In 1989, NASA compiled a list of indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins. These plants can eliminate up to 87% of poisonous elements in the air. Most of these toxins come from common items around our homes like paint, varnishes, cleaning solutions, insulations, wood treatments, carpeting, and other products.

NASA’s Clean Air Study is pretty old, but nothing changed with the plants in the meanwhile, even if their research has advanced tremendously. Indeed, you can get your hands on some house plants that clean the air and are (almost) impossible to kill, even by beginners.

While current research may recommend you to build wall-to-wall plant jungles to fully benefit of the plants’ air-cleaning abilities, you do not have to. Having at least two plants per 100 square feet may help you reap the benefits.

Moreover, with the current indoor pollution problems of our modern world, any indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins may help you breathe fresher, healthier air.

So, if you want to breathe easier and not worry that your brown thumb will come to light, give these air-cleaning plants a try.

The 8 Best Indoor Plants that Clean the Air and Remove Toxins

According to the 1989 NASA Study

1. English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Hanging English Ivy

Removes: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene

English Ivy has become a common choice when it comes to some of the best indoor plants that clean the air and are suitable for beginner-to-intermediate plant lovers. When it comes to growing requirements, this plant is a bit fussy. It grows best in a moist environment, and it’s better to mist it frequently.

Here’s the secret formula to keeping an English Ivy alive: water the soil and mist the leaves frequently, provide bright, indirect light, and protect it from wind and excessive heat.

Also, besides being able to purify the air, it looks fantastic as a hanging plant!

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bright, indirect light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist, but not wet
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Moderate
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

2. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)

Peace Lily with Flowers

Removes: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and ammonia

The peace lily is so easy to grow, it is sometimes referred to as a ‘closet plant’. Like most other indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins, it enjoys medium to low light. The peace lily is also one of the best hard to kill houseplants that anyone can grow. With its little maintenance requirements and great indoor air purification abilities, this plant is an amazing addition to your home. Plus, its gorgeous flowers will liven any room, giving it a special touch of natural beauty, contrast, texture, and scent.

We kill more lilies by overwatering than underwatering. As these plants are very drought tolerant, you can wait until the plant starts to droop before watering. This does no harm to the plant and will prevent you from overwatering it. Peace lilies are also excellent bedroom plants.

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bring, indirect light to low light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist, not soggy
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Easy
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

3. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Weeping Ficus in a pot

Removes: formaldehyde and xylene

The Weeping Fig is one of the most popular indoor trees nowadays. As the name suggests, it’s going to “weep” its leaves if the growing conditions aren’t met. As we said on a previous occasion,

The weeping fig has much smaller leaves than its cousin, the fiddle leaf fig. They are teardrop-shaped and have smooth, grayish bark. This indoor tree needs bright indirect light and prefers its soil on the drier side. It is also a little fussier than its cousin, and it may drop its leaves in the fall due to the lower light.

It’s a slow-growing tree and it prefers a spot with enough bright light. If it’s not growing at all or it’s growing to slow, you might want to consider moving it in a brighter spot. The amount of water it requires will depend on how much light it receives and it is better to allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

If you want to grow this one, you might want to consider a room humidifier, as it prefers a humid environment.

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bright, indirect light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Medium
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

4. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider Plant Leaves Macro

Removes: formaldehyde and xylene

The spider plant is one of the most common, popular and easiest to grow of all houseplants that clean the air. No direct sunlight and when they start to wilt slightly, just water.

This air purifying houseplant will help remove benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene from your home. They make wonderful hanging plants for that drab corner of the room or if you have nosey pets.

Check out our spider plant care guide to find out more about how to keep this awesome plant alive!

The guide includes:

  • how to pick the best type of soil and pot,
  • what’s the best spot in your home for spider plants,
  • how to propagate spider plants.
Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bright, indirect light to partial shade
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Easy
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Non Toxic to Dogs and Cats

5. Snake Plant (Sansevieria spp)

Snake Plant in a pot

Removes: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene

This plant goes by other names, including ‘Mother-in Law’s Tongue’ and ‘Devil’s Tongue’. As a houseplant, it does best in bright light but tolerates low light levels as well. This plant is also on our list of best indoor plants that are hard to kill no matter how hard you try.

It is another excellent example of a houseplant that cleans the air.

See Gail’s snake plant care guide to find out more about how not to kill it! 

The guide includes:

  • how and when to water snake plants
  • how to pick the best grow medium
  • how to fertilize and propagate snake plants
Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Full sun to low light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Allow to soil to dry out between watering
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Easy
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

6. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Golden Pothos in a pot

Removes: formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene

Pothos is one of the absolute essential indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins! This trailing plant is so easy to grow that if you do happen to kill, you might want to consider giving up gardening altogether. That is a joke, NEVER give up!

The golden photos is one of the toughest houseplants known. It is tolerant of low light spaces, infrequent watering. It will also survive even with near-total neglect. So even though you may forget about your pothos, this fast-growing plant will still do its job of ridding the air of formaldehyde and other toxins.

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bright, indirect light to low light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Very Easy
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

7. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

Dracaena Marginata Leaves Macro

Removes: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene

Dracaena is another plant that is perfect for a beginner gardener. The dragon plant is slow-growing and needs bright indirect light. Drought tolerant, it can go for an extended period of time without any water.

Nevertheless, Dracaena marginata can be sensitive to fluoride that’s commonly found in tap water. Use distilled water if you notice the leaves becoming discolored. Normal household humidity should be fine, unless you have very dry air.

