The 10 best house plants to detoxify your home
25 Nov 2014
Scientists at NASA know a thing or two about keeping the air clean – after all, they send astronauts into space with a limited amount of breathable air for months on end (and they can’t just open a window when things get stuffy up there).
So when NASA does a study on indoor air quality and discovers that the humble house plant is a potent weapon for neutralising nasty toxins, it’s a wise idea to listen up.
Here are the 10 plants NASA has identified as the best at removing carcinogens such as trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and benzene – found in drapes, glues, paints, adhesives and numerous household cleaning products – from the air you breathe every day.
1. Aloe Vera
You might know this plant as a sunburn remedy, but it’s also a wonderful air purifier. Aloe actually absorbs chemicals from cleaning products and even gives you a warning when toxins are getting too high (its leaves get brown spots).
2. Purple Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis Alternata)
This is a decorative indoor plant which has also been studied at the University of Georgia and found to be excellent at removing all of the top 5 indoor air pollutants. A spreading plant, it makes good ground cover in a terranium or draped over a cupboard.
3. Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
Also known as a bamboo palm, golden cane palm or butterfly palm, this plant was identified by NASA as being one of the best at removing formaldehyde, commonly found in carpets. It’s good for daytime oxygen production and additionally, it helps restore moisture to dry winter air.
4. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
This pretty plant is great at absorbing toxins, looks good just about anywhere in the home and only needs watering once a week – just be careful if you have pets, because if consumed, it can be toxic to them.
5. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
The thick, deep green leaves of the rubber plant help filter formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from the air. This somewhat demanding plant requires high ‘light’ and frequent ‘deep’ watering and should also be kept away from children and pets as it’s poisonous if consumed.
6. Mother-In-Law’s Tounge (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Also known as a snake plant, this is the best plant to keep in your bedroom because it’s particularly effective at producing oxygen in the evening. It’s a bit prehistoric looking but perfect for those lacking a green thumb because it can withstand many conditions from light to dark, wet to dry.
7. Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
This fast-growing vine is a good one to keep in or near your garage, because it’s great at absorbing formaldehyde, a major component of car exhaust fumes.
8. Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
These attractive woody trees need to be kept in a warm spot – cold drafts can actually harm them – so somewhere near a window with bright, indirect light filtering through is ideal. They’re good for lounge rooms as they help filter toxins associated with carpet and upholstery.
9. Gerbera daisies (Gerbera Jamesonii)
This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It’s also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. Add one to your laundry room or bedroom — as long as there’s lots of light.
10. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Even if you tend to neglect houseplants, you’ll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.
Other notable mentions: Azalea (Rhododendron simsii), English ivy (Hedera helix), Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium), Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata), Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii').