Breathe Easier with Indoor Plants

Breathe Easier with Indoor Plants

Learn how houseplants clean the air, making you healthier.

Did you know that your houseplants do more for you than just look leafy and gorgeous? They also help clean the air you breathe. These leafy recyclers remove air pollutants by absorbing them through microscopic openings in their leaves.
Is Your Indoor Air Polluted?
Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found that “levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors.”* That means that the air in your home may be dramatically worse for you to breathe than the air outdoors.
Furthermore, some home cleaning products and improvement projects can raise the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) levels in your home. “During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels,”* says the EPA website at
Where Do Indoor Air Toxins Come from?
There are a wide variety of chemicals in indoor air. Here’s a rundown on common ones and their culprits:

  • Formaldehyde is found in a variety of building materials in homes and offices. Formaldehyde is found in glue, particleboard, timber paneling, plywood, insulation, fiberboard and shelving, furniture, and cabinetry made with pressed wood. It can also be present in new carpeting and drapes.
  • Toluene is a solvent found in paint, gasoline, kerosene, lacquers, nail polish, some cosmetics, stain removers, fabric dyes, inks, and adhesives.
  • Xylene can be found in household products such as floor polish, aerosol paint, household cleaners, insecticides, paint, shoe polish, pens and markers, herbicides, sealants, and in particleboard.
  • Ammonia is found in household products such as floor polish, window cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet cleaners, and oven cleaners as well as laundry and cleaning products.
  • Benzene can be found in adhesives, cigarette lighter fluid, gasoline, solvents, kerosene, pesticides, glue, charcoal lighter fluid, degreasers, and insecticides.
  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is caused by incomplete burning of fuels such as wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products or equipment with internal combustion engines such as generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.

Plants Are Silent Air Scrubbers
Houseplant fans have long attested to the added quality of life that plants bring to a home. They look great, of course, but they are also silent home air improvers. NASA research has proven scientifically that certain species of indoor plants remove VOCs from the air you breathe in your home.
Air Rx: A Plant in Every Room
Strategic plant placement in your home means plants can do their air-scrubbing job for every member of the family. Place plants in bedrooms, baths, living room, den, and kitchen. And while plants won’t remove all the toxins from your air, they are a positive step toward creating a healthier environment for your home.
Better Breathing—from A to Z
Here are 14 indoor plants that improve home air quality—and a list of toxins that they help eliminate.
Anthuriums feature big shiny dark leaves with red, pink, or white heart-shaped flowers. Most bloom year round and are favorites for gift-plant holidays such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter. But why wait for a special holiday to breathe easier?
Air toxins removed: Ammonia, Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene
Read about anthurium care.
Dracaenas have so many different looks! In fact, there are about 40 different varieties of this popular tropical houseplant. Dracaenas don’t need much light so they are ideal air purifiers in bathrooms, bedrooms, and dens.
Air toxins removed: Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene
Read about dracaena care.
These lacy-leafed plants date back to Prehistoric times where they softened the woodland floors for roaming dinosaurs. They became popular indoor plants during the Victorian era when they dressed up parlors and conservatories. Today ferns are happy at home in modern apartments and suburban houses.
Air toxins removed: Toluene, Xylene
Read about fern care.
Lovely yellow-marbled, heart-shaped leaves are why pothos is the top-selling indoor plant in North America. Golden Pothos is so easy; it tolerates lower light, lower humidity, and cooler temperatures than other houseplants. It purifies air making it ideal for home and office.
Air toxins removed: Benzene, Carbon Monoxide and Formaldehyde
Read about pothos care.
Corn Plant
Massangeana Cane, a type of dracaena, is a popular houseplant and can be used in the landscape in tropical locations. Slow-growing and upright, Massangeana has arching yellow-striped leaves. Mature plants produce strongly scented white flowers in the summer which are followed by orange fruit (which is not intended for human or animal consumption.)
Air toxins removed: Formaldehyde
Read about corn plant care.
Houseplant Palms
Add exciting frondy flourish to your rooms with palms. Tropical and exotic, there are a wide range of options—from small to tall. Palm leaves (or fronds), come in either fan or feather shape. There are so many sculptural options!
Air toxins removed: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Carbon Monoxide
Read about palm care.
Peace Lily
Spathiphyllum, aka Peace Lily, is a popular and easy-care indoor houseplant that has large shiny leaves and a distinctive white plume (called a spath). It loves low and high light, so it’s an ideal choice for any type of room.
Air toxins removed: Acetone, Ammonia, Benzene, Ethyl Acetate, Formaldehyde, Methyl Alcohol, Trichloroethylene, Xylene
Read about peace lily care.
Phalaenopsis Orchid
Elegant and exotic Phalaeonopsis is also easy to care for. Keep plants near windows where they can receive indirect sunlight (but not full sunlight). Also called moth orchids, these long-blooming plants clean your air as well as provide zenlike beauty in every room.
Air toxins removed: Xylene, Toluene
Read about Phalaeonopsis orchid care.
Snake Plant
Known by many names (Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), Sansevierias are among the hardiest of houseplants. They bear sturdy, spear-like foliage that looks lush and modern. Use them in entryways, living rooms, and dens.
Air toxins removed: Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene
Read about sansevieria care.
Song of India
A type of Dracaena, the stripy slender leaves of Song of India have a carefree tousled look that adds color and texture to bedrooms, dens, and kitchens. 
Air toxins removed: Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene
Read about Song of India care.
ZZ Plant
ZZ plant is one of the toughest plants around (read: it takes neglect!). ZZ thrives in low-light locations, so can you add them to windowless bathrooms and even basements! That’s why ZZ plants are favorites in artificially lit offices. The plant produces long stems with large almond shaped leaves.  Air toxins removed:Toluene, Xylene
Read about ZZ care.

Written by Justin Hancock