Clean Air Plants: Remove Harmful Chemicals from the Air

Hello Judy, Our company just moved into a newly renovated building in San Francisco. The smell from all of the paint, new carpets and furniture, and everything else is giving everyone headaches. I read somewhere that plants can clean the air of some bad chemicals. Can you recommend some plants that are easy to buy, not too expensive, and pretty simple to care for. Thanks in advance!

Hi Cecelia,

There are quite a few indoor houseplants that have been shown to clean the air of harmful chemicals. A study sponsored by NASA concluded that houseplants are able to clean the air of  toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. We have known for quite a while that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and add oxygen, now we know that plants also remove air born pollutants that come from carpets, paint, copy machines, manufactured wood products, pesticides, upholstery, laminated counters, plastic wallpaper, detergents and even paper towels. Biologic air-born contaminants such as pollen, mold, bacteria, and viruses grow in humidifiers, air conditioners, ducts, carpets, ceilings, & tiles. New energy efficient buildings, which are better insulated than older buildings and furnished with more synthetic products, have greater air quality problems than older drafty buildings. The new & better construction helps conserve heating and air conditioning, but also traps toxic gases & prevents them from escaping. This problem has been given the name “sick building syndrome.” People working or living in areas where the air is stale and the circulation poor, may experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, sore throat, and eye irritation.

In a building having air quality problems, you’ll want at least two plants per 100 square feet of space. Scientists have more or less agreed that the best clean air plants are: Lady Palm ((Rhapis excelsa)), Peace Lily, English Ivy, Pothos, Dracaenas, Boston Fern, Spider Plant, Chinese Evergreen, Sansevieria (Snake Plant), Chrysanthemum, Gerber Daisy. You can see pictures and read more about each of these plants in the Popular Houseplant section of the website. Here are some pictures of a few of the plants I mentioned.

Peace Lily

Spider Plant

Pink and green Chinese evergreen

Chinese Evergreen

English Ivy