Top 5 Indoor Plants for Improving Air Quality

Now that a late autumn chill has set in, your house windows are likely shut. Unbeknownst to you, this traps you indoors alongside a host of invisible pollutants with scary-sounding names: benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene, ethyl acetate, acetone and chloroform.

These are just some of the chemicals present in household items from furniture and carpet to everyday cleaners and toilet paper. The first three, particularly, can trigger asthma, allergies and cancer.

So what can you do to improve your indoor air quality? Easy—add plants. Many of them are natural air purifiers, including these common (and easy to care for) top five.


  1. Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)

    This workhorse plant (pictured above) clears out a variety of VOCs, especially formaldehyde, which is lurking in particleboard and other furniture components. Warning: The plant leaves are toxic if eaten, so keep away from kids and pets. Tips on caring for Heart Leaf Philodendron.

  2. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

    This succulent clears out two of the more harmful pollutants (benzene and formaldehyde), and serves double duty with its healing gel that soothes burns and cuts. Tips on caring for aloe.


  3. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

    I can attest to the facts that these plants are hard to kill, as I have had several for years! The spider plant removes poisonous gases, xylene and formaldehyde from the air and works well in areas with accumulation of carbon monoxide (such as the kitchen stove or the fireplace). Tips on caring for spider plants.


  4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

    And its cousin, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), works great in humid, low-light bathrooms where they filter out the formaldehyde present in tissues, toilet paper and cleaning products. Tips on caring for snake plant.


  5. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

    This pretty flowering plant removes all three of the top indoor pollutants listed above and also combats toluene and xylene. It tops NASA’s list as one of the best air purifiers. Tips on caring for the peace lily.


All images (except philodendron) from Wikipedia commons. This post is featured on Small Footprint Friday, Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Hop, Thank Your Body Thursday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday and Party Wave Wednesday.


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14 Responses to Top 5 Indoor Plants for Improving Air Quality

  1. christine says:

    This is great! Adding plants to our house is something I’ve been trying to do. I have to be careful, though, as my cat just loves to eat house plants — not good for the plants, possibly very dangerous for the cat!
    The link to the tips on caring for a spider plant (that’s what I wound up getting) was especially helpful!

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      Glad it helped you! Careful on what plants you choose since quite a few are harmful to pets. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: My Week on Wednesday… November 13 » Once Upon a Time in a Bed of Wildflowers

  3. nicole says:

    I love plants, and planting. I recently planted a few succulents around my home. What do you think about these type of plants? Visiting from the Urban Naturale Hop #20 🙂

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      Hi Nicole,
      Aloe is probably the top-most air-cleaning succulent, but I’ve also read that the Christmas cactus is excellent at removing airborne chemicals. The other plus about succulents is that, because they require little water, they are great in homes with people who have mold allergies.
      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Donna, Thanks for the reminder that plants can help to make our indoor air quality better. I live in the desert southwest so our closed in time is actually the summer when we run our A/C 24/7. During that time my plants are really important to me. I struggled though to keep the water balance correct for years until a year or so ago I ended up buying “water balls” that you fill and then insert into the soil. I’ve done so much better and my plants really like them. Thank you for your great suggestions–I’m thinking it’s about time to add a few new ones and now I know which ones to look for. ~Kathy

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      Hi Kathy,
      I’ve always wondered about the effectiveness of those water balls. Glad to know they’ve worked for you — it may inspire me to try one!

  5. Erica says:

    I have the Peace Lily, lots of spider plants and beginning a little succulent community garden at work! LOL!

  6. There are so many toxins in our indoor air environment and most of us are unaware of their serious threats to our health. Thank you for sharing this amazing post on adding house plants to function as natural air purifiers! Plus, the plant photos are glorious! And thank you for sharing this valuable information on the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop! We appreciate it!

  7. Sojourner says:

    Wow. Great information. I’m going to invest in some house plants. I often worry about the air quality in my apartment during the winter when the windows are sealed shut. I’ve got Himalayan Salt lamps, now I’m going to add some plants 🙂

  8. Shannen says:

    Great post! I didn’t realize all the plants my mom had when I was a kid were so beneficial. It’s amazing how you figure out how smart your parents are after you’re a parent yourself. 🙂

  9. These are all great indoor plants to have, i have always been a fan of having the snake plant or peace lily. The Lily adds more then just plant leaves around the house to give it more design.

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      I love our peace lily, just wish it would bloom those lovely white flowers more often!

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