Can Indoor Plants Really Purify the Air?

When we think about air pollution these days in Sydney, we usually picture smoke and fumes from bush fires, vehicles and industry, rather than the air inside. However, depending on where you live and work, the air you breathe in your home or office could be dirtier than the air outside and putting you at risk of a number of health problems.

Indoor air pollution is a growing concern in Australian homes and workplaces. Studies have shown that levels of toxins including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and other VOCs are higher indoors than outdoors.

This indoor air pollution is caused by cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners, materials in the building such as paint and carpets, secondhand tobacco smoke, mould, dust, and other contaminants like bush fire smoke.

Have you ever got a headache from paint fumes or someone wearing overpowering perfume? These are obvious signs that indoor air pollution is affecting your health, albeit temporarily.

However, many of the health consequences of breathing in these toxins on a daily basis for months and years are not so immediately obvious. In fact you may not even notice that your home or work place was affecting your health until you move house or get a different job and realise that your asthma improves or you stop getting headaches.

Indoor Plants for Air Purification

If you’re worried about indoor air pollution at home or in your office, there are a few different things you can do. Improving ventilation by opening windows is an obvious step, although this isn’t always possible with bush fires. You can also cut down on the chemical products you use and substitute eco-friendly natural cleaning materials.

Using indoor plants that clean the air is another simple way to improve indoor air quality. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which they combine with water and light to produce energy from growth. A famous study carried out by NASA demonstrated that they also filter out toxins from the air by absorbing them through their leaves.

The study identified 50 plants that clean the air, although most plants filter toxins to at least some degree. The best indoor plants for air purification tend to be those with lots of leaves, as it is the leaves that absorb gases from the air.

The Best Plants for Clean Air

If you’re looking for some new houseplants to improve the air quality of your home or office, these air purifying plants are perfect choices:

  1. Peace Lily (indoors)

    An attractive flowering plant with shiny green leaves. Peace lilies thrive in low light and just need weekly watering to keep them healthy. However, be aware that they are poisonous to cats and dogs. These plants are great at removing toxins including formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene.

  2. Spider Plant (indoors)

    Spider plants are incredibly hardy and one of the lowest-maintenance indoor plants around. These air filtering plants are also great at removing formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

  3. English Ivy (best outdoors)

    English Ivy is a common outdoor plant that can be grown in hanging baskets or against a wall, but it’s also a pretty plant inside and its long tendrils look particularly attractive hanging from a shelf. English Ivy removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, and studies have shown that it’s also effective at reducing levels of airborne mould spores.

  4. Areca Palm (best outdoors)

    Many palms scored highly on their ability to remove toxins from the air. The Acrea or Butterfly Palm can grow up to 4m high, so it’s a great statement plant for your room. It’s highly effective at reducing toluene and xylene levels in the air.

  5. Boston Fern (outdoor filtered light)

    The delicate looking Boston Fern prefers humid environments, but you can keep it healthy with regular misting. It’s one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde from the air, as well as xylene.

  6. Aloe Vera (best in home kitchens and bathrooms)

    The Aloe Vera Plant is known for its healing properties, but it is also highly effective at filtering toxins from the air.

  7. Rubber Plant (indoors)

    Rubber plants are incredibly hardy and difficult to kill off, so they’re great for novice indoor gardeners. Rubber plants not only look attractive with their large green glossy leaves, but they also reduce formaldehyde levels in the air.

  8. Dwarf Date Palm (outdoors only)

    The Dwarf Date Palm is sometimes known as “nature’s air freshener” as it’s so good at helping to neutralise unpleasant odours. It’s also very effective at removing the compound xylene from the air, which is in many paints and solvents.

  9. Golden Pothos (indoors)

    The impressive sounding Golden Pothos is known to be effective at reducing ozone levels in the air. It can also filter out benzene and formaldehyde.

  10. Chinese Evergreen (best in shaded balconies or courtyards)

    This attractive plant with bright pink and green leaves is effective at removing harmful VOCs from the air, and it’s easy to take care of too. However, it can be harmful to animals, so keep it out of reach of your pets.