6 Best Plants that Purify Indoor Air in Your Home

Did you know that houseplants can purify the air in your home? Nature’s air purifiers filter out many different airborne toxins to improve air quality.

Many houseplants around a yellow chair

I have allergies and sinusitis, so I’m pretty obsessed with purifying indoor air in my home. I’ve written before about the best HEPA purifiers, but you can also boost the air quality inside your home with simple houseplants.

It’s not a total solution, but it can help.

Why Do You Need to Clean the Air?

The air we breathe inside our homes and offices may be contaminated with pollutants. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) come from furniture and cleaning products.

Mold spores may lurk in damp areas. And we and our visitors bring viruses into our indoor living space.

Ever since we started building homes and offices that were sealed up tight and climate controlled with central heat and air, allergies and asthma have been on the rise.

That’s likely because most of us spend many hours a day locked up tight with pollutants instead of getting fresh air. 

Do Indoor Plants Purify Air?

Yes, but only a little. Sticking a single plant in a room is not going to make a serious difference.

A HEPA purifier or putting MERV-13 filters in your central AC does far more good. Or opening windows, when the weather and outdoor air quality (ergh, I’m looking at you, wildfire smoke drifting a thousand miles) allows.

But plants are beautiful and can help us feel connected to nature, so go ahead and make them part of your strategy. Just know that on their own, they cannot do the whole job.

Unless you have an incredible number of them in your home. To get an idea:

While a single spider plant won’t purify the air, a green wall covered in plants just might, found scientists in a study published in 2020 in the Journal of Environmental Management. The scientists concluded that a green wall filled with suitable plant species “can be used to create a horticulturally sustainable internal green wall, and improve the health index in the building interior environments.” 

From LiveScience. And this:

Apparently we need to be outnumbered by plants indoors just the same as we are outdoors. From a visual perspective, much more than 20% visible vegetation can be distracting or overwhelming, so using plants to clean the air might just not be efficient.

From Molekule.

Plants are Nature’s Air Filters

Think of outdoor plants as nature’s MERV-13 or HEPA filters. Trees and plants use a process known as phytoremediation to absorb harmful gases and chemicals through their leaves and roots and convert them into harmless byproducts.

They act as nature’s own air filters, trapping pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and more. In doing so, they help to reduce the risk of respiratory ailments and enhance overall well-being.

This is why forest fires are such a problem for the environment. Not only does all that ash cause pollution, but the fire is destroying some of our best natural defenses against CO2 pollution.

Pollutants that Make Indoor Air Quality Bad 

Indoor houseplants can help clean several pollutants from the air, including:

  • Formaldehyde: This is a common pollutant found in plywood, fiberboard, resins, and other materials used in buildings. Ficus, spider plants and bamboo palms are known to be good at removing this compound.
  • Benzene: This organic compound is often found in paints, oils, rubber, and detergents. English Ivy and Gerbera daisies can help remove benzene from the air.
  • Trichloroethylene: Mainly used in the production of textiles and varnishes. Peace lilies can absorb this pollutant effectively.
  • Xylene: Found in leather, rubber products, tobacco smoke, vehicle exhausts. Plants like areca palm or schefflera are known for their ability to purify xylene.
  • Ammonia: Commonly found in cleaning products. Florist’s chrysanthemum and peace lilies can help remove ammonia from indoor air.

Choosing the Best Air-Purifying Houseplants

All plants will purify the air in your home a little. The more plants, the more purification.

Some plants seem to be better at removing some chemicals. 

1. Aloe Vera to Purify the Air in Living Spaces

Aloe vera, also known as the “miracle plant” or “nature’s first-aid,” is a powerful air purifier. This succulent wonder boasts numerous health benefits.

With its thick, fleshy leaves that store water, aloe vera has the remarkable ability to absorb harmful toxins from the air we breathe. It also releases oxygen into the air during the night while taking in CO2.

It acts as an efficient natural air filter, removing pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene that are often found in cleaning products and paints. By placing an aloe vera plant in your living spaces, you can create an environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also filled with clean and fresh air.

