With spending more time indoors, whether at home or elsewhere, the quality of the air that you're breathing may have crossed your mind. With good reason too as airborne pollutants, germs and dust can be found everywhere, from household cleaning products and the fibres in your couch to the more obvious perpetrators like roadside pollution that filters in from the outside. Over time this can become cause for concern but, thankfully, there are many air-purifying plants that can miraculously filter out toxins naturally for you.
According to NASA’s Clean Air Study*, you would need a considerable amount of the best indoor plants at home to make a real difference to the atmosphere. But, with house plants forever on trend, this is unlikely to be an issue, right?
We spoke with Nathan Raab, MD of Pointless Plants, about the best air purifying plants around to help clean the air in your home. 'Most indoor plants are sold as air purifying which is true to an extent. The spider plant, snake plant and aloe vera plant are three of the best air purifying plants.'
How do air-purifying plants work?
'This is done through photosynthesis. Just as they will absorb carbon dioxide from the air and convert into oxygen, plants are also absorbing common household chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene.' So whether you want to detox your office, bedroom space or entire home, these are the best air-purifying house plants to consider.
1. Aloe vera (A. barbadensis)
Aloe vera is a brilliant house plant to keep around. Not only is its cooling gel a miracle worker for skin healing but it's also an efficient air purifier too. Keep yours in a warm bright spot like the kitchen as Raab advises. 'We often suggest placing a Aloe vera plant (Alex) in the kitchen to absorb formaldehyde which can be found in washing up liquids and detergents.'
- Find more about the benefits of house plants.
2. Air Plants (Tillandsia spp.)
Native to Mexico and South Africa, there are more than 600 species of Tillandsia spp. and there have even been studies to prove their incredible air-purifying capabilities. 'Air plants have also been proven to be one of the best air purifying plants. Although not a very popular plant, it is definitely worth having in the home for their amazing abilities. You might want to have a look at the study that was done where they placed an air plant next to a motorway in South America and when they cut into the plant and studied its cells they found it was absorbing a lot of road side pollution.'
3. Dwarf Mountain or Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
The dwarf mountain palm is a brilliant air purifier, and what's more it's a really easy house plant to care for as it will grow almost anywhere in the home so long as it's out of direct sunlight. It will survive temperature fluctuations, shade conditions and only needs watering when the top couple of inches of soil have dried out too. Brown leaves is one of the telltale signs that it's enduring too many drought periods but otherwise this is a slow grower that will clean the air of toxins, beautifully and naturally.
Raab adds, 'A popular plant in the Victorian era, parlour palms make for excellent houseplants to this day helping to turn your home into a mini tropical paradise. They remove the usual pollutants from the air - formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide - and are relatively low maintenance and require little work to care for. Palms are also associated with victory and success, so they’re a great addition to any home office'.
- Find more house plant care tips in our guide.
4. Bonnie Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum bonnie)
This curly spider plant variety will look cute to boot in a home office and works well in this kind of environment too as it can even grow in artificial light and is fine with infrequent watering. Mood boosting and able to remove toxins from the air including ethylbenzene and formaldehyde – this air-purifying plant is a must for any free spots around your home.
5. Snake Plants (Sansevieria)
Snake plants work hard at looking great and removing toxins like formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides from the air. These are good plants for bedrooms as they continue to release oxygen into the atmosphere at night also and they do well in warm spaces with indirect sunlight.
6. English Ivy
A beautiful trailing house plant plus, according to house plant guru Kate Turner of Miracle-Gro, ongoing research suggests that English Ivy could also remove up to 78% of airborne mould in less than a 24 period. So if you have allergies or asthma, it can be a great air-purifying plant to help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.
7. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum Vivaldi)
Peace Lilies are great at purifying the air, ease care and often complete with beautiful white flowers too. 'NASA’s study found that the peace lily was one of the best plants when it came to purifying the air because of its ability to break down and neutralise toxic gases like benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. It’s also beautiful in its own right, with gorgeous white blooms and fairly easy to care for as the leaves will droop when it needs water.' Says Raab.
Note this stunning plant is actually toxic to pets so make sure you get clued up on the best pet-friendly house plants if you have any fur balls at home.
8. Kentia Palm (Howea Forsteriana)
Said to remove formaldehyde particulates from the air, Kentia Palms are brilliant at detoxing a space and easy to grow too. Keep yours in light conditions, though they are tolerant of shade also, and be careful to not overwater yours.
9. Zz plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Easily identifiable by its wand-like shape and oval leaves, ZZ plants are totally decorative and make mighty air purifiers too. According to Raab 'the NASA study found that it’s specifically adept at removing toxins like benzene, toluene and xylene from the air. It’s also especially easy to care for, which makes it perfect for city-lovers and occupied-office workers who want fresh air with the minimum fuss. The plant is however poisonous, so not the best choice if you’ve got pets or kids at home.'
10. Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
Also known as Sword Ferns, Bostons are supposedly incredible at removing pollutants from the air, and who doesn't need a little more texture in their life? These guys love humidity, making them some of the best bathroom plants too. 'In fact, NASA’s study placed them as the 9th best for air purification. They’re especially good at removing formaldehyde - a toxin generated by smoking, certain cosmetics and household adhesives. So if you’re suffering from symptoms like dry skin, dry noses or sore throats a boston fern could help you out!' Says Raab.
11. Dumb Cane Plant (Dieffenbachia Mars)
It's not in the name with the Dumb Cane Plant which is actually pretty clever at purifying the air as it adds a pop of color too. 'Dumb cane offers lush foliage to help you and your family breathe a little bit easier. Perfect for bringing a tropical look to your home whilst removing toxins from the space and excellent at absorbing carbon monoxide. Don’t eat it however - the plant gets its name from a poisonous substance which can temporarily numb the vocal cords if consumed.' Says Raab.
12. Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
Also known as pothos, Devil's Ivy is super popular and very undemanding. Plus, it cleverly removes household toxins like xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
- Learn to propagate plants to enjoy more of your favorites, for free!
13. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
This is one of the best air-purifying plants according to NASA’s study and is really effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air. 'Areca palms are a great way to freshen up your home or office air. Keep it in a balanced light area - not too bright, not too dark - an area which gets the sun for short periods of time is ideal. It’s a thirsty plant too, one which needs a lot of water but always make sure the top level of soil is dry before you water again - otherwise you risk flooding the poor plant' adds Raab.
14. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)
This ficus is native to southeast Asia, boasts gorgeous green foliage and is brilliant at removing toxins: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and benzene from the air. This is another plant that is toxic to pets so always check ahead of purchasing one. Note that it can grow anything from two to ten feet tall so is sure to make a statement in your home! Keep yours happy with plenty of natural indirect sunlight and, as with many houseplants, only water once well dried out.
15. Rubber Plants (Ficus Elastica)
Native to India and fairly indestructible, Rubber Plants are top air-purifying plants that are said to remove toxins: xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere. Keep yours in a filtered light spot and water when dried out to enjoy its stylish benefits too. Note again this isn't pet-friendly so keep it high, out of reach.
Are there any plants that give off oxygen for 24 hours?
Some people worry about whether plants that give out oxygen are damaging or bad to your health, we asked Raab for some expert clarification on the matter. 'There’s no houseplants I know of that do this however the snake plant and areca palm release oxygen at night. These are very commonly sold as bedroom plants as they can increase the levels of oxygen in your room helping you sleep better. It’s a common misconception that having plants in the bedroom is bad for you due to the release of carbon monoxide but you’d have to have at least 500+ plants in your bedroom for this to make any kind of difference. I know people get rather concerned about having too many plants in the house because some plants inhale oxygen at night and release carbon dioxide but like said before you’d have to have hundreds of plants for this to make a difference.'
Breathe in, relax 🌿