Did you know that indoor air quality is a real problem? According to the EPA, our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment and on average Americans are spending about 90 percent of their lives indoors (source)! There are many ways to improve indoor air quality, but one effective and aesthetically pleasing way is by incorporating non-toxic air-purifying plants into our living and working spaces. I’ve got a list of several, indoor house plants that can help clean your indoor air.
This post contains affiliate links. As an amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air Pollution often rises in the winter, due to poor ventilation and less moving air from outside. Here are some of the top indoor air pollutants:
- Radon: Highest cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second-leading cause of the development of lung cancer overall. Overall, radon causes around 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year according to the EPA (source).
- Tobacco Smoke: Tobacco smoke is deadly, and secondhand smoke can be especially bad for small children.
- Mold: Mold can be a serious problem, and may require professional help to remove.
- Cooking & Heating: Poorly ventilated stoves or heating elements may contribute to high levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide along with other chemicals in the air.
- Household products: The average home contains around 63 synthetic chemicals for a total of about 10 gallons of hazardous material (source).
- Furnishings & Paint: Furniture and carpets may be emitting harmful chemicals like VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) continuously. VOCs are linked to cancer and heart & lung disease.
- Building Materials: Asbestos and formaldehyde may be lingering in your home’s building materials.
Health Effects of Indoor Toxins
Indoor air pollution can have a range of adverse health effects, as individuals spend a significant amount of time indoors, especially in homes and offices. While there are some short term effects of indoor toxins, many of the effects may lead to more serious effects over time.
Many indoor air pollutants can irritate the respiratory system, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Substances like mold, dust mites, pet dander, and particulate matter from combustion sources can contribute to respiratory problems.
Indoor pollutants like mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Common symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, and skin rashes.
Certain indoor air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have been linked to cardiovascular issues. Long-term exposure may contribute to the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.
Headaches & Fatigue
Poor indoor air quality, often due to the presence of pollutants like carbon monoxide and VOCs, can lead to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. These symptoms may be particularly noticeable after spending an extended period in a poorly ventilated or polluted indoor environment.
Eye, Nose, and Throat Irritation
Indoor pollutants, including tobacco smoke, VOCs, and particulate matter, can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Symptoms may include red or watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, and sore throat.
Aggravation of Existing Health Conditions
Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or respiratory diseases, may experience worsened symptoms in the presence of indoor air pollutants. Poor indoor air quality can exacerbate chronic conditions and reduce overall respiratory function.
Increased Risk of Respiratory Infections
Exposure to indoor pollutants can weaken the respiratory system’s defenses, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections such as colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections.
Long-term exposure to certain indoor air pollutants, such as radon and certain VOCs, has been associated with an increased risk of developing cancer. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is a known carcinogen and can accumulate in indoor spaces, particularly in basements.
Thankfully, one of the easiest ways to take action and start to clean up your indoor air is to purchase some house plants. There are several non-toxic air purifying plants that will work hard to make your air cleaner.
How Do Indoor Plants Remove Toxins From The Air?
Indoor plants have a remarkable ability to improve air quality by naturally filtering out certain pollutants. This process, known as phytoremediation, involves plants taking up pollutants through their leaves and roots, and either storing or transforming them into less harmful substances. Here are some ways in which indoor plants contribute to cleaning the air:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2): Plants absorb CO2 during photosynthesis, a process in which they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. This natural exchange helps maintain a healthy balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in indoor spaces.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Many common indoor pollutants, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene, are VOCs emitted by materials like furniture, carpets, and cleaning products. Plants can absorb and break down these compounds, reducing their concentration in the air.
As a byproduct of photosynthesis, plants release oxygen into the air. This oxygen production contributes to increasing oxygen levels in indoor spaces, which is highly beneficial.
Particulate Matter Filtration:
Plant leaves and roots can capture and filter particulate matter, such as dust and pollen, from the air. This physical filtration helps reduce airborne particles, benefiting individuals who may suffer from allergies or respiratory issues.
Microbial Action in the Rhizosphere:
The rhizosphere is the region of soil influenced by a plant’s roots. In this zone, microorganisms that naturally inhabit the soil can break down and metabolize certain pollutants, enhancing the overall air-cleaning effect of indoor plants.
Transpiration, the process by which plants release water vapor through small pores in their leaves, can help regulate humidity levels in indoor spaces.
Non-Toxic Plants That Will Improve Indoor Air Quality
While not all plants will provide the same benefits to indoor air quality, there are several that are great additions to any home or office. Here are a few of my favorite air-purifying houseplants:
Spider Plant: Resilient & Powerful
The Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum), is a classic choice for plant enthusiasts and beginners alike. This hardy plant is known for its ability to combat indoor air pollution, particularly by removing formaldehyde and xylene.
