The best indoor plants for clean air is not a matter of opinion but rather of scientific history. Several tests have been done on the ability of plants to remove indoor toxins by organizations such as NASA, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, University of Technology in Australia and many others. Among these, several plants have come out as the best at removing one or more toxins commonly found indoors.
Mold and Bacteria Removers
Houseplants help remove mold spores and bacteria in the air by releasing phytochemicals that suppress them. According to Marie Harrison, a room without plants can have up to 50 to 60 percent more bacteria and mold spores than one with plants.
Some of the best plants for removing bacteria and mold include dracaenas such as the Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig') and Warneckii (Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii') dracaena, cornstalk or corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) and red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata). Palms such as the Areca palms (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), bamboo or reed palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii), dwarf date palms (Phoenix roebelenii) and lady palms (Rhapis excelsa). Other plants that are good include English ivy (Hedera helix), snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) and peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.).
Formaldehyde is found in insulation, particle board and pressed wood, cleaning products, carpet backing and many paper products. When it builds up, it can irritate the mucus membranes in your nose, throat and eyes, trigger asthma attacks, cause headaches and many other symptoms.
According to a 1990 NASA study, aloe (Aloe vera), philodendrons (Philodendron spp.), snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) and golden pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) were able to remove up to 90 percent of the formaldehyde in a room. Other plants good for removing formaldehyde included the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii), mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria laurentii), peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.), red-edged and Janet Craig dracaenas (Dracaena marginata and Dracaena fragran 'Janet Craig').
Carbon Monoxide Removers
Carbon monoxide is a gas produced during combustion. Sources include gas stoves and other gas appliances, open fires, car exhausts and central heating boilers. Low level exposure can cause dizziness and headaches. Higher exposures can cause death.
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is capable of removing 96 percent of the carbon monoxide from the air, according to the Flower & Plants Association. Other plants reported to be excellent for removing carbon monoxide include red-edged and Janet Craig dracaenas (Dracaena marginata and Dracaena fragran 'Janet Craig'), bamboo palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii), golden pathos (Epipiremnum aureum), snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata), peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), English ivy (Hedera helix) and heartleaf philodendrons (Philodendron scandens `oxycardium').
Benzene is found in gasoline, inks, paints, oils, plastics, rubber, detergents, dyes and tobacco smoke. It can irritate the skin and eyes and cause a loss of appetite, drowsiness, headaches, anemia and psychological disturbances. It is also believed to be a contributing factor to blood and bone marrow diseases, including leukemia.
Dracaena (Dracaena spp.), peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.), English ivy (Hedera helix) and Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) were able to remove up to 80 percent of the benzene in a room, according to a 1990 NASA study.
Trichloroethylene is a solvent found in paint, inks, varnishes, lacquers, adhesives and dry cleaning solutions. It can depress the central nervous system as well as cause headaches and dizziness. Prolonged exposure can lead to problems with the liver and kidneys and even cancer.
The best plants for removing trichloroethylene include gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii), red-edged and Janet Craig dracaenas (Dracaena marginata and Dracaena fragran 'Janet Craig'), peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.) and bamboo palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii).