News: Plants that clean

Jennifer Sinclair

Indoor plants are not just for the 1970s home, there is genuine science to back up the beneficial properties that they afford your home - and they can really help keep the air in your home clean. There are also some lovely culinary advantages to growing your own herbs in the kitchen. 

Firstly, back to the science, NASA has conducted extensive research to find the best plants to help keep the air clean inside the space station, and there is no reason we cannot take advantage of this information to make our homes a nicer place to live. 

Just note, opening your windows and ventilating your home is the best option. Plants can help and they look lovely but there is nothing like fresh clean air all year round. 

Have a look at the article written by James Wong and published by the New Scientist in July 2020. James looks at how many plants you would need to keep you air clean. 

Plants that can help clean your home:

Snake plant (Sansevieria) - Produces oxygen at night and also helps remove xylene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, and benzene from the air.

Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) - Effective at removing pollutants, including formaldehyde and benzene. This is a slow-growing plant but it will get quite tall so a room with a high ceiling will be great.

Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) - This flowering plant helps remove trichloroethylene so put one in the laundry or in the bedroom. It will like sunlight so next to a window with a lot of sun.   

Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) - This plant filters ammonia. They grow well in humidity and are happy in low light, so try one in the bathroom.

Aloe vera - This succulent fights benzene and formaldehyde and it loves the sun so again a great one for a sunny windowsill.

Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium) - This is a flowering plant and it can help with a number of nasty chemicals, including xylene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, and benzene. They like the sunshine too so by a window will be best.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) - They helps reduce carbon monoxide, xylene, and formaldehyde so try growing in the garage or shed but don’t forget about them.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) - This hardy plant reduces formaldehyde, and reduces airborne faecal-matter so hello bathroom for this plant.

Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) - This stunning plant produces oxygen at night. The moth orchid also reduces toluene.

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) - This plant loves low light and humidity; it also fights benzene and the formaldehyde so is another choice for the bathroom.

Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) - Helps reduce formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. This plant will be quite happy tucked in a corner of a reception room.

To find these plants try your local nursery. 

Here are some of the chemicals that these plants help remove:

  • Formaldehyde - found in paints, wallpaper, and smoke from fireplaces, emitted with vehicle exhausts, also found in some cosmetics
  • Benzene - found in dyes and synthetic fibres, detergents and plastics, and found in varnishes and floor finishes
  • Trichloroethylene - a chemical used in dry cleaning
  • Ammonia – found in many cleaning products (unless you are using Gyre and Gymble of course!)
  • Xylene - found in petrol and rust preventers
  • Toluene - found is shoe polish



  • "How to grow your own fresh airTED 2009
  • "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution AbatementNASA
  • "NASA Clean Air StudyWikipedia
  • "Potted Plants Could Purify Poisonous AirScience Magazine
  • "How Aloe vera became a cure-all and cosmetic superstar" New Scientist

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