The Best Air Purifying House Plants

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These days we’re bombarded with indoor pollutants.

In today’s modern world, on top of dealing with unavoidable outdoor air contaminants that enter our homes like car exhaust, seasonal pollen, bacteria, molds, etc., there’s plenty of “off-gassing” that occurs in our homes, whether it be with the materials used to make our furniture, carpets, paints, glues, caulks, sealants, cleaning products, rubber, and so forth. More and more synthetic chemicals are used, especially when it comes to the use of cheaper materials such as plastics.

These “off-gassed” chemicals can account for over 85% of our indoor air pollution!

Here’s a quick example that most of us just tend to not even think twice about. Ever get something new like a kitchen appliance or new toy set for the kids and when you open it up you get that “weird plastic smell?” It’s gross and a little nauseating, huh? That’s off-gassing!

*Tip: Let stuff like that air out in the garage or outside for a while before it becomes a permanent fixture within the home.

In addition, if you live in a space with tight quarters and/or little ventilation (like an apartment building, for example), that just magnifies the problem and what you end up with is really poor air quality, which very well may be the invisible cause of serious health issues like ongoing headaches, nausea, and respiratory illnesses, all of which can be precursors to other more serious ailments.

Luckily, we can combat these pollutants with a some simple good old-fashioned houseplants! Below we’ll discuss the best air purifying houseplants to use, from the ones that are pretty easy to take care of to those that might require a little more love.

So how do house plants purify air anyway?

We’ve all learned at some point how plants absorb gases through the many pores on the surface of their leaves, like in the process of photosynthesis, where plants convert carbon dioxide and light from the sun into chemical energy to fuel growth, ultimately giving off oxygen for us to breath.

But recent scientific research by NASA has shown that plants, along with the microorganisms that live in their soil, have the ability to absorb many other gases in addition to carbon dioxide, which include a long list of what are called VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). VOC’s can cause breathing problems, headaches, eye or sinus irritation, and possibly even kidney damage, liver damage, or certain cancers.

The three most common VOC’s in our homes are:

  • Formaldehyde (most commonly found in furniture, particle board, detergents, cosmetics, carpet cleaners, household cleaning agents)
  • Benzene (most commonly found in certain fabrics, plastics, furniture, particle board, pesticides, gasoline exhaust, cigarette smoke)
  • Xylene (most commonly found in plastics, polyester, rubber, leather, adhesives, paint thinners, varnishes, gasoline exhaust)

In addition to their air-purifying benefits, houseplants are also known to:

  • increase productivity and elevate mood
  • enhance memory skills and boost concentration levels
  • lower fatigue and reduce everyday stress levels

Easy-care house plants

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Sometimes called St. Bernard’s Lily, spider plants are included in a group of over 200 species and are among the easiest houseplants to grow, perfect for beginners. The spider plant got its name because of its “spiderettes,” that dangle down from the mother plant like spiders on a web. These spiderettes often start out as little white flowers.

Spider plants live best in bright indirect sunlight and can grow relatively quickly. They are great for hanging baskets around the office or the kitchen! Due to their amazing abilities at combating air pollution, they’re also believed to be effective at absorbing forms of EMF radiation (electromagnetic fields) in the home.

  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, xylene
  • Plant care: Water your spider plants about two times a week. In fact, spider plants prefer to dry out some between watering. They enjoy cooler temperatures: around 55° – 65°F (13° -18°C).
  • NON-TOXIC

Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)

Snake plants, also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue for their sharp evergreen sword-like leaves that grow upward, are probably the easiest houseplant to care for, hands down. They’re great for beginners because they’re super hardy and require very little attention.

They can thrive in a wide variety of temperature ranges and light conditions. You don’t even need to water them that much. They’re considered “succulents” because they store water within their foliage, like a cactus, so it’s not necessary to consistently keep the soil damp. Told you they were easy!

Scientists have also been recently studying snake plants as an antidote to certain forms of EMF radiation (electromagnetic fields).

