Air-purifying Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Air-purifying Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

The air we breath is subject to toxins being released from common household products, materials and furniture. We think our indoor air is clean, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it can be more polluted than the outdoor air! And if we don’t do something to filter the air and make it fresh for us to breath, we can breath in a lot of toxic chemicals without even knowing it. But there is a solution: air-purifying houseplants.

Air-purifying houseplants can naturally remove toxins, dusts and germs from the air. Different plants are needed to remove the different types of indoor air pollution so make sure you have a variety of plants throughout your home.

What’s in the air we breathe?  

Indoor air pollution suddenly became a health issue when it became necessary to increase insulation in our homes and offices to conserve energy and lower heating and cooling costs. In addition, commonly used household consumer products contribute to indoor air pollution with carcinogenic toxins. The types of toxins that are released into the air you breath in your home include:

  • Benzene: Found in detergents, paints, glues, furniture wax and other household objects.
  • Ammonia: Found in household cleaning products, especially aerosols and sprays.
  • Formaldehyde: Commonly found in paper napkins, paper towels, tissues and grocery bags.
  • Trichloroethylene: Typically found in printing inks, varnishes, adhesive, lacquer (homes undergoing renovations).
  • Carbon monoxide: Found in car, fireplace, stove and furnace fumes.
  • Xylene and Toluene: Common aromatic solvents found in glues, inks, dyes, nail polish, lacquers, varnishes, paints, paint removers, pesticides, cleaners, and degreasers.

Besides eliminating some of these products from your environment, adding some of the following air-purifying plants can eliminate these toxins.

Types of Air-Purifying Houseplants

There are many plants that can help you clear your indoor air. Here are a few of the best air-purifying houseplants you can get to clean your indoor air. We’ve chosen the more common plants that are easy for the homeowner to maintain. We also indicate whether the plant is safe to have if you have pets.

Spider Plant

One of my favorite hanging plants, these long-leafed plants can filter toxins including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene. Spider plants are resilient and easily propagated. Keep your spider plant in an area with indirect sun and cooler temperatures. The spider plant is safe for homes with pets and small children.

Boston Fern

Boston ferns are ideal for removing formaldehyde and xylene. However, it is not the easiest plant to care for. Keep it in a room that’s relatively cool with high humidity and indirect light. Keep it moist so check it daily to see if it needs water. But it is a pet friendly plant and is one of the better air-purifying plants.

Areca Palm

Areca palms filter trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from your air. It also releases moisture and acts as a natural humidifier. These are tropical plants and prefer bright, sunny places not in direct sunlight. Plus these palms are another pet safe, non-toxic option.

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera (or Gerber) daisies eliminate traces of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Like the snake plant, it is a powerful air purifier. These daisies like well-drained soil and bright light. Be sure to keep them near a window and keep the leaves moist. And the best part, they are non-toxic to cats and dogs.

Bamboo Palm

Another houseplant that acts as a natural humidifier, the Bamboo Palm eliminates benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. These palms tend to grow pretty tall but can be controlled. Bamboo palms like very bright, yet indirect sunlight and do not enjoy being overwatered. Plus they are safe for pets.

Money Plant

The money plant can help reduce benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the air. It can also help to increase overall air quality and purification. And it’s another plant that is safe to have around your pets.

Golden Pothos

This is another one of my favorite plants. It’s easy to grow and easy to propagate if needed. This is a leafy vine that can be hung in a northern facing window where there is low light and minimal sun. A golden pothos can filter toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene and xylene. You should hang this plant to eliminate access to your pets as the leaves are toxic.

Peace Lily

A favorite houseplant for many homeowners, the peace lily is one of the top air purifying plants. It can filter out pollutants like benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. They are also relatively easy to grow, needing to be kept moist and in the shade. However, these beautiful plants are mildly toxic to animals (doesn’t cause damage to the kidneys or liver) so keep it out of reach.

English Ivy

The English Ivy plant is a perennial evergreen that can grow quite tall. It can remove toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and benzene. In addition to removing toxins, English Ivy can reduce particles of fecal matter and mold in the air. Since it is an evergreen, it has been known to cause problems in dogs if eaten. Keep these hanging or high out of reach of your pets.

Aloe Vera

An incredibly versatile plant, the aloe vera is good at cleaning the air and soothing burns and scrapes. This hardy succulent rids your space of benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. Keep this plant in direct sunlight for it to perform the best.  Aloe vera plants are mildly toxic to pets. Spray the plants with vinegar to make them less tasty.

Snake Plant (aka Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)

The snake plant is one of the best air purifying plants as it can rid your home of formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and xylene. Since formaldehyde seems to be found in many household products, such as cleaning products, toilet paper, Kleenex, and an assortment of personal care products, putting one in your bathroom makes sense as it can thrive in steamy, humid conditions.

But you may also want to put one in your bedroom. Snake plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the night, providing a bit of oxygen while you sleep. Snake plants are low maintenance and can do really well with very little watering and drier conditions.

Although it’s not common for cats and dogs to chew on these plants, it is mildly toxic to pets. Keep it out of reach or spray the rim of the pots with lemon to repel the pet.


Eucalyptus has many health benefits. The leaves are filled with tannins, which help improve airflow and make breathing easier. Just by breathing in the scent from this plant, it can help to lower congestion issues and keep colds at bay. However, this plant does need a lot of water from spring to fall with less in the winter. Unfortunately, although humans love the scent of eucalyptus, it is not digestible for cats and dogs. Keep the plant out of reach for your pets.

If you want to ensure you are getting safe houseplants for your pets, refer to this list for cats and dogs.

What can you do as a homeowner?

Purifying indoor plants reduce levels of CO2 and increase relative humidity. Reducing the toxicity in the indoor air of your home can be done. Besides adding these air-purifying houseplants, there are other things you can do:

  • Invest in air filters – Check that the filters in your heating and air conditioning units are changed on a regular basis to ensure the best possible air quality.
  • Eliminate the use of some household products – Aerosols and spray cans are the primary sources of carcinogenic xylene, toluene, and ammonia. 
  • Open your windows – Even in the winter, it is good to let in a bit of fresh air unless you live in a polluted environment. Tightly sealed homes may be energy efficient, but you may be trapping the toxins. Circulate air to let them out.

It would take a lot of plants to completely clean the air. Plus plants do work more slowly than is optimal. However, indoor houseplants can still improve your air quality and add a nice look to your décor.