Houseplants That May Purify Indoor Air

Some research shows that having plants in your home may aid in improving indoor air quality, as they can help clear harmful irritants such as carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, hydrocarbon, and others.

A woman with long brown hair watering a plant.
Mint Images / Getty Images

Air pollutants such as these are classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals can contaminate indoor spaces as byproducts of building materials, home cleaners, personal care products, smoking, cooking, and wood-burning stoves. Inhaled VOCs can cause irritation of the eyes and nasal passages, exacerbation of respiratory problems, and contribute to chronic lung disease.

Sometimes air purifying systems with HEPA filters are recommended for purifying indoor air, especially when someone is especially sensitive to airborne irritants. While they remove some toxins from the air, they don't remove all of them.

Some experts suggest that the air-cleaning effects of indoor greenery are not strong enough to have a positive impact on human health. However, others suggest that living indoor greenery is an underutilized tool when it comes to enhancing indoor air quality, especially for people with respiratory issues.

Which Plants Clean Air Most Effectively?

All plants undergo photosynthesis, a process that removes carbon dioxide from the air and releases oxygen. Most plants that emerge above the soil also remove a variety of VOCs, including heptane, 3-methylhexane, toluene, ethylbenzene, and m,p-xylenes.

After assessing a large number of houseplants to determine which was most effective in removing VOCs, the following were found to top an often-cited list published by NASA. Over the years, continued research has continued to point to these plants as the leaders in purifying indoor air.


Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Close-Up Of Peace Lily Against Wall
Angel Uriel Ramirez Gonzalez / EyeEm / Getty Images

For many, the peace lily is an all-time favorite indoor or outdoor plant, especially when it blooms in the spring. In the home, this graceful flowering plant thrives in light to moderate shade. It tops the list in air-purifying plants as it removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, hydrocarbon, and ammonia from the air you breathe indoors.


Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

Green devil's ivy plants at raining season.
Raththaphon Wanjit / Getty Images

Running a close second behind the peace lily is devil's ivy. Many gardening experts say it's the easiest plant to grow indoors. Effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene from the air you breathe inside your home, this indoor plant prefers bright, indirect light.


Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

Spider plant-Home balcony-India
Veena Nair / Getty Images

A leafy plant with stiff leaves, the spider plant is considered easy to take care of. You may have seen different types of the Chlorophytum comosum with white and green, primarily green, or purple leaves.

Research shows that common varieties of this plant can remove formaldehyde in indoor spaces.


English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Bowl of fruit and potted plant on windowsill
Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich / Getty Images

Ivy plants like English ivy are not the easiest plants to grow indoors, but, because of their unique trailing/climbing abilities, they make a lovely addition to indoor topiaries.

English ivy has a natural ability to filter nasty pollutants from indoor air, including benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.


Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Rhapis excelsa or Lady palm in the garden
FeelPic / Getty Images

The lady palm is every bit as beautiful as her given name. Under the right conditions, this fanning palm is fairly easy to grow indoors and has been found to effectively remove formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from the air inside your home.


Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Glossy green leaves of a ficus of Benjamin
Julietta24 / Getty Images

The weeping fig grows beautifully in a brightly lit room and may even do well in direct, morning sunlight. It has been found to clear formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from indoor air.


Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Boston Fern, Natural Air Purifier
automidori / Getty Images

Hardy and attractive, the Boston fern is one of the most common of all indoor ferns. They thrive in warm, humid conditions, so if you're sensitive to humidity, they may not be the best choice for you.

When grown indoors, Boston ferns effectively remove formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.


Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

Close up Dwarf date palm
Alohapatty / Getty Images

The dwarf date palm is the only suitable date palm you can grow indoors. They thrive in the brightest light you can find and love direct sunlight. As an indoor plant, this feathery friend is capable of removing formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.


Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

Close up of a green palm plant areca palm on a white background
Sinenkiy / Getty Images

At one time, the Areca palm was on the endangered species list, but you can now find it in most gardening stores.

Indoors, it has the ability to filter out xylene and toluene from the air. With long fanning leaves, the plant is sensitive to over-watering and does best in bright light.


Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

Underside of a rubber plant
Chris Stein / Getty Images

Last but not least is the rubber plant. Easy to grow indoors, it thrives in bright, warm rooms when it's regularly watered and fertilized. As an air-purifying plant, it's best at removing formaldehyde from the air inside the home and must be repotted annually until it's reached its desired size.

Before You Buy a Houseplant

Before you buy a plant, talk to your local gardening store or nursery to learn how to take care of it and whether it is recommended for indoor use.

It's important to be aware that plants and soil can harbor harmful microorganisms, especially if they aren't well taken care of. In addition, pesticides used on some plants can bring harmful chemicals into your home. (You may want to choose organic options.)

Lastly, some houseplants can be toxic to animals, so be sure to ask your vet for a list of options that are off-limits.

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind, too, that plants have a variety of beneficial effects including a general sense of well-being, elevated mood, and diminished anxiety. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and add beauty to your home. Differing opinions on the extent of their power to cleanse indoor air aside, this is one example of a health solution that has far more potential pros than cons.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Deborah Leader, RN
 Deborah Leader RN, PHN, is a registered nurse and medical writer who focuses on COPD.