Updated 19th April 2020
When I first wrote up this research paper there was general agreement that it was correct that houseplants plants in the home can help to clean the air. But since that publication, there has been a number of public responses from prominent scientists rejecting the idea including on Atlantic.com. We, therefore, share this list of plants but would recommend you not buy them if your only plan is to clean your air [We think there are a ton of benefits for plants so don’t let this put you off owning and looking after plants].
If you are serious about cleaning the air in your home then be sure to check out the specific guides we have written with our recommended units based on our inhouse testing and analysis:
A Note About Pets:
As noted by a number of readers, many of the plants on this list can also be poisonous to dogs and other pets. Be sure to check for any potential poison or allergies from the plants for your animal and try to put plants in locations that pets can not reach.
If you do have pets, make sure you check out the recently updated list of our recommended purifiers for pets as these in combination with a combination of these 15 plants on this list can allow pet owners to live without the fear of allergic reactions.
1. NASA Research
A NASA research document came to the conclusion that “house plants can purify and rejuvenate air within our houses and workplaces, safeguarding us all from any side effects connected with prevalent toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia and also benzene.”
Here are the results of the NASA research study:
|Common name||Scientific name||Score|
|1||Areca palm||Chrysalidocarpus lutescens||8.5|
|2||Lady palm||Rhapis excelsa||8.5|
|3||Bamboo palm||Chamaedorea seifrizii||8.4|
|4||Rubber plant||Ficus robusta||8.0|
|5||Dracaena “Janet Craig”||Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”||7.8|
|6||English ivy||Hedera helix||7.8|
|7||Dwarf date palm||Phoenix roebelinii||7.8|
|8||Ficus Alii||Ficus macleilandii “Alii”||7.7|
|9||Boston fern||Nephrolepis exalta “Bostoniensis”||7.5|
|10||Peace lily||Spathiphyllum sp.||7.5|
2. Interior Plants: Their Influence on Airborne Microbes inside Energy-efficient Buildings
In another study made in 1996, a bedroom with no plants had 50% more colonies of airborne microbes than a room which contained houseplants.
3. Foliage Plants For Indoor Removal of The Primary Combustion Gases Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide
4. Dr Wolverton – Formaldehyde removal experiment
In another laboratory study by Dr. Wolverton PHD, he compared a number of house plants at removing formaldehyde from a sealed chamber. Formaldehyde is a common household toxin that is released from a variety of household items.
Removal of Formaldehyde from Sealed Chambers for Plants Grown in Potting Soil
|CommonName||Botanical Name||Removal Rate*(Micrograms/Hour)|
|Boston fern||Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”||1863|
|Dwarf date palm||Phoenix roebelenii||1385|
|Bamboo palm||Chamaedorea seifrizii||1350|
|Janet Craig||Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”||1328|
|English ivy||Hedera helix||1120|
|Weeping fig||Ficus benjamina||940|
|Peace lily||Spathiphyllum “Clevelandii”||939|
|Areca palm||Chrysalidocarpus lutescens||938|
|Corn plant||Dracaena fragrans “Massangeana”||938|
|Lady palm||Rhapis excelsa||876|
16 Air Purifier Plants
With reference to the experiments of Dr Wolverton and the NASA experiments, I have compiled a list of 16 house plants that provide the greatest level of air purification.
1. Areca Palm Tree
- Do not recommend shipping to states currently experiencing extreme cold weather/temperatures.
- I can adapt to full sun or light shade, but bright indirect sunlight is the best!
- Place me on your patio to create a topical paradise!
- I love regular watering's, keep me damp, but not muddy
- We're unable to ship this item to: AK,AZ,CA,GU,HI
The Areca palm tree is the very best air purifying plant according to the ratings from NASA’s research and has the 8th highest removal rate for Formaldehyde according to Dr Wolverton’s data. This house plant was referred to as “the most effective air humidifier” by MetaEfficient.com. The Areca has the ability to maintain your office or home moist throughout dry periods as well as continually removing chemical toxins from your air. In the course of the winter season, it’s so effective at putting moisture back in the air that you could switch off your electric humidifiers!
2. Lady Palm
- A graceful palm for gardens or a beautiful addition to an indoor space.
- Adds an elegant and graceful tropical effect to any home.
- Slow growing, bamboo-like clustering trunk pattern.
- Wonderful in large pots and containers.
- Nasa clean air study discovered Rhapis Excelsa to be one of the Best houseplants at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene.
This house plant – Lady palm (or Rhapis excelsa) achieved exactly the same rating as the Areca Palm tree in NASA’s research. This adaptable house plant, can be stored in dry or moist parts of the world ( between 20-100° Fahrenheit) and is particularly resistant to the majority sorts of plant insects.
The Lady Palm is not the most effective at removing Formaldehyde so if this is a concern then i would suggest you look at another plant.
3. Bamboo Palm
The bamboo palm was the third most powerful plant at removing formaldehyde from the air. It ranked third in the NASA experiment so is a good all rounder at keeping your room air clean. This house plant will grow best in a moist but not wet soil and in direct sunlight. However this palm will require lots of room to grow, so it might not be the best option if want this plant to sit on your desk.
