The Best Houseplants for Purifying Indoor Air

The best houseplants to purify indoor air

I’ve written before about why it’s important to keep the air inside your home clean, and my favorite ways of doing so, which include salt lamps and beeswax candles. Common houseplants are also a great option.

Why Does Indoor Air Need Purifying?

Isn’t it outside air that’s harboring all the toxins? Well, there are plenty of toxins floating around outside thanks to pesticides and herbicides, vehicle fumes, and other industrial pollutants. Unfortunately, you’ll find a plethora of toxins in the air inside your own home as well.

Indoor air quality is affected by:

  • cleaning products, especially laundry detergent and fabric softener, as laundry chemicals are the top indoor pollutant
  • chemical flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, and children’s PJs
  • formaldehyde found in gas stoves, garbage bags, paper towels and tissues, carpet backing, and some fabrics
  • fragrances
  • other toxins carried in on your clothes and shoes from outdoors
  • electromagnetic frequencies (from computers, WiFi, and other electronics)

Houseplants are an effective, simple, and inexpensive way to purify indoor air.

The Best Houseplants to Purify Indoor Air

I’ve broken down the best houseplants to purify indoor air by their effectiveness, attractiveness, usefulness, and hardiness. This will help you decide which houseplants will best suit your needs.

The Most Effective House Plants

These houseplants are the most effective at removing indoor air toxins and contaminants.

Bamboo Palm

Bamboo palms are effective at removing chemical contaminants from the air like formaldehyde and benzene. They also help to keep the air moist, which is especially helpful during winter months when heaters can produce overly dry indoor air.

Bamboo palms have a tropical appearance and, though green instead of the typical tan bamboo color, have the characteristic tall, skinny canes and fanned leaves.

Rubber Plant

The rubber plant is especially effective for removing formaldehyde from indoor air. It’s favored for its ease of growth, as well as its appearance, which features large, rubbery leaves.

The rubber plant can grow up to 8 feet tall in the proper conditions. This large ficus (ficus robusta) is bred for toughness, which means that it’s not only one of the most effective plants for purifying indoor air, but it’s sure to be hardy even in less than ideal conditions.

English Ivy

English ivy is most often seen growing as a covering in atriums and lobbies, but it makes a lovely feature if grown as a topiary. Like the rubber plant, English ivy is known for its ability to remove formaldehyde from the air.

English ivy needs lots of light to look its best, but does well when the temperature doesn’t get too hot. It is, however, very adaptable to its environment, as it will climb and spread over any surface given the chance.

Boston Fern

Ferns are one of the best-known varieties of houseplants, and the Boston fern is known for being the best plant for removing indoor air pollutants, and for adding humidity to indoor air.

While it is a champ at keeping indoor air clean, the Boston fern is somewhat finicky and requires an attentive caretaker. Without frequent watering and misting, the leaves will quickly turn brown and fall off.

Dwarf Date Palm

If you’re into tropical plants, the dwarf date palm is for you. It’s like an adorable mini palm tree that fits in your living room.

The dwarf date palm is one of the most effective palms for removing indoor air pollution, especially xylene, which is found in solvents and paint thinner. It’s also quite good at keeping the air moist and is fairly easy to grow.

The Most Beautiful Houseplants

It’s important to have houseplants that keep your air clean, but what about plants that are nice to look at? Here are the prettiest, best houseplants to purify indoor air.

Tulips

Tulips are truly lovely to look at. They come in a variety of colors, and also do a pretty good job of keeping the air clean, as they’ve been shown to be effective at eliminating formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the air.

Azaleas

The dwarf azalea has been bred to remain indoors and bloom seasonally, and boasts big, pretty blooms. You can purchase it nearly any time of year, and with some care, it can bloom over and over. Of course, you’ll want to keep it blooming because it’s efficient at cleaning the air too.

Orchids

All varieties of orchids are quite pretty, but the level to which they filter the air varies. For instance, the dendrobium orchid features plain white blooms and removes alcohols, acetone, formaldehyde, and chloroform from the air. On the other hand, the more vibrant moth orchid, which features colorful blooms, including the well-known bright pink centered ones, is not as effective at purifying the air.