  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, xylene , trichloroethylene
  • Plant care: Snake plants generally prefer dry conditions and some sun. Water only when the soil becomes very dry to the touch. During the dry winter months, a once a month watering is more than enough. They love room temperatures between 60° – 75°F (15° – 24°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

A “succulent” like the Snake plant, Aloe Vera is another tough plant that’s super easy to care for, plus it has a ton of other health benefits, in fact you’ll often find separated leaves near the produce section of most supermarkets. The plant’s leaves contain a clear sappy liquid that’s packed full of vitamins and enzymes that have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties.

The liquid is great for soothing sunburn, as well as other topical ailments. Aloe vera juice is also great for human intestinal health when orally consumed. You’ll often find Aloe Vera juice for sale online, in health food stores, and in select supermarkets.

  • Pollutant removed: formaldehyde
  • Plant Care: As a succulent it’s made up of mainly water, retaining it in its foliage like a cactus or snake plant. So it does not need constant watering, even less during the winter. They love bright conditions and indirect sunlight. Aloe does best in slightly warmer room temperatures between 70° – 80°F (21° – 26°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Dracaena

This large group of houseplants comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Most commonly you will find them with long leaves with streaks of color, mainly red and white.

Their colorful strap-like foliage appears on many dracaena houseplant varieties. They have an upright form to them, making them great for open spaces around the living room. Be sure to keep them away from your pets though if they have a tendency to chew on the leaves. If consumed by pets, dracaenas can be toxic.

  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene
  • Plant care: Make sure to keep their soil moist but don’t overdo it! Too much water will kill them. Drooping or yellowing leaves means you are over-watering them or they have poor drainage. They enjoy room slightly warmer temperatures: around 60°- 70°F (15°- 21°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

Also known as Goldon Pothos, this plant is virtually indestructible. Another great starter houseplant for people without much experience. Considered one of the most effective indoor air-purifiying houseplants, it survives well in a variety of conditions and can tolerate stretches of green-thumb neglect.

Its variegated leaves are usually white, yellow, or light green. They are commonly used in decorative displays in shopping centers, commercial offices, and other public locations because they require very little care.

  • Pollutants removed: carbon monoxide, benzene, xylene, toluene, formaldehyde
  • Plant care: Water when the soil is dry. It can grow up to 8 feet long, so if yours getting too big for your comfort, you can trim down its tendrils (climbing leaves). They enjoy seasonal room temperatures between 60º -85ºF (15º – 29ºC) and do well in a wide variety of light conditions, except for direct sunlight.
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Peace lilies, one of the few houseplants that will bloom flowers indoors, are relatively small when you compare them to other houseplants, but they still pack a punch when it comes to removing certain VOC’s. They make a really great office plant. Put peace lilies in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without over watering.

They are relatively easy to care for because they show signs of drooping if they need to be watered. A forewarning, however, that the leaves can be poisonous to pets, children, and even adults. So tuck these away in a shady spot out of reach if you have little ones around.

  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide
  • Plant care: Keep soil slightly moist. Peace lilies thrive in most lighting conditions, but too little light can prevent flowers from blooming. Peace Lilies do great in seasonal room temperatures, but don’t go any lower than 55°F (12°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Plants that need a little extra love.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Bamboo palms can filter out a lot of air due to the fact that they can grow to be pretty tall, anywhere from 4 to 12 feet high. They also emit a healthy dose of moisture into the air, great for those dry winter months.

These palms thrive in bright indirect sunlight and love open spaces where air can circulate through and around them. They are great for adding some beautiful decor to some bare spaces around the house, particularly around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde.

  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, chloroform, carbon monoxide, xylene, trichloroethylene
  • Plant care: Keep the soil moist on a consistent basis. Place bamboo palms where air circulates freely, and mist occasionally to prevent spider mites. Palm trees like cooler temperatures, preferably in the 65° – 80°F range(18° – 26°C).
  • NON-TOXIC

Rubber Plants (Ficus elastic)

Rubber plants are perfect in an office space or smaller rooms packed with furniture due to its formaldehyde-removing properties. A great deal of furniture is held together by formaldehyde-based glues.

