Use plants to clean your home’s air

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:17 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Did you know that certain types of houseplants are good for cleaning the air in your home? Living plants add natural beauty to our homes and are also a valuable weapon against indoor air pollution. They absorb harmful chemicals and improve air quality, which makes your home a more pleasant and healthier place to live.

For the most part, all plants are powerful air cleaners. Carbon dioxide enters the leaves and, through photosynthesis, oxygen is released. Plants act as air filters by removing pollutants and replacing them with oxygen. The main harmful pollutants found in modern homes are benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide. It is estimated that one potted plant per 100 square feet will clean the air in an average home or office.

Benzene is a commonly used solvent and is found in tobacco smoke, inks, oils, paint, plastic and rubber. It is also used in the making of detergents and dyes. Exposure to this chemical can cause dizziness, nervousness and headaches. Plants that are good for removing this substance from the air are gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum, peace lily, bamboo palm, dracaena, English ivy and snake plant.

Formaldehyde, which is found in almost all indoor environments, is mainly found in insulation, particleboard and paper products, carpets, permanent-pressed clothes, water repellents and fire retardants. Many cleaning solutions also contain formaldehyde.

This substance irritates the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and can increase the risk of asthma, in addition to headaches and allergic dermatitis.

Plants that are good for removing this chemical are bamboo palm, dracaena janet craig, dracaena marginata, snake plant, peace lily, spider plant, golden pathos and heartleaf philodendron.

Trichloroethylene is found in inks, paints, varnishes and adhesives. It is a carcinogen that attacks the liver.

Plants that are helpful in removing this substance are gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum, dracaena marginata, peace lily, dracaena janet craig and bamboo palm.

Carbon monoxide is found in cigarette smoke and exposure to low levels can cause drowsiness and headaches. Since all plants use carbon in their process of producing new growth, all of the mentioned varieties are effective in removing low levels of carbon monoxide.

Growing and maintaining these plants is not very difficult. Keep in mind the type of light, humidity, temperature, soil, watering needs and fertilizer that make up each plant’s needs. Light is a critical factor, as it is the main source of energy for any plant. Each plant will have its own light requirements.

Humidity is another factor in plant growth. If humidity is too low, plants’ leaves drop or turn brown. You can increase the humidity level around a plant by placing the pot in a tray filled with pebbles and filling the tray with water, almost covering the pebbles. Make sure the pot does not sit in the water. By doing this, you have created humidity below and around the plant.

An important factor in houseplant health is the amount of water you give the plant. Too much and the plant drowns; too little and the plant dries up. Overwatering is the cause of most plant deaths. It is better to give a plant a bit less water more often than too much all at once.

To beautify your surroundings and increase the air quality of your home, add several of these living air purifiers. Not only will you feel better, you will make your home a better place to live.

Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.