Did you know our homes are filled with toxic gases due to all of the synthetic materials we fill them with? Fortunately indoor plants can help soak up these toxins, and NASA has a list of the best species to do so. 

The harmful gases polluting our indoor environments are called VOCs, (Volatile Organic Compounds) a category of chemicals which evaporate at room temperature. Common VOCs include a long list of chemicals like Formaldehyde, Benzene, Trichlorethylene, amongst many others, some of which are known irritants and potential carcinogens. They constantly off-gas from the synthetic products our homes are filled with, including furniture, carpets, paints, mattresses, solvents, cleaning products, glues, plastics, perfumes and deodorisers.

NASA Research

image of the NASA logoNASA first shed light on this question in the Clean Air Study whilst figuring out how to purify the air of the international space station. Follow up research papers and a book written by the same scientists expanded on the initial study.

“…Results indicate that plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals from indoor air”

– Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf


Findings suggest some indoor plant species are much better than others at removing particular VOCs from the air. Interestingly, the studies also show that plant roots and soil microbes are a “major pathway for chemical removal”.


The Best Plants For Removing Toxins?

Two top performing species were the Peace Lily and Florist’s Chrysanthemum, both removing high levels of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the surrounding air. The Gerbera Jamesonii, Hedera Helix and Sansevieria Laurentii were also shown to absorb significant amounts of VOCs. These species are mostly tropical plants, requiring little light and maintenance making them ideal for indoor use.

Keep in mind some of the above species are toxic to cats and dogs. Bamboo Palms and Barberton Daisies are two well performing plants that are pet friendly.


How Many Plants Do You Need?

So how many plants do you need to make a difference to indoor air quality? The answer might be surprising.

The NASA study says one plant per 100 square feet of floor area is sufficient – This can be taken as an approximate figure, dependant on the size of the plant and the volume of the room. The bigger the plant, the more toxins it can soak up.



Its safe to say that just one or two of the above species in each room will greatly improve indoor air quality and reduce the amount of toxic VOCs your exposed to on a daily basis. You can go even further by eliminating the most toxic off-gasing materials in your home and replacing them with safe all natural and non-synthetic alternatives. Read the next article; Reducing VOCs For a Safe & Non Toxic Home to identify the worst polluting products and discover their natural alternatives.



Image of a non-toxic, low voc home; living room pictured with plants and all natural and non-toxic materials and furniture

Next Article: Reducing VOCs For a Safe & Non-Toxic Home



Mattresses are big sources of indoor air pollution unless it is made from natural and non-toxic materials. Check out the latest 2018 list reviewing and comparing the best natural and non-toxic mattresses available to buy online here




Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf


Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20080003913.pdf


Indoor Air in Typical Australian Dwellings: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/87d5dedd-62c2-479c-a001-a667eae21f7c/files/indoor-air-project-dwellings.pdf


Wolverton, B. C., et al. (1984). Foliage plants for removing indoor air pollutants from energy-efficient homes. Economic Botany 38(2), 224-28.


Wolverton, B. C. (1996) How to Grow Fresh Air. New York: Penguin Books.


image of book how to grow fresh air

How to Grow Fresh Air is a book written by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, one of the original scientists conducting NASAs Clean Air Study and subsequent follow up research papers.


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