A word of warning: this natural air purifier is safe for humans but very toxic to dogs and cats. It is the best for removing trichloroethylene, xylene, and formaldehyde from your home’s air.

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Bright, indirect light to low light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Moderate
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

8. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Boston Fern Plant

Removes: formaldehyde and xylene

Here’s another humidity loving plant. Before trying to get and grow a Boston Fern is best to make sure you can meet its growing requirements.

The first thing to take into consideration is the placement. This fern needs a cool place with indirect light and high humidity levels. The other important thing is to make sure the soil is moist at all times. If that’s not a problem for you, you’ll surely become the lucky owner of a happy fern!

Interstingly enough, Bill Wolverton, the man responsible for the NASA study on

Light requirements

Light Requirements:

Indirect light
Water requirements

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist at all times
Difficulty

Difficulty:

Moderate
Toxicity

Toxicity:

Non Toxic to Dogs and Cats

Care Tips for Indoor Plants that Clean the Air

1. Selecting Your Houseplants

We strongly recommend buying only air-cleaning plants which are insect and disease-free. Avoid plants that have yellow or wilted leaves, brown edges, spots, blotches, or spindly growth.

2. The Price is Light

Light is probably the most essential factor for house plant growth. Light levels are classified into four categories: low, medium, high and very high. High light plants grow well near windows or glass doors with western or southern exposure.

However, few homes have areas with enough light levels to grow plants that require very high light, so we will focus on the other three. Your medium and low light plants are your best bet for houseplants that clean the air. These plants will do well in just about any window or corner of your home.

3. Food and Water Woes

Over and underwatering are the two biggest problems of houseplants. Although different plants have different needs, the general rule of thumb is: stick your finger into the soil up to the first and second knuckles. If moist, don’t water; if dry, water. Make sure to give your plants a good drink when you do water them.

If you tend to forget about watering your plants, a great option for most plants on this list (except maybe for the dracaena) is self-watering planters.

Use high-quality all-purpose plant food, there are many on the market. Again, a good rule of thumb is every two months from March until September, but if instructions say otherwise, follow them. Growth slows during fall and winter and feeding is not needed – in fact, it can be quite harmful to the plant.

Watering should also be reduced during the colder months if you want your indoor plants that clean the air to be happy and healthy.

collection of offie plants for clean air

4. Home Plant Home

Almost any type of container can be used for your plant as long as it’s no more than 25% bigger than the previous pot. Just make sure your plant fits in well and it’s not too top-heavy so that it falls over.

Another important thing to remember is that it has good drainage. Holes punched in the bottom of the pot will accomplish this.

If you have a very pretty pot you want to display your air cleaning plant in, but don’t want to punch holes in it, no problem. Place your plant in a pot that is a little smaller than your pretty pot, and then use the pretty pot as a decorative planter. Just remember to empty any water that accumulates at the bottom or place a handful of pebbles on the bottom of the bigger pot.

As for the soil, any kind of all-purpose potting soil will work as long as it doesn’t hold too much water. Again, you can buy all different kinds at the store. Do not use soil from your garden for indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins. It will turn very hard and has the possibility of introducing weed seeds and insects into your home.

Let’s see a few frequently asked questions regarding indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins!

What Other Indoor Plants are Best for Cleaning the Air?

Besides the eight plants recommended by NASA, you can “adopt” other houseplants that clean the air and remove toxins. Here are some of the most common. Many come with the added benefit of being resilient to beginners and people who do not have a lot of time to care for them!

Do Plants Really Clean the Air?

If you ever heard of volatile organic compounds (VOC), a type of indoor pollutant you can also find in tap water, you should know that plants do a fantastic job of capturing these air contaminants. Logically speaking, it is more efficient to open a few windows or install an air filter for your home if you want fresh, clean air, but some houseplants are champions of air purification.

Which Plant Releases Oxygen 24 Hours a Day?

You might expect the answer to be a tree, but it is, in fact, Aloe Vera. Known for its abilities to remove aldehydes and benzene from the air, Aloe Vera releases oxygen during the night (as opposed to the majority of plants), thus being one of the best indoor plants that clean the air in your bedroom.

What Other Houseplants that Clean the Air Produce the Most Oxygen?

Besides Aloe Vera, we also recommend the Boston Fern, the Snake Plant, and the Gerber Daisy for rich release of oxygen and best air purification. Before you adopt such plants to be your faithful companions for cleaner air and beautiful scenery, we also recommend you take a look at our guide on Snake Plant varieties, maybe something over there catches your eye and your heart!

Do Plants Reduce Dust in a Room?

To the surprise of scientists, yes, plants reduce the level of dust in a room, although the mechanism still baffles researchers and needs more analysis. Some indoor plants that clean the air also have positive effects on the humidity of a room, stabilizing it.

Bottom Line

If you want to get houseplants that clean the air and remove toxins or dust from your home, read our guides on how to pick them and care for them. According to previous research and our own experiment on music and plant growth, sound waves encourage healthier and fuller growth in most houseplants, so don’t be shy in sharing your favorite playlist with them as well!

 

About the Author - Darren Sheriff

Darren Sheriff is an SCNLA Certified Professional Nurseryman, A Charleston County Master Gardener Emeritus and is the manager for Terra Bella Garden Center in North Charleston, SC. With his 220+ Camellias, he is an active member and president of the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society, the South Carolina State Director for the American Camellia Society, the founder of the Lowcountry Fruit Growers Society as well as a past president.

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