Top 10 Indoor Plants To Purify Air, According to NASA Expert

Plants are nature’s air purifiers and are kept in homes across the globe for this purpose. In addition to their aesthetics and fragrance, air-purifying plants combat indoor pollution that triggers allergies and illness. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems.” 

These indoor pollutants include tobacco smoke, fuel-burning combustion appliances, central heating, cooling systems, humidification devices, and outdoor air pollution. 

Additionally, a large percentage of indoor air pollution results from chemicals in air fresheners, personal care, and household cleaning products. Home furnishings, upholstery, and carpets lead as pollutants. 

NASA, led by expert B.C. Wolverton, discovered that plants help absorb harmful toxins in the air. Furthermore, they clarified, “Plant roots and their associated microorganisms then destroy the pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, eventually converting all these air pollutants into new plant tissue.”” 

So maintaining a better air quality with plants proves beneficial to your health, and here are ten plants that purify the air. 

1. English Ivy

English Ivy air purifying plant in a hanging basket.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a beautiful addition to the bedroom and requires relatively easy care. Several types of ivy species exist, including the Jubilee, known for its climbing ability. 

This plant effectively reduces the air’s benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene levels. It can also help to reduce mold in your home, making it an ideal selection for those desiring to enhance indoor air quality.

In addition, English Ivy plants have been shown to effectively reduce airborne dust, pollen, and pet dander. This is due to the plant’splant’s sticky leaves, which trap allergens and remove them from the air.

2. Chrysanthemums

mums plant to clean indoor air quality

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium), also known as mums, are a leading houseplant for indoor air purification. Mums are a colorful addition to any room but beware. They are toxic plants to cats and dogs. 

Along with eliminating common toxins, these plants will also help filter ammonia.

3. Areca Palm

areca plan plant to filter indoor air, next to a window.

The Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens) is a popular houseplant because the large, beautiful palms combat indoor pollution and are safe for children and pets. 

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the Areca palm was effective at removing a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, including benzene and trichloroethylene (1).

In addition to removing VOCs, the Areca palm can also remove other harmful pollutants from the air, including mold spores and bacteria (2). 

These pollutants can cause respiratory problems and other health issues, and by removing them from the air, the Areca palm can help to reduce the risk of these problems.

The NASA Clean Air Study highlighted that Areca Palms are the most effective plant for removing formaldehyde from the air. Formaldehyde is a common pollutant in many household items, such as furniture, carpets, and paint, and can cause numerous health issues.

Additionally, they can help reduce allergens and carbon dioxide levels and improve humidity levels in the home.

Areca palms can do this by releasing large amounts of water vapor into the air, which helps trap and remove pollutants. This process, known as “adsorption,” is how these palms help to purify the air.

4. Snake Plant: aka Mother-in-Law Tongue Plant

snake plant with an aloe vera plant in background

The Mother-in-Law Tongue plant (Dracaena trifasciata), also known as a Snake plant, is an easy-care houseplant that requires very little light and water. 

Snake plants are ideal for apartments, darker rooms, and bedrooms to purify the air in your home. 

According to the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the Snake plant was effective at removing various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, including benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (1). 

5. Pothos

silver or satin pothos plant close up.

Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), also known as Devil’s ivy (because it is almost impossible to kill), is a low-maintenance perennial evergreen effective in removing harmful indoor pollutants. 

The pothos plant effectively removed various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, including benzene and trichloroethylene (1).

One excellent thing about this plant is there are many pothos varieties to choose from, including:

  • Marble Queen: Looks similar to the Golden pothos but displays deeply variegated leaves, with cream, white, and sometimes light green variegation. One thing that makes Marble Queen Pothos genuinely fascinating is that the variegation can vary dramatically from one leaf to the other.
  • Snow Queen: The more variegated cousin of the Marble Queen. The two cultivars look similar, but the Snow Queen can develop almost entirely white, or cream leaves with just a few green stripes and splashes.
  • Neon: Neon green, lime, or bright yellow-green.
  • Pearls and Jade Pothos: Dark green and silvery green with white or cream variegation around the edges and green splashes or stripes on the white sections.
  • Glacier: Green with white and mint green or silvery green streaks without marbling. 
  • Jessenia: Has light green or chartreuse variegation and a distinctive dark green midrib vein.
  • Shangri La: Also called Sleeping pothos, this is by far the most unique-looking pothos variety. The leaves are rolled up and have a ribbed texture, giving them the appearance of wilted spinach.
  • Global Green: Its rounded leaves have a lightly crumpled texture, with light green splashes of variegation.
  • Jade: All-green color and ideal for homes with very little natural light. This timeless classic requires minimal maintenance and is a go-to plant if you’re still developing a green thumb. 
  • Cebu Blue: This gorgeous variety has narrow, silvery green leaves, which develop fenestrations when the plant is allowed to climb. 
  • Baltic Blue: One of the newest Epipremnum pinnatum cultivars. It boasts dark green leaves with a bluish tint, which develop splits or fenestrations even at a young age.

6. Money Tree 

money tree up close

The Money tree (Pachira aquatica) was another houseplant listed as effective in the NASA Clean Air Study. They determined Money trees play a significant role in removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. 

The Money tree works to filter toxins from the air through a process called photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, the plant absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and converts it into oxygen through sunlight. 

In this way, the plant helps to remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen, which can help to improve indoor air quality.

In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the air, the Money tree can also remove other harmful pollutants through phytoremediation. During phytoremediation, the plant absorbs harmful chemicals and toxins from the air and breaks them down into harmless byproducts.

7. Rubber Plants

rubber plant in wicker basket to help clean the air.

Rubber plants (Ficus robusta) are another toxin remover on NASA’s list. They are trendy houseplants due to their low-maintenance care and beautiful aesthetics. 

However, be mindful that they also are on the list of toxic houseplants for pets and people.

Make sure to regularly clean the leaves of the rubber plant. The leaves are very effective at removing airborne toxins and mold spores, but these contaminants can build up over time and reduce the plant’s effectiveness. 

Using a damp cloth, gently wipe the rubber plant leaves to remove any accumulated dirt or dust.

8. Aloe Vera

aloe vera plant by window

Aloe Vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe and a common household plant due to its easy care and topical medicinal uses, such as caring for burns. It’s also effective as an indoor plant to purify your air.

The plant was effective at removing a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, including benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde (3).

9. Spider Plant

spider plant by a window

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) effectively remove household air toxins, including formaldehyde and xylene. Additionally, they are low-care, resilient plants that are non-toxic. 

NASA found that the Spider plant can remove up to 95% of common harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from a sealed Plexiglas chamber in 24 hours. This is because the spider plant can absorb these pollutants through its leaves and roots.

10. Gerbera Daisy

gerbera daisy plant

Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii) is one of the more aesthetically pleasing houseplants on the list and comes in various colors. In addition, it’s non-toxic and another bedroom plant that improves air quality and your sleep.

In 24 hours, these flowers have been shown to reduce airborne formaldehyde by half, benzene by 67%, and trichloroethylene by 35%.

In Conclusion

The NASA Clean Air Study demonstrated that certain houseplants effectively removed harmful indoor pollutants benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air. 

So, in addition to creating a coziness or splash of color to your home, they can purify the air providing a better quality of life. 

References

  1. Wolverton, B.C., et al. (1989). Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science, 114(3), 472-478.
  2. B. C. Wolverton, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office (New York: Penguin Books, 1997).
  3. Duan, J., et al. (2008). Formaldehyde removal efficiency of plants. Environmental Pollution, 156(2), 345-349.