Can plants clean your indoor air? Not really.

Edited: November 7, 2019

While some green plants may help you breathe easier by making your space a little cheerier, they do nothing to mitigate poor air quality and the unintended side effects of some energy-efficient homes like reduced airflow and ventilation. “Tight homes” mean that the toxic chemicals in your cleaning products, laundry detergents, air freshener, as well as other pollutants all stay trapped inside your home. Add in items like furniture, carpeting, vinyl flooring, and synthetic building materials all of which can off-gas chemicals and your house can quickly become more polluted indoors than you think!

While in very large quantities (10-10,000 per sq meter according to researchers), with the right potting medium, and very small, and in enclosed spaces with minimal airflow, plants could theoretically absorb a few harmful toxins from the air including formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, and carbon monoxide, this is unlikely to describe your living space. Houseplants, even in large quantities, don’t have anything close to the horsepower of a mechanical ventilation system or an air purifier.

However plants provide natural and inexpensive decor and may even improve your mood and productivity, enhance concentration, and reduce stress, so they have benefits!

Which indoor plants are best? There are lots of options for houseplants, so you will have to do a little legwork to figure out which will thrive in your home by understanding your indoor environment (warm/cool, sunny/shady, humid/dry) and how much attention you want to give them.

Here are 9 indoor plants that have at least a minimal ability to “clean” the air – but mostly they just look nice and are easy to care for:

Chrysanthemums, Devil’s Ivy (Golden Pothos), Areca Palms, and Chinese evergreen are also good choices.

Two Cautions:

While we love houseplants — they WILL NOT remove toxins from your indoor air. Make sure your home is properly ventilated and switch to non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaning and laundry products and skipping any and all air fresheners – it is the best way to reduce your home’s indoor chemical load and your family’s exposure!


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Dana Sundblad
Dana is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with over 20 years experience helping companies achieve awareness and financial goals in consumer, technology, and non-profit industries. Most recently she was Director of Communications at Castilleja School and began her career in brand marketing with Clorox. She received her MBA from Harvard University and BA from Wellesley College.
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