In 1989 NASA released a study in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America called “interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement”. This study tested the effectiveness of many plants that people commonly have in their homes at removing toxins from the air and increasing oxygen levels. Three toxins were tested in addition to carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. These common toxins “off-gas” from things like carpet adhesive, foam insulation, paints, varnishes, dyes, detergents, fire retardants and more.
The NASA study and other similar studies have shown that it takes about 15-20 decent size plants that fill 6 to 10 inch diameter pots or larger to purify a house about 2000 sqft.
The top performers are the palms.
Areca Palm not only cleans the air of all of the target toxins but also acts as a humidifier. One or two of these can replace the use of electric humidifiers in the winter months.
Raphis Palm is another excellent candidate, it doesn’t provide as much moisture to the air but does a good job filtering.
The Bamboo Palm gets similar results as the Areca Palm in both purifying and in humidifying.
Next up is the Pothos, it also does a great job cleaning the air of all of the common toxins. The Pothos likes to spread out so it does great in a hanging pot or on the top of a bookcase.
The Peace Lilly is another great plant to have in your home it has wonderful flowers, fantastic purification rates, and is a great humidifier.
The Rubber Tree is the best choice for those of us that don’t have the green thumb. They do well in low light conditions, can tolerate under watering, and release a high amount of oxygen.
English Ivy is a common ground cover but can also make a great mantelpiece and looks great cascading off the top of a bookshelf. This plant is mildly poisonous so it is not a good choice if you have small children or cats.
Orchids have beautiful flowers and can process compounds that many other plants can’t utilize. Orchids however can be difficult to maintain. Their soil, watering, feeding, and light requirements can be very specific.
The Spider plant is one of the top three purifiers according to the NASA study. It processes a wide range of toxins and VOCs including being a top remover of carbon monoxide.
Sanseveria are also an excellent plant that needs little care, is very tolerant of some neglect and will remove toxins mainly at night so you could get purifying benefits when placing it in a bedroom.