Breathe Easier: How Indoor Plants Can Remove Toxins from Your Air

By Plant Liker •  Updated: 06/23/14 •  5 min read

Do Indoor Plants Help Clean the Air?

Certain indoor plants have the ability to filter the air of toxins and improve air quality. Plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, and they also absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air. Some plants are more effective at removing specific toxins than others.

Fortunately, houseplants that thrive indoors are part of a practical, attractive and sustainable air quality management solution. It is the plant, the roots and the microbes working together that remove VOCs from the air. As long as the soil is healthy and its pH is within an ideal range, and there is a good root system to support the organisms, the microcosm will do its work.

For example, the snake plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s tongue) is known for its ability to remove toxins such as formaldehyde, which is commonly found in household products like cleaning supplies and personal care products. The spider plant is also effective at removing formaldehyde and xylene, which is a solvent found in paints and varnishes.

The peace lily is another popular indoor plant that is effective at removing toxins such as benzene, which is found in tobacco smoke and certain household products.

It’s important to note that while plants can help improve air quality, they should not be relied upon as the sole means of air purification. Proper ventilation and the use of air purifiers can also help to improve indoor air quality.

Plants that Purify Your Space in Many Ways

Plants have a measurable beneficial effect on people: by growing plants and living among them, plants help trigger a stress-relieving response, create calming living environments, improve physical and mental well-being, purify the air and add a decorative and (sometimes) edible element to our spaces.

Learn about which plants match your lifestyle and living space and that will adorn your home or office beautifully.

Houseplants Benefit #1: Improve Indoor Air Quality

In the 1980s, NASA discovered that houseplants could remove volative organic chemicals (VOCs) from sealed chambers designed to achieve maximum air and energy insulation. NASA tested the ability of plants to remove VOCs from the air and therefore eliminate the ‘sick building syndrome’ symptoms experienced by those entering the sealed biohome; see a related study here on the effects of indoor plants on airborne microbial levels and humidity in energy-efficient homes [pdf]. The studies were a success: 12 common houseplants removed formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, among other airborne toxins, and proved that plants are integral components to maintaining healthy air inside sealed buildings (interior plantscapers and houseplant growers everywhere rejoiced.).

Top 50 Houseplants [Listed in Order of the Plant’s Ability to Remove Formaldehyde (toxic gas) from the Environment]:

Boston fern

Florist’s mum

Gerbera daisy

Dwarf date palm

Janet Craig

Bamboo Palm

Kimberley queen fern

Rubber plant

English ivy

Weeping fig

Peace lily

Areca palm

Corn plant

Lady palm


Dragon tree


Lily turf

Dendrobium orchid

Dumb cane (Exotica)


Ficus alii

King of hearts

Parlor palm


Chinese evergreen

Spider plant


Red emerald philodendron

Dumb cane (Camilla)

Elephant ear philodendron

Golden pothos

Norfolk Island pine

Wax begonia

Prayer plant

Oak leaf ivy

Christmas cactus

Lacy tree philodendron

Arrowhead vine

Heart-leaf philodendron

Lady Jane

Peacock plant



Moth orchid

Urn plant


Aloe vera


Create an Indoor Paradise With Houseplants

Bringing plants into your home improves your space and provides health benefits for you and your family. Indoor plants clean and improve the air quality by removing toxins, increasing humidity in winter months, and producing oxygen.

Living with plants can be therapeutic by reducing stress, boosting your mood, and increasing productivity. Houseplants transform your home into a green-leaved sanctuary where you feel better just by sitting and enjoying the environment.

Collection of the Four Best Clean Air Plants for Your Home

Start your own indoor air pollution cleaning brigade with the four best air-purifying plants for your home.

  1. Snake plant (Sansevieria spp.) also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or Saint George’s sword, is a popular indoor plant known for its ability to absorb toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air, and they release oxygen at night, making them a great choice for bedrooms.
  2. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is a hardy, easy-to-grow plant that is effective at removing pollutants such as formaldehyde and xylene from the air. It is also known for its ability to purify the air, and it is a great option for low light spaces.
  3. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is known for its ability to remove pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air, and it is also effective at increasing humidity levels, which can help to prevent dry skin and respiratory problems.
  4. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) is a popular indoor plant known for its ability to remove pollutants such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene from the air. It is also known for its ability to purify the air and its beautiful white flowers.

All plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide during (or after) the process of photosynthesis, which occurs during the day when there is light available. So having plants in general in your home is a great way to improve indoor air quality, but these four plants in particular are known to be very effective at removing pollutants and improving air quality.

Plant Liker