Beyond its air-purifying properties, aloe vera offers a multitude of healing benefits. Its gel-like substance contains over 75 potentially active compounds including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. When applied topically on wounds or burns, it acts as a soothing agent that accelerates the healing process.

Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for alleviating skin irritations such as sunburns or eczema. Additionally, its moisturizing effects help to hydrate and nourish dry skin. Incorporating this versatile plant into your indoor space not only enhances the aesthetics but also promotes overall wellness.

2. Snake Plant, or the Bedroom Plant

Snake plant in pot in front of wall

Amidst the vast array of air-purifying plants, one stands tall and proud – the Snake Plant. Not only does it enhance the aesthetic appeal of your abode, but it also fights off harmful toxins with tenacity.

The Snake Plant, also known as Sansevieria or “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue,” boasts an extraordinary ability to remove toxins from the air.

It releases oxygen during nighttime while absorbing carbon dioxide during the day, making it an ideal bedroom companion for rejuvenating sleep.

And it excels at purifying the air by eliminating formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, trichloroethylene, and other common pollutants that infiltrate our living spaces.

3. The Peace Lily for Purifying the Air In Dry Regions

Native to tropical rainforests, this resilient plant with lush green leaves has adapted to thrive as a low light houseplant, making it an ideal choice for those darker corners of your home.

What sets the Peace Lily apart from other plants is its ability to remove harmful toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air.

Through its leaves and roots, it absorbs these pollutants and breaks them down into harmless compounds. The Peace Lily also helps maintain optimal humidity levels in your environment by releasing moisture vapor into the air.

This natural humidifying effect can alleviate respiratory discomfort caused by dry indoor conditions.

4. Ficus Plants for Indoor Air Cleaning

The Ficus plant, commonly known as the Weeping Fig, is a powerful tool in filtering and purifying indoor air. It’s popular for its ability to cleanse the interior environment of harmful pollutants.

It’s especially suited to remove formaldehyde. This compound is commonly found in numerous household products including cleaning agents and various types of fabric.

The Ficus has been proven effective in reducing the concentration of this pollutant, improving indoor air quality significantly.

Trichloroethylene is another harmful chemical that the Ficus can handle. This substance is often found in printing inks, paints, varnishes, adhesives, and some cleaning products.

It’s a significant health hazard and the ficus helps to reduce its presence indoors. Similarly, Xylene which is used as a solvent in printing, rubber, leather industries also gets filtered by Ficus plants.

By absorbing it through their leaves, they help to mitigate its impact on indoor air quality.

Additionally, Toluene – common in many nail polish removers and glues – gets absorbed by these hardy plants. Reducing levels of Toluene helps lower risks associated with respiratory complications and potential nervous system disorders.

Lastly but certainly not least, Benzene a common industrial chemical found in plastics, resins, synthetic fibers etc., can be effectively reduced by keeping a Ficus around your living spaces.

5. English Ivy for Moldy Regions

This beautiful plant offers more than just visual appeal. Not only does it remove harmful toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air, but it also aids in reducing mold particles floating indoors.

This versatile ivy acts as a natural humidifier by releasing water vapor through its leaves, combating dryness in the air and creating a more comfortable atmosphere.

6. Spider Plant: Your Trusty Companion for a Breath of Fresh Air

The spider plant absorbs and breaks down harmful substances like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. Its lush green foliage acts as a natural filter, capturing toxins and releasing oxygen as a byproduct. 

This resilient houseplant is incredibly low-maintenance and thrives in various light conditions. It can tolerate both bright indirect sunlight and lower light levels, making it adaptable to different rooms within your home or office. 

Having a few spider plants strategically placed around your living or working space not only improves air quality but also boosts mood and productivity.

Studies have shown that being surrounded by greenery has a positive impact on mental well-being—reducing stress levels, increasing focus, and promoting relaxation. 

Cleaning Indoor Air with the Best Air Purifying Plants

Creating a green oasis in your indoor space is an excellent way to purify the air you breathe. Combining multiple air-purifying plants can enhance their individual abilities, creating a synergistic effect that maximizes the purification potential.

When creating your ultimate air-purifying plant combo, consider complementary plants that target different types of pollutants.

Plant one of each in your home, or two of each if you want that many plants.