9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air

For our first Valentine’s Day, my husband brought home two dozen long-stemmed red roses. I told him he wasted money on a cliche that would be dead in a week.

The next year, he came home with a verdant houseplant. I told him how the peace lily would scrub our indoor air for years to come.

I’ve been fascinated by houseplants and their health benefits ever since I stumbled across landmark research conducted by NASA in the 1980s. It documented the ability of particular houseplants to remove harmful substances such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from indoor air.

Such substances, collectively known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are emitted by synthetic materials, NASA explains. So, VOCs plague the air of sealed space stations and energy-efficient homes alike.

The main scientist behind NASA’s research, B.C. Wolverton, went on to conduct further studies and write books like “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office,” a personal favorite.

Other researchers have since corroborated and expanded on Wolverton’s findings. It turns out houseplants also can do everything from reduce the accumulation of dust to improve productivity.

The following houseplants are among the best at cleansing the air and offering other such benefits. The list also includes several beginner-friendly options.

1. Snake plant

snake plant
Artem Varnitsin / Shutterstock.com

Don’t be deterred by this plant’s common names, which also include “mother-in-law’s tongue.” It’s ideal for folks with a black thumb.

The snake plant can survive, if not thrive, with dim light and sparse watering. It’s so tough that it’s among a handful of houseplants that Costa Farms, one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S., markets as “Plants of Steel.”

The snake plant is also among few houseplants known for producing oxygen at night. So, consider it for your bedroom.

2. Chinese evergreen

Chinese Evergreen
Skyprayer2005 / Shutterstock.com

Also referred to as Aglaonema, the scientific genus, Chinese evergreens are another air-purifying Plant of Steel known for tolerating low light.

The particular variety studied by NASA is Aglaonema crispum “Silver Queen,” named for its green and silvery leaves. But there are many varieties of Chinese evergreen, each with different leaf patterns — Costa Farms’ website highlights 11 examples.

3. Aloe vera

Aloe vera
MK photograp55 / Shutterstock.com

This powerful air purifier is also a medicinal plant. The succulent plant’s thick, fleshy leaves are filled with the aloe gel from which healing products have been made for centuries.

4. Boston fern

Boston fern
KPG Payless2 / Shutterstock.com

The Boston fern specializes in cleansing the air of formaldehyde, which the American Cancer Society considers a known human carcinogen. Of the 50 houseplants featured in Wolverton’s book, the Boston fern ranks No. 1 for removing formaldehyde gas from the air.

Small amounts of formaldehyde are found in nearly all homes and don’t lead to health problems for most people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But unhealthy levels can be found in homes with smokers and homes with new products made of certain substances.

The CDC says new products that tend to contain high levels of formaldehyde include:

  • Some manufactured wood products such as cabinets, furniture, plywood, particleboard and laminate flooring
  • Permanent press fabrics (like those used for curtains and drapes or on furniture)
  • Household products such as glues, paints, caulks, pesticides, cosmetics and detergents

5. Lady palm

lady palm
Lamyai / Shutterstock.com

This palm excels at removing ammonia, landing it at No. 1 among Wolverton’s list of 50 air-cleansing houseplants for removing that unhealthy gas.

According to the National Institutes of Health, you can be exposed to ammonia at home if you use products that contain it, such as pesticides and cleaning products.

6. English ivy

English ivy
zossia / Shutterstock.com

This vining plant’s air-purifying ability is more than just NASA-certified.

Researchers told the 2005 annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology about a study that found English ivy can clear the air of allergens such as airborne mold and even airborne dog feces, according to WebMD.

Also, in 2009, research out of the University of Georgia found English ivy had one of the five highest rates of air-contaminant removal out of 28 plants tested.

7. Golden pothos

pothos houseplant
mykeyruna / Shutterstock.com

This vining plant is another air purifier known to tolerate neglect and lower light. It’s one of my favorites, along with the next plant on this list.

NASA studied golden pothos, Epipremnum aureum, which has green and yellow marbled leaves. But other varieties commonly seen at national retailers also bear distinctive foliage: Epipremnum aureum “Marble Queen” has green and white leaves, and Epipremnum aureum “Neon” has almost-fluorescent chartreuse leaves.

8. Peace lily

peace lily
John C Evans / Shutterstock.com

This houseplant will tolerate lower light — but it will bloom more with brighter light. It’s among few plants that will bloom reliably indoors.

Peace lilies are also well-rounded air cleaners. NASA found that they remove at least eight chemicals, particularly acetone, from the air.

9. Spider plant

spider plant
Photography by Adri / Shutterstock.com

If you want to clean your air on the cheap, this is your houseplant. Spider plants are relatively easy to keep alive, and they can effectively clone themselves.

They grow umbilical cord-like shoots that bear baby spider plants, as seen in this picture. So, expanding your spider plant collection is about as simple as snipping off a “baby” and putting it in soil.

A caution about plants

Now that you’re psyched to bring home air-friendly plants, one word of caution: If you have pets or children, be sure to look up whether any plant is hazardous before bringing it home.

The ASPCA maintains a searchable list of plants that are toxic to dogs, cats or horses. You can find lists of plants that are poisonous to humans on the websites of organizations like the nonprofit National Capital Poison Center and the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Small Splurges That Make It Feel Like You’re Living Large
Small Splurges That Make It Feel Like You’re Living Large

Cutting costs is the shortest path to financial freedom. However, there are times when a little spending can produce big returns.

7 Unexpected Perks of Downsizing as a Retiree
7 Unexpected Perks of Downsizing as a Retiree

Downsizing your home offers many benefits, including some you may not have anticipated.

3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older
3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older

These checking accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

15 Great Amazon Finds You Can Buy for Less Than $5
15 Great Amazon Finds You Can Buy for Less Than $5

These products offer big value at a small price.

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

These simple ways of earning income without a lot of active, ongoing effort can stretch your retirement dollars.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

Social Security Checks Likely to Grow This Much in 2021
Social Security Checks Likely to Grow This Much in 2021

The federal government recently released a key statistic that gives clear insight into what next year’s COLA will be.

The Safest Grocery Store to Shop During the Coronavirus
The Safest Grocery Store to Shop During the Coronavirus

One grocery chain stands especially tall in its efforts to keep stores safe in the age of COVID-19.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer
7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer

Research shows some hobbies can add years — or even decades — to your life.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less
5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less

In this week’s podcast: tips on retiring overseas — from someone who’s been helping American expats for decades.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.