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Can Indoor Plants Filter out Toxins in the Air?


If you're looking for ways to improve your indoor air quality, you might consider using indoor plants. Indoor air pollution is an ongoing concern because it can lead to health problems like Allergies, Asthma, Sinus Infections, Respiratory Illnesses and Cold & Flu Viruses. The air in your home is probably much dirtier than the air outside, regardless where you live.

According to the EPA, the typical home’s air is one of the top environmental hazards containing Gaseous Pollutants from Cooking, Chemicals (VOC), Mold Spores, Pollen, Dust Mites, Bacteria and Viruses and Pet Dander.

NASA Clean Air Study (1)

Back in 1989 NASA commissioned a study with the ALCA (Associated Landscape Contractors of America) that would find which plants could absorb the most carbon dioxide and filter out chemicals like benzeneformaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia. They needed this information to improve indoor air quality in their airtight space stations. They wanted one plant per 100 square feet of space, basically one plant for each room.

NASA Clean Air Study
  Chemicals Plants Can Take Out Of The Air
 Plant NameBenzeneFormaldehydeTrichloroethyleneXylene/TolueneAmmonia
1Aloe VeraYesYesNoNoNo
2Areca PalmNoYesNoYesNo
3Bamboo PalmYesYesYesYesYes
5Barberton DaisyYesYesYesNoNo
6Boston FernNoYesNoYesNo
7Chinese EvergreenYesYesNoNoNo
8Cornstalk DracaenaYesYesYesYesYes
9Dendrobium OrchidsNoYesNoYesYes
10Devil's Ivy (Pothos)YesYesNoYesNo
11Dumb CanesNoYesNoYesYes
12Dwarf Date PalmNoYesNoYesNo
13Elephant Ear PhilodendronNoYesNoNoNo
14English IvyYesYesYesYesNo
15Flamingo LilyNoYesNoYesYes
16Florist's ChrysanthemumYesYesYesYesYes
17Heartleaf PhilodendronNoYesNoNoNo
18Janet CraigYesYesYesYesYes
19Kimberly Queen FernNoYesNoYesNo
20King of HeartsNoYesNoYesYes
21Lady PalmYesYesYesYesYes
22Moth OrchidsNoYesNoYesYes
23Parlour PalmYesYesYesYesYes
24Peace LilyYesYesYesYesYes
25Red-edged DracaenaYesYesYesYesYes
26Rubber PlantNoYesNoNoNo
27Selloum PhilodendronNoYesNoNoNo
28Spider PlantNoYesNoYesNo
29Variegated Snake PlantYesYesYesYesYes
31Weeping FigNoYesNoYesYes
  • Yes, means it can take that chemical out of the air. Amount / Don't know.
  • No, means it cannot take that chemical out of the air.
  • List in alphabetical order. 
  • Plants & Chemicals from NASA Clean Air Study.
  • 18 Plants from Original 1989 Study.
  • 13 Plants from Subsequent studies in 1993 & 1996 book. 

Remember the study by NASA was for completely sealed rooms that have no air flow, but in your home, you can open the window to change and circulate the air. Opening windows is a way of moving out VOC’s but for Allergens that is a different story. Also, some VOC’s are colorless and odorless making them hard to identify.

But if you live in a high humidity area you are probably not opening your windows especially in the summer. Also living in an area that gets four seasons your windows will be probably closed all winter.

Is this study still relevant today, if you got carpeting, vinyl flooring, upholstered furniture, paper towels, plastic grocery bags, then it is because those products have toxins in them that can get into the air you breathe at home.

About Plants

We all should know by now that plants absorb Carbon Dioxide and in turn produce Oxygen. The process is called Photosynthesis. They also can absorb other gases including VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). They are natures organic Air Purifiers. But remember they don’t circulate your air or rid your home of Allergens like Dust Mites, Pollen, Mold Spores and Pet Dander. When those particles get in the air, they can cause breathing issues.

Air Purifiers

A top-quality air purifier can take VOC’s out of the air plus remove allergens like Mold spores, dust mites, pollen and pet dander. They can circulate the air where plants don’t. Hospitals use portable and central air purifying systems to keep their hospitals clean so they must work. So why not use an air purifier instead of plants, well its up to the consumer and how much they can afford. Air purifiers are lower maintenance but cost more and plants are higher maintenance but cost less.


Here are some products that contain Volatile Organic Compounds: Cigarettes, Solvents, Paints and thinners, Adhesives, hobby crafts and supplies, dry cleaning fluids, glues, wood preservatives, cleaners and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, building materials and furnishings, copy machines and printers and pesticides (2).  

Top 10 VOC’s: (3)

  1. Acetone (nail polish remover, furniture polish, wallpaper)
  2. Benzene (paint, glue, carpeting)
  3. Butanal (stoves, cigarettes, burning candles, barbecue emissions)
  4. Carbon Disulfide (chlorinated tap water)
  5. Dichlorobenzene (mothballs, deodorizers)
  6. Ethanol (glass cleaners, dishwasher & laundry detergents)
  7. Formaldehyde (molded plastics, floor lacquers)
  8. Terpenes (scented soap & laundry detergents)
  9. Toluene (paint)
  10. Xylene (idling cars)

Some of these VOC’s are known Carcinogens.


The reason you should have plants in your home is to reduce carbon dioxide levels, increase oxygen and hopefully lower or eliminate any type of VOC that are in the air. There is enough evidence out there to say they can lower VOC’s from the air, it’s just how much and which plants to use. Plants might be considered higher maintenance because they require water, sunlight and pruning but also can enlighten your room. If you want clean air maybe you should have both plants and air purifiers.


1. NASA Clean Air Study - Wikipedia - - retrieved Dec 14, 2019

2. Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC's) - NIH - - retrieved Dec 14, 2019

3. Top 10 VOC’s - Freshome - - retrieved Dec 14, 2019



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