4. Boston Fern
The Boston fern was the most effective plant at removing Formaldehyde and removed significantly more per hour than the rest of plants examined.
Studies have also shown that the Boston fern will also eliminate heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic from the soil.
5. Rubber Plant
This rubber house plant (Ficus robusta) has been mentioned as one of the leading Twenty plants by Doctor. B.C. “Bill” Wolverton’s “50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home Or Office.” This rubber house plant provides moisture, eliminates bio effluents, takes away volatile organic compounds as well as suppresses air based microorganisms as soon as it’s put into a room
As time passes this rubber plant will become much more skilled at eliminating toxic compounds present in the air. Bacteria within the rubber plants leaves break up the toxins and also feast on them. The procedure subsequently emits clean air in to the surrounding environment. Since the plant grows, these microorganisms increase.
This increased number of bacteria assist the rubber house plant in becoming progressively more effective at extracting further toxic compounds from the air.
6. Janet Craig – Dracaena
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The Dracaena (or Dracaena deremensis) places fifth on NASA’s ranking with a 7.8 score. According to data it can remove Formaldehyde, at a rate of 1,328 micrograms per hour. It also removes Xylene, at a rate of 154 micrograms per hour according to http://www.earthwitchery.com/pollution.html
Recommended Placement in Home: These are especially effective in newly carpeted or newly furnished rooms were formaldehyde levels are at the highest.
Tips to keep this plant healthy:
- Favours vibrant light, although not direct sunlight.
- Water completely through early spring through the winter season and allow the plant’s soil to dry out in between watering
7. English Ivy
If your air flow in your geographical area has got stagnant and dried out, English ivy (also known as Hedera helix) may be just the solution! WebMD.com talks about this effervescent house plant as “a solution for allergic reactions” observing that sixty percent of air based mold within the space was removed after just six hrs right after English ivy had been introduced.
People that have allergies, asthma, or even the desire to inhale cleaner, more fresh air might be wise to give this English ivy plant a shot!
8. Date Palm Tree
Although it does not position at the top of the purifying scale when compared to it’s three palm relatives, make no mistake: this Date palm house plant (also known as Phoenix roebelinii) remains an extremely efficient and stylish looking method to both cheer up the design of an area and reduce the content level of volatile organic compounds floating all over the air.
The Date house plant is very effective at getting rid of formaldehyde thus works great in combination with other purifier plants (has the second highest removal rate after the fern plant.)
9. Ficus Alii
This ficus alii (also known as the Ficus macleilandii) isn’t as strong in it’s pollutant-removing effectiveness as, say, a rubber plant, however it remains an excellent addition to any kind of office or home wherever clear air is missing. Although they aren’t terribly difficult to look after, PlantCareGuru.com alerts to us that hand protection ought to be used whilst dealing with the house plant for those who have latex allergic reactions.
10. Peace Lilly
The Peace Lily (also known as Spathiphyllum sp.) is a perfect air purifier plant for those who don’t have green fingers. Peace Lilies are often found in malls because they are so easy to grow.
If you scared you might kill your new house plant then I recommend you go for this one.
11. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera was proven to be a lot more effective at the elimination of formaldehyde at lesser concentrations when compared with Philodendrons. Aloe vera is likewise famous as being a healing plant acknowledged for its therapeutic qualities, giving it the majority of its nicknames.
The Aloe house plant was also used in the initial photography used for the Andrea plant air purifier – probably due to the plants purification properties.
12. Spider Plants
The spider plant was used by Dr Wolverton in his 1985 study that examined the plant’s removal of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. In a room with many spider plants, the amount of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide dropped to near zero after only 24 hours.
This particularly attractive house plant was shown to be effective at removing the VOC compound – benzene which has been known to cause cancer.
Many tobacco products contain high levels of benzene so it would be helpful to have one of these plants in a smoking household. However no house plant can ever negate the effects of tobacco smoke.
Remember to be careful with Chrysanthemum as it is poisonous when ingested or with prolonged skin exposure.
14. Heart leaf philodendron
The N.A.S.A. study showed that the Philodendron house plant was one of the best house plant for elimination formaldehyde from the surrounding air, especially when working with higher concentrations.
15. Snake Plants or Mother of Law Tongue
Snake house plants — these types of plants tend to be incredible growers and also extremely tough. They’re excellent at eliminating the majority of toxins plus they are quite happy to grow in areas where other plants may decline and perish ( say for example a hot window ledge). Also, they are great bathroom and darker area plants.
16. Sago Palm Air Purifier
There is a large number of air-purifying palms on this list for good reason and the sago palm was a great plant for cleaning the air.
One Final Point:
Make sure to Maintain your house plants in a good condition and make sure you have enough of them. The NASA research advised that there should be a six inch plant for every 100 sq feet of interior living space
Update from author “it’s not true to say that house plants can clean the air”:
Last update on 2023-02-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API