Green Plants, Cleaner Air

Green plants can help you breathe a little easier indoors. Living in an energy efficient home can have unintended side effects like reduced air flow and ventilation. That means the toxic chemicals in your cleaning products, laundry detergents, air freshener 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!

Houseplants are a quick and decorative way to absorb a few of the harmful toxins from the air, especially in small, enclosed spaces with little air flow. They don’t have the horsepower of a mechanical ventilation system or an air purifier and won’t do the heavy lifting but they are natural, inexpensive, and can even help improve your mood and productivity, enhance concentration, and reduce stress!  Note:  You need more than 1-2 plants to have any measurable impact…so buy in bulk!

What chemicals will they tackle?  Plants will differ in what they absorb so having a variety is best. But most are effective on formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, and carbon monoxide. Certain plants can also absorb trichloroethylene, ammonia, and chloroform.

Which plants are best?  There are lots of plants that will do the job but 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 that are commonly recommended and easy to care for:

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

Two Cautions:

  1. Many air purifying plants are toxic to cats and dogs – so if you have pets that are prone to nibble at leaves, be sure to choose non-toxic options. (the ASPCA has an excellent online resource –
  2. Indoor plants can also affect humidity and promote mold growth. Don’t over water and make sure water drains into a pan or tray where it can be removed easily. Covering the top of the soil with Spanish moss or aquarium gravel can also help minimize mold.

While we love houseplants — they WILL NOT do a complete job of removing 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!


Dana Sundblad
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.
Ready to Improve the Health of your Home?

Our clear customized report helps you understand your home and take action.

Related Articles


Our guide on indoor quality will help you diagnose possible issues and implement intelligent solutions to improve the quality of the air inside your home.

Related Articles