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.

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 indoor plants. 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 is 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:

Bright, indirect light

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist, but not wet

Difficulty:

Moderate

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.

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:

Bring, indirect light to low light

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist, not soggy

Difficulty:

Easy

Toxicity:

Toxic to Dogs and Cats

3. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Weeping Ficus in a pot

Removes: formaldehyde and xylene

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.

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 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:

Bright, indirect light

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Difficulty:

Medium

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:

Bright, indirect light to partial shade

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Difficulty:

Easy

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.

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:

Full sun to low light

Water Requirements:

Allow to soil to dry out between watering

Difficulty:

Easy

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:

Bright, indirect light to low light

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Difficulty:

Very Easy

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:

Bright, indirect light to low light

Water Requirements:

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Difficulty:

Moderate

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!

Light Requirements:

Indirect light

Water Requirements:

Keep the soil moist at all times

Difficulty:

Moderate

Toxicity:

Non Toxic to Dogs and Cats

Care Tips for 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 which 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 under watering 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 knuckle. 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) are 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.

According to previous research and our own experiment on music and plant growth, sound waves encourage healthier and fuller growth in most houseplants!

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.

SEND AN E-MAIL TO THE AUTHOR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *