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How Well do Plants Clean Our Air?

NASA had scientists study how air cleaning plants removed toxins inside confined spaces. With the advent of new homes and buildings becoming more energy efficient, we have created indoor living spaces that are sealed tight. This allows for toxins to build up in the living space with little chance to escape. Since NASA has environments where they have no ability to get some “fresh air”, they did a study to see which plants can clean our air and replicate the relationship people have with the environment.

Sick Building Syndrome is a condition where people are negatively impacted by the poor ventilation and amount of toxins found in the buildings where they work. These toxins come from a variety of factors such as the furniture, cleaners, office equipment, lack of fresh air exchange and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). In 1984, the World Health Organization released a report theorizing that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings have poor indoor air quality.

In 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America looked at 2 years of data on the usefulness of houseplants and their ability to solve indoor air pollution. Their findings are clear – the right plants clean our air!  This study focused on 3 common air pollutants: benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

  • Benzene – Benzene is a commonly used solvent and can be found in paints, inks, gasoline, plastics, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and dyes. Benzene is a known carcinogen and can irritate the eyes and skin. Low levels of exposure can lead to headaches, loss of appetite, drowsiness, nervousness, psychological disturbances, and diseases of the blood system, including anemia and bone marrow disease.
  • Trichloroethylene – Trichloroethylene is used in printing inks, paints, adhesives and varnishes. Over 90% of its products are used in metal degreasing and dry-cleaning industries. In 1975,  the National Cancer Institute reported a high incidence of carcinomas in mice exposed to Trichloroethylene.
  • Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is a chemical found in almost all indoor environments. Formaldehyde is used as a stiffener, wrinkle resister, fire retardant, adhesive, carpet backing and water repellant. It can be found in items like furniture, insulation, paper products and cigarette smoke. Formaldehyde irritates the mucous membranes and can cause allergic dermatitis. Formaldehyde can also cause headaches and asthma.

What are the Best Air Cleaning Plants?

Plant Name Pets Care Benefits

English Ivy

English Ivy - best air cleaning plants

No Likes bright, indirect light with occasional water and mistings. Removes benzene and formaldehyde. Also helps remove mold particles.


Ficus Trees - best air cleaning plants

No Needs bright, indirect light and proper watering when soil is dry to 1/4 inch soil. Removes benzene and formaldehyde.
Gerbera Daisy
gerbera daisy best air cleaning plants
Yes Needs 3-5 hours of morning light.  Water when soil is dry to 1/2 inch soil. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Janet Craig
Janet Craig - best air cleaning plants
No Will tolerate low sun, keep out of direct sunlight. Do not over water. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Dracaena Marginata

 Dracaena Marginata - best air cleaning plants

No Needs bright, indirect sunlight.  Water when almost dry to the bottom. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Mother In Law’s Tongue
Mother-in-law-tongue - best air cleaning plants
No Needs bright light.  Doesn’t need water often because it can store it. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Peace Lilly
peace lilly - best air cleaning plants
No Prefers low light. Should water thoroughly. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Potted Mum
Chrysanthemum morifolium - best air cleaning plants
No Needs the brightest, indirect light. Watering should be done thoroughly. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
best air cleaning plants
No Does best in low and artificial light.  Keep out of direct sunlight. Water occasionally when soil dry to 3/4 inch of soil. Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Golden Pothos
Pothos - best air cleaning plants
No Does best under bright light.  Tolerates a lot of neglect.  Water when top soil is dry. Removes benzene and formaldehyde.

As you can see, most of these plants aren’t safe for pets, so place them out of reach.  Plants that do best in low light are ideal for office and business use.

Other good houseplants to consider for cleaning your air are Chinese evergreens, spider plants, philodendrons, palm trees, Boston ferns, aloe veras and mass canes.

Plants are a great way to improve your air quality while adding a nice decorating touch to your home. Don’t forget about putting some plants in an area like a bathroom or laundry room. Another great thing about how plants clean our air is it takes no electricity to run and they don’t rely on artificial, toxic fragrances to clean the air. It is good to bring some life to your home by adding some green to the mix.

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About Post Author


My name is Susan and I am a stay-at-home mom who loves to blog and share tips for managing home. I have been married for 8 years and have three kids. I know what it is like to try to keep a household running smoothly while also trying to take care of a family.
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Home Owner Buff

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Tuesday, Mar 21, 2023