Wax Begonia

Begonias are a beautiful plant that are available in a number of vibrant colors, which can bloom year round given the right conditions. They also help to remove chemical vapors from the air.

Peacock Plant

With gorgeous purple and green hues, it’s easy to see where the peacock plant got its name. They can provide some help with keeping your air clean but are fairly finicky, requiring a lot of care and attention to growing conditions.

The Most Useful House Plants

These plants tend to be the most all-around useful to keep in your home:

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is well known for its ability to soothe burned skin. Keeping it around allows you to use the fresh gel at a moment’s notice for scrapes and burns. It can also be used internally and can be squeezed into smoothies.

Aloe vera isn’t one of the best houseplants to purify indoor air, but it does have the unique ability to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide at night, making it a good choice for keeping in a bedroom.

Lavender

Lavender, with its earthy, sweet smell, has a soothing, calming effect. You can use it to make tea, tinctures, and even soaps and lotions. It’s also helpful for purifying the air by lowering carbon dioxide levels and cleansing bad smells.

Rosemary

Rosemary is both a culinary powerhouse as well as an air-purifying plant. Its antimicrobial properties make it a good choice for cleaning the air.

The Hardiest Indoor House Plants

Have a black thumb? Then it’s important to choose hardy plants that will be forgiving to your lack of growing skills!

Palms

Palms come in lots of varieties, including the bamboo palm, which we mentioned above. They are both easy to grow and maintain, as well as resistant to pests.

Syngonium

An interesting-looking plant with large leaves, the syngonium is a pretty easy plant to grow. It is moderately effective at purifying the air and will be fairly forgiving to forgetfulness.

Philodendrons

A cousin to the syngonium, philodendrons are one of the best houseplants for purifying indoor air, plus they are rather hardy, requiring little upkeep.

Snake Plant

Snake plants have striking tall, pointy leaves, which would explain the name. There are many species, and while they’re not known as one of the best houseplants for purifying indoor air, like aloe vera, they cleanse the air at night by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Better yet, they’re easy to grow and resist pest infestation well.

And the Awards for Best Houseplants Go to …

If you want to choose just a few from the extensive list above, taking into consideration all above points, here are the winners across all categories:

Palms – Attractive, hardy, and one of the best plants for purifying the air.

Tulips – Very pretty, and quite useful at removing unwanted chemicals from the air.

Philodendrons – Hardy, excellent at purifying indoor air, and they come in lots of varieties, so you’re sure to find a pretty one.

Important Houseplant Caution

Some houseplants can be poisonous to children and pets. The above houseplants are the most effective at cleaning indoor air, but not all of them are safe for children and pets. Make sure to research and check out any plant for safety before bringing it into your home. Personally, I have quite a few houseplants but keep them where I know pets and children won’t try to eat them. Here is a partial list of plants to avoid if you have pets or children who are prone to eat them.

Are you ready to fill your home with plants? Which air-purifying houseplants are your favorites?

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Reader Comments

  1. Katie,
    Sorry this is in the wrong spot but have been desperate to find a solution to my Hashimotos. I have tried your doc but I would have to fly to Arizona and thats not an option right now. Seeking natropaths in the area are so pricey and I really have a hard time trusting blindly. I have even found Dr. Shook in NC online ( Have you heard anything about his practice?) I just bought your book and am currently nursing my seven month old. Love your recipes and insight so much. So hopeful seeing you have six healthy littles. Yet, I’m feeling defeated and just want to get help and answers. I feel so hungry without gluten and dairy. Everything I read pretty much says I cannot eat much with this autoimmune attack. Any advice for finding a trustworthy dr., how you get your blood work done to keep your levels in check, and being able to enjoy life on such a strict diet (as well as be able to keep. gain fertility… I feel like the diet has made me lose a lot of weight).

    • Have you found Dr. Izabella Wentz’ blog yet? http://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/ I find all of her info so helpful and she has guidance of supplements that help and so much more.She also has a new book coming out in April that is really helpful. I found that I did better with enough healthy carbs from foods like sweet potatoes and rice and that I only handle certain greens well. There is definitely quite a bit of trial and error in figuring out what works for you. I think you may also be able to order lab tests from Izabella’s site.