The Spider Plant thrives in indirect sunlight and is a low-maintenance plant, making it an ideal companion for those with busy lifestyles or less-than-ideal light conditions.
Snake Plant: Oxygen-Boosting & Easy Keeper
Also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue, the Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a powerhouse when it comes to air purification. According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, snake plants are effective in removing pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide. Snake plants are particularly resilient, requiring minimal water and thriving in low light conditions, making them the perfect non-tox air purifying indoor plant. I keep a snake plant in both of my boys rooms, where they receive minimal light and they thrive!
Peace Lily: Beautiful AND Effective
The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) is another great choice when it comes to air-purifying plants.
These graceful plants have white blooms and glossy green leaves, and they excel in removing indoor air pollutants such as ammonia, benzene, and formaldehyde. Peace Lilies thrive in indirect light.
Bamboo Palm: Tropical Tranquility
If you’re looking to infuse a tropical vibe into your indoor space while purifying the air, consider the Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii). This plant excels at removing airborne toxins like benzene and trichloroethylene.
Bamboo Palms prefer bright, indirect light and humid conditions, making them a great addition to bathrooms or spaces with higher moisture levels.
Boston Fern: Nature’s Humidity Controller
If you are into lush, feathery foliage and a natural way to control humidity, the Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is an excellent choice. These ferns are not only visually appealing but also act as air purifiers, removing pollutants like formaldehyde and xylene.
Boston Ferns thrive in indirect sunlight and require consistently moist soil, making them an ideal pick for bathrooms or other high humidity areas.
Known for its bold and beautiful leaves, the Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica) is an eye-catching addition to any indoor space. This slow-growing plant is effective in removing pollutants like formaldehyde, making it an excellent choice for home offices or living rooms.
Rubber Trees thrive in bright, indirect light and can grow quite tall, adding a touch of grandeur to your home decor.
Aloe Vera: Succulent With Multiple Uses
Beyond its reputation for soothing sunburns, Aloe Vera is also a potent air purifier. This succulent is adept at removing formaldehyde and benzene, common indoor pollutants.
Aloe Vera thrives in bright sunlight and well-draining soil, making it a perfect addition to windowsills or sunny corners of your home.
Areca Palm: Nature’s Air Humidifier
The Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens) is not only visually striking with its feather-like fronds but also acts as a natural humidifier, making it an ideal choice for those looking to maintain optimal indoor humidity levels.
Areca Palms thrive in bright, indirect light and can effectively remove indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
Devil’s Ivy: Versatile and Resilient
Also known as Pothos or Golden Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) is a popular choice among plant enthusiasts due to its versatility and air-purifying capabilities. This low-maintenance plant can thrive in various light conditions, from low light to bright sunlight, and is effective in removing pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene.
Devil’s Ivy is often grown in a hanging basket, making it a great space-saving option if you don’t have a lot of room for plants.
ZZ Plant: A Great Low-Light Option
For those who struggle with providing ample light to their indoor plants, the ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) comes to the rescue. This hardy plant is not only tolerant of low light conditions but also excels in removing pollutants such as xylene, toluene, and benzene.
The ZZ Plant is an excellent choice for offices or rooms with minimal natural light.
English Ivy: A Cascading Air Purifier
Known for its cascading vines and heart-shaped leaves, English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a charming addition to any home. Apart from its aesthetic appeal, English Ivy is proficient in removing indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde.
This plant is versatile and can thrive in various light conditions, making it a great choice for both well-lit areas and spaces with lower light levels.
Gerbera Daisies: Flowers with Air-Purification
For those who appreciate the beauty of flowering plants, Gerbera Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) are a perfect addition to your indoor garden. Beyond their vibrant blooms, Gerbera Daisies are effective in removing trichloroethylene and benzene.
These flowering plants thrive in bright sunlight, making them a cheerful presence in your living room or on your office desk.
Chinese Evergreen: Low-Maintenance but Elegant
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) is renowned for its striking foliage and low-maintenance nature. This plant is proficient in removing indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
Chinese Evergreen can adapt to various light conditions, from low light to bright, making them an easy keeper for most homes.
Tips for Using Non-Toxic Air Purifying Plants Indoors
It’s important to note that while indoor plants can contribute to cleaner air, they are not a complete replacement for other measures such as proper ventilation and the use of air purifiers. I would highly recommend getting a quality air filter for your home, like an this one from Amazon, or an AirDoctor. The effectiveness of plants in purifying indoor air can depend on factors like the type of plant, the size of the space, and the specific pollutants present. You may also want to rotate your plants occasionally. Moving plants around can ensure that all parts of the plant receive light and air circulation, promoting optimal growth and air purification.
What’s your favorite air-purifying non toxic houseplant? I’d love to hear in the comments!