Their roots grow upwards and usually entwine themselves around the plant’s trunk, forming unique shapes. Rubber plants like a lot of bright light, but not direct sunlight. They can potentially grow to become beautiful focal points in room.

  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide
  • Plant care: During its summer growing season, occasional misting is ideal to keep it moist. During the dormant winter, only once or twice a month watering is needed. Well-draining soil is also important. Seasonal room temperatures are fine, around 60° – 75°F (15° – 24°C), but nothing lower than 55°F (12°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

Chinese Evergreens are perennials native to Asian tropical forests. They can help filter out a variety of air pollutants and begins to remove more toxins as time and exposure continues. They seem to thrive in low to medium light and will grow almost anywhere you put them.

They generally grow anywhere from one to three feet, with beautiful colorful patterns. Because they’re tropical, they prefer humidity. If your air is too dry, you might want to mist the leaves regularly, otherwise their tips might turn brown.

  • Pollutants removed:: benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, trichloroethylene
  • Plant care: Water moderately, but allow the soil to practically dry out before re-watering. If conditions aren’t humid, you have to mist them regularly. Anywhere between 65º – 80ºF (18º – 27 ºC) is best. Anything lower may cause dark patches to appear on the leaves.
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Also referred to as a Ficus, the weeping fig tree plant can grow anywhere between 2 – 10 feet tall. It’s a relatively low-maintenance houseplant great for your living room and/or carpeted spaces where formaldehyde and benzene can be prominent.

One thing is for sure as well: Once you get them in their sweet spot as far as lighting goes, they will definitely last a long time! Weeping Figs don’t like being moved around a lot If you do, they go into a state of shock and they’ll start losing leaves. They love bright indirect sunlight away from any draft-prone areas like windows and doors. Let them be in their sweet spot, wherever you find it in your home, and they will thrive.

  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
  • Plant Care: Thrive best in bright, indirect light, allowing the soil to dry out between watering. Mist the leaves in the summer. Weeping Figs prefer room temperatures of around 65° – 75°F (16° – 24°C).
  • TOXIC: to animals when orally ingested, symptoms may include oral irritation, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing.

Boston Fern

Boston Ferns remove practically more formaldehyde than any other houseplant. They’re also one of the best houseplants to have if you live in a big city because they’re really great at removing pollutants like benzene and xylene, which are emitted from gasoline exhaust. With all that traffic bustling by, Boston Ferns would be a no-brainer.

The only thing is that they are sort of needy, demanding almost daily watering/misting, weekly feeding during growing seasons, and monthly feedings during the winter.

  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, xylene, benzene
  • Plant Care: Boston Ferns prefer cool locations, high humidity, and indirect sunlight. They thrive on daily watering/misting. Boston ferns do well in temperatures between 60º – 75ºF (16º – 24ºC). Also, try to avoid cold drafts near windows and doors.
  • NON-TOXIC

Before you buy any house plants…

  • Reconsider any air-purifying plants if you have pets such as cats and dogs that have a tendency to chew on things they shouldn’t. If orally ingested, many houseplants can be toxic to them.
  • Keep a healthy mix of types of plants throughout each room for the healthiest air. You’ll be able to combat the most amount of VOC’s as possible.
  • Don’t get too crazy and overcrowd a room with too many plants, or you may increase the humidity levels, resulting in possible mold growth. Mold can not only cause damage to your home, but make allergy/asthma symptoms even worse.

Other ways to purify the air in your home.

Besides houseplants, here are some other tips for keeping the air quality in your home at a healthy level:

  • Regularly vacuuming and cleaning floors will keep bacteria and other allergens away.
  • Go as natural as possible and avoid
    synthetic cleaners or air fresheners.
  • Reduce the humidity in your air (don’t keep the windows open if it’s muggy outside).
  • Let your home breathe when weather permits. Open the windows and increase the overall ventilation.
  • Be consistent with replacing air-filters on your AC units.
  • Try diffusing essential oils into the air. They have numerous therapeutic health benefits.

Cheers to your health!

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below! We’d love to continue the conversation!





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