in each houseplant pot.

Over watering houseplants can have a negative effect if the soil starts to get moldy. This can cause allergies in the home. Water when the houseplant is dry down to 1” to 2” or you can buy a water meter for houseplants.

Where should you put the houseplants

Plants can look nice almost anywhere and you should put them anywhere, but there is an area called your personal living area. This is an area where you spend most of your time, sitting at the computer, sleeping or on the couch or chair reading or watching TV. Your personal breathing zone is an area of 6 to 8 cubic feet (0.17 to 0.23 cu. m.). Put at least a couple of plants in this zone.

At the bottom of the article I listed the most efficient plants for reducing toxins.

Other ways to clean indoor air

To get rid of odors including cigarette smoke, you can leave a couple bowls of white vinegar or activated charcoal sitting out. Both will do a nice job of getting rid of odors. You can put baking soda on carpet and furniture and let it sit before vacuuming.

Note: I will add this as a warning, some people, including myself, are very allergic to products like Carpet Fresh, so be careful when using products like this. In fact so allergic it put me in the emergency room one night with breathing problems. It is best to use baking soda.

Use ventilation fans occasionally, most homes have at least one ventilation fan. Turn it on once in awhile and cause the air to circulate, this will dilute the accumulated toxins in the indoor air.

Use a HEPA vacuum. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air filter.

When changing filters in your air conditioner or furnace, look for a filter with a high MERV rating, which stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. This is the industry rating system that measures the ability of the filter to trap particles.

This last method of cleaning your house isn’t simple nor can you do it yourself, but having the ducts in your house cleaned professionally can remove many allergens and accumulated dust.

These are the top 25 houseplants listed in order of their ability to remove the most toxins and poisonous gases:

Corn plant (Dracaena massangeana)

Dumb cane (Camilla)

Dumb cane (Exotica)

Peace lily

Peach lily


Dendrobium orchid

Gerbera daisy

King of hearts

Lady Jane

Weeping fig

Areca palm


Bamboo palm

Dragon tree

Dwarf date palm

English ivy

Florist’s mum

Janet Craig

Kimberly queen fern

Lady palm

Lily turf

Parlor palm

Peacock plant


Other houseplants are; Aloe vera, Arrowhead vine, Boston fern, Chinese evergreen, Christmas cactus, Chrysanthemum, Dracaena marginata, Ficus alii, Golden pathos, Heart leaf philodendron, Lacy tree philodendron, Marginata, Moth orchid, Mother-in-law tongue, Mums, Prayer plant, Red emerald philodendron, Rubber plant, Schefflera, Spider plant, Wax begonia

© 2009 Sam Montana


NASA paper

How to grow fresh air: 50 houseplants that purify your home or office by B. C. Wolverton

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Comments (11)

Thanks, Sam - now I know what plants to look for when I get lost wandering the aisles of my local nursery. Great article for those of us aroma-sensitives.

Ranked #23 in Healthy Living

The philodendron is easy to grow. Spider plants can be aggravating. They are easy and then they can turn yellow especially when it’s really hot in the summer. Christmas cactus is a nice plant just don’t over-water it. The one thing I have never tried before and I will now is to use the activated charcoal in the plants.

Ranked #39 in Healthy Living

Excellent details, i have always loved plants and indoor gardening..

Palm Houseplants

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Catherine Foley

What are some houseplants to avoid?

Ranked #23 in Healthy Living

Plants to avoid for what reason? There are many plants that are dangerous to dogs or cats. Some of them are on the list of plants in this article, corn plant for one. Here is web site that lists many plants that are dangerous to dogs. http://www.dogpack.com/health/poisonplants.htm

Wonderful article and research. Thank you.

Its really worying just how many chemicals your home can contain! I love peace lilies and have one in the house :D Excellent article, Sam. Hope you're much better now and will pass on the message re carpet fresh (never used it myself but the adverst still in my mind!). Buzzed up!

Thank you for the information. It was very helpful

Ranked #62 in Healthy Living

I believe that all houseplants have the ability to naturally clean the indoor air. Basically, these plants absorbs carbon dioxide and exchange it with oxygen which is a healthy air for humans to breathe. Thank you for making us learn by reading your informative article. Keep it up!

These are great lists to choose for. Different plants have different abilities to clean up different toxic substances. The indoor air quality of your house is essential to your health. With these houseplants, you can filter the air without dumping large sums of money into electronic air screens.