What Indoor Plants Help to Clean the Air?

Man-made building materials like plastic wallpaper, laminated counters and carpet leech chemicals into your home's air, according to the University of Minnesota. Over time, unhealthy levels of toxins can buildup. One solution lies in houseplants. Not only do they add color and life to a room, but research by NASA found that some houseplants remove trace organic pollutants. With just one houseplant, you can purify the air in a 100-square-foot area, according to the University of Wisconsin.

Spider Plant

The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) removed formaldehyde from the air in NASA's tests. The chemical is released in natural gas, plastic grocery bags, pressed-wood and foam insulation, according to the University of Wisconsin. Hailing from South Africa, the plant grows up to 1 1/2 feet tall and produces long, striped, green-and-white leaves with occasional white flowers.

Peace Lily

According to NASA, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) purifies the air of benzene and trichloroethylene. Synthetic fibers, rubber and plastic release benzene, while trichloroethylene comes from various paints and varnishes, according to the University of Wisconsin. The plant can reach up to 25 inches tall and 10 inches across. Homeowners prize the plant for its glossy leaves, white flowers rising on green stalks and low-light needs.


The Philodendron selloum, from South America, removes formaldehyde, according to NASA. In the wild, it can reach a height of up to 10 feet tall and wide. In homes, regular cutting keeps its height in check, though its dark green leaves still reach up to 13 feet in length.

Golden Pothos

People prize the golden pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) for its variegated foliage, which grow in glossy heart shapes along the clumping vine. In NASA's study, the plant filtered out formaldehyde. Outdoors, a single vine can extend more than 60 feet, but snips with pruning shears can easily contain it in a pot.

Red-Edged Dracaena

The red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) purifies benzene and trichloroethylene. It makes a striking accent piece thanks to its bare, wooden stalk from which red-edged, spiky leaves erupt in a glossy head. If it's not pruned, it forms a small tree that's approximately 15 feet tall.


Underneath its colorful blossoms, the chrysanthemum plant's green foliage tackles all three of the chemicals that NASA targeted in its research: benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. With more than 30 species in this genus, not including dozens of cultivars, plant size and blossom colors vary widely.

Keywords: indoor plants, air-cleaning houseplants, air-purifying houseplants

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.