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10 House Plants That Clean the Air

We chatted with experts about house plants that clean the air for a healthier family living environment.

By Courtney Leiva
10 House Plants That Clean the Air

Credit: Foli

See those pretty house plants gracing your coffee table? They're not just eye candy. According to Emily Wight, founder and CEO of Foli, an online plant shop, they're also hard at work purifying the air.

Wight tells Today's Parent, "All green plants perform photosynthesis, where the plant absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Plants effectively remove toxins from the air such as formaldehyde that furniture, carpet, paint, and cleaning products can release into the air in our homes and workplaces."

However, with a diverse selection of house plants, from bamboo palm to gerbera daisy to English ivy, finding the best house plants that clean the air can be a bit thorny. So to help you find the perfect leafy companions, we asked Wight and Kasey Hurd, eCommerce Manager at the Arbor Day Foundation, to share some buying tips.

Get ready for the lowdown on how many plants you need to detoxify your place, the science behind their air-cleansing properties, and the top-notch plants that deserve a spot on your windowsill.

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What to look for in house plants that clean the air?

As you look for the best house plants that clean the air, Wight advises going with plants that have lots of leaves. She says, "These plants absorb more air pollutants than plants with wispy foliage. The larger the leaves, the more ability to collect toxins from the air and release oxygen."

Next, consider the humidity and lighting in your space. "This is key to keep the air crisp and your plants happy," adds Wight. "Also be mindful of your plant's proximity to fireplaces, vents, or doors that may impact the temperature exposed to your plants. Finally, remember that all plants require access to some natural sunshine to truly thrive, the best placement for most plants is close to a bright window."

How many plants do you need to purify a room?

If you are wondering is the secret number of plants to liven up a room, Wight says the more, the merrier! She suggests considering the size of the room and how to position your plants strategically.

"Don't forget to pick low-maintenance plants (some great ones to consider include aloe vera, Boston fern, or a rubber plant)  that won't demand too much attention."

Do plants remove toxins from the air?

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Some research suggests plants do indeed remove toxins from the air. For example, The NASA Clean Air Study, conducted in 1989, suggested that certain common indoor plants could help remove indoor air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

However, since the study is over 30 years old, more recent research is needed to fully understand the air-purifying properties of plants and how many plants per 100 square feet are truly necessary.

Wight says plants have positive impacts on our mental health. "Studies have shown being around indoor plants have a positive effect on mood, productivity and creativity. The act of caring for a plant can engage our senses. Feeling relaxed and mindful can help to counter the release of the stress hormone cortisol."

House plants that clean the air

Snake

snake plant, house plants that clear the air Merchant

The hearty snake plant is one of the most popular houseplants because they are low-maintenance and can survive indoors and outdoors. However, Wight says, it's also a great plant to purify indoor air. "Most plants filter toxins on a 12-hour cycle, plants from the Sansevieria family work overtime, cleaning the air 24 hours a day," Wight says.

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"This makes Snake plants especially suitable for bedrooms including kids’ rooms and nurseries where seven to 10 hours are spent at one time. Snake plants grow full and tall over time and are one of the easiest plants to care for and enjoy."

Dieffenbachia

Large Dieffenbachia Foli.ca

Described as Dee-Fen-Bock-ia, this expansive floor plant, according to Wight, boasts sizable leaves and requires minimal upkeep. "Its large foliage serves as an effective air purifier," she says.

Rubber Tree 

Rubber Tree Foli.ca

While it's known for its thick, dark, and glossy leaves, the rubber tree is another houseplant that can help filter air. According to Hurd, "Growing this plant indoors has several advantages, such as raising humidity levels thanks to its high transpiration rate, improving mood while lowering stress and anxiety, and purifying the air." To care for this plant, Wight suggests wiping the rubber tree leaves often to maximize their ability to photosynthesize and ensure a bright indirect spot for this plant.

Monstera

monstera leaf, house plants that clear the air Merchant
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Monstera, also known as the Swiss Cheese plant, offers optimal air purifying qualities from the large and abundant leaves, says Wight.

"Think of their leaves as a giant trap for toxins and air pollutants, absorbing into their foliage only to turn around and release oxygen. Air purifying houseplants including the Monstera will grow wild and is always an impactful choice when looking for a plant."

Fiddle Leaf Fig

According to Hurd, fiddle-leaf fig plants are highly efficient at purifying the air. "Their large, flat leaves filter toxins which make your office air healthier to breathe," he says. "If properly cared for, this plant can grow up to 10+ feet tall, which provides a bold and elegant presence to your office."

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Foli.ca

The Parlor Palm

The parlour palm iStock

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"Thanks to its air-purifying properties and not being toxic to any pets, the parlor palm is one of the most popular indoor plants around," says Hurd. Not to mention, this green gem is as low-maintenance as they come, thriving in spots with that soft, indirect glow. Hurd continues, "They are excellent for beginners because this compact growing tree only needs to be watered when the soil dries out."

Money Tree

Money Tree Foli.ca

While commonly associated with luck and prosperity, the money tree stands out as a popular tropical plant choice for indoor settings thanks to its ability to bring a fresh, tropical vibe to any space. Described by Hurd as easily recognizable by its unique hand-like bright green leaves, this plant is praised for thriving effortlessly in diverse indoor locations like homes, apartments, and offices. Additionally, Hurd also highlights its knack for purifying the air, making it a green gem for cleaner, fresher spaces.

Spider Plant

spider plant iStock

According to information from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), spider plants help filter air. In fact, the NFW cites a 1989 NASA research that experimented to assess the capacity of three popular houseplants (including the spider plant) to eliminate formaldehyde from the air.

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The initial findings revealed that spider plants were highly effective. They successfully eliminated 95% of substances like formaldehyde, benzene and others from a sealed Plexiglas chamber within 24 hours.

Peace Lily

peace lily, house plants that clear the air Merchant

Don't be fooled by the peace lily's delicate facade — those pretty white flowers pack a punch! With its large leaves, Wight highlights this plant's exceptional ability to purify toxins from the air.

A bonus is its minimal upkeep requirements. According to Wight, "The peace lily is a great communicator, and when thirsty it will droop only to perk right back up with some fresh water!"

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Experts

  • Emily Wight, founder and CEO of Foli
  • Kasey Hurd, eCommerce Manager at the Arbor Day Foundation
This article was originally published on Feb 29, 2024

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