      • Katie,
        Thank you so so much for getting back to me and for the great advice! I just read “Finding the Root Cause” last week and found it very helpful. Did you use the Hacking Hashimoto’s program? I just want to make sure I am safe while nursing and hopefully conceiving within the next year. You have been such a wealth of knowledge, and I love what you do. Thank you so much and God Bless!

        • Yes, and I just made a few adaptions based on what I needed while nursing and it was very helpful.

      • I have been following you for a few years. When did u start eating rice? I know I’ve seen a post or 2 from the beginning years of your blog about occasional rice but I thought you have been very strict paleo for many years. I am confused as rice is a grain…
        Also, as an aside, I find your blog more confusing since you took the dates out of your posts and comments. Older posts often have outdated information or things that you have changed and no longer do. I like to know if a post is from 5 years ago or not…
        Thanks for your hardwork!

        • I’ve never considered myself “paleo” and our family’s diet has evolved over the years. It seems that even the original pioneers in the paleo community are also re-evaluating certain foods though. I recently interviewed Robb Wolf, and he even spoke about rice and potatoes being ok for some people. Rice still is an occasional food for us, but something that we all seem to tolerate. I also have never used the word Paleo on the blog for a reason- I choose what we eat and how we live based on the best I can find from the wisdom of traditional cultures and the cutting edge science of today. The internet isn’t Paleo, after all, but I’m quite a fan of it 🙂

          Here’s where I’ve written about both rice (https://wellnessmama.com/2123/white-rice-healthy/) and grains (https://wellnessmama.com/575/problem-with-grains/).

          I’m constantly updating older posts, which is why they have “last updated on”.

    • What NC city is Dr.Shook practicing in? I may know someone that knows the doctor.

  2. I respectfully suggest you look at Peace Lily. It should make any top ten list for air purifying.

    • Peace lily is a workhorse for purifying air but its extremely toxic to children and pets. Keep them up high if you have them.

  3. Can you comment on this thorough, well-written article about the houseplant myth and cite some sources for the suggestions you’ve given?
    http://www.gardenmyths.com/garden-myth-born-plants-dont-purify-air/
    I’d love as much as the next person to use houseplants for cleaning the air but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t actually work that way.

  4. Thanks for a great post! I need some more information, please. I have a cat and I need to know if any of these plants are harmful to pets. If you know the answer, I would appreciate it if you could share. Thanks 🙂

  5. Hello,
    I have a salt lamp but have been hearing they are toxic have you heard anything on this?
    Thanks

    Cathy

  6. This list should really mention the poisonous qualities of some of these plants, especially since most of us reading have children, if not also pets. You shouldn’t have to click on a separate link to know which things you are recommending are NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN AND PETS!!!!

    POISONOUS PLANTS:
    Syngonium is very poisonous, English Ivy, Philodendrons,

    Also, spider plants are very adept at combating many toxins: the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.

    • I did include this warning and a link to check the toxicity of plants at the bottom of this post :

      “Important Houseplant Caution

      Some houseplants can be poisonous to children and pets. The above houseplants are the most effective at cleaning indoor air, but not all of them are safe for children and pets. Make sure to research and check out any plant for safety before bringing it into your home. Personally, I have quite a few houseplants but keep them where I know pets and children won’t try to eat them. Here is a partial list of plants to avoid if you have pets or children who are prone to eat them.”

  7. Thanks for the great post.

    I’ve also read great things about and used “Spider plants” (here in South Africa known as Hen and her chicks), but they need enough sun and water.

  8. Nice post! I like pothos as well, it’s so easy to care for.

  9. Hi Katie!
    Are there any online retailers that you recommend buying these plants from? That use nontoxic soil? I would love to purchase the bamboo palm but can’t find a great online store to purchase.

  10. Hi Katie

    Great post, great website! I does make sense that these plants are good and healthy to have inside. When I just told a friend of mine about it he said that he thought the soil wasn’t good for you. Do you know anything about that? Do you recommend using a certain soil (sorry, don’t know anything about plants and soil).

    Thank you!

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