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Best Plants to Clean the Air in your Home

In 1989 NASA published a research study on the use of indoor plants for the purifying air. This study was intended to address an obvious issue of having astronauts in enclosed buildings and vehicles for long periods of time, but there are parallels for people everywhere on earth. There are many sealed buildings with circulated air systems where the occupants have health issues.

They focused on three chemicals found in the air of sealed buildings. The chemicals were Benzene, Trichloroethylene, and Formaldehyde. These commonly found chemicals have been connected to many serious illnesses, so where they were coming from and how to eliminate them was of critical concern for astronauts.

NASA determined that most of the chemical gas in the air was found to be from the materials used indoors from furnishings, building materials, and other miscellaneous objects. So the first recommendation was to carefully select these items to ensure they are not off-gassing, but if that can not be done successfully, the theory was that plants may provide an economical method of cleaning the air.

The study examined a number of plants to see which ones would have the best ability to remove the chemicals. One of the major requirements in selecting the plants was that they would introduce very little to the environment, for example pollen. There were many plants selected initially, the study did not review each plant for each chemical, and some plants were added without any real indication as to why. Regardless of this, the findings are very useful. See the charts below for details on the plants and their performance.

Efficiency of chemical removal by plant. (Percent of Total Plant Leaf Surface Area and Total Micrograms Removed per Plant)

Efficiency
of chemical removal by plant
Total Efficiency Benzene Formaldehyde Trichloroethylene
Janet Craig
(Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”)
57.80% 58.82% 31.25% 83.33%
Bamboo palm
(Chamaedorea seifritzii)
37.11% 30.30% 18.52% 62.50%
Peace lily
(Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)
33.76% 19.23% 52.63% 29.41%
Marginata
(Dracaena marginata)
29.94% 25.00% 37.04% 27.78%
Mass cane
(Dracaena massangeana)
23.81% na na 71.43%
Warneckei
(Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”)
23.72% 18.52% na 52.63%
Chinese evergreen
(Aglaonema “Silver Queen”)
21.50% 21.28% 43.22% na
Mother-in-law’s tongue
(Sansevieria laurentii)
18.30% 10.00% 9.17% 35.72%
Aloe vera
(Aloe Barbadensis Miller)
15.28% na 45.85% na
English ivy
(Hedera helix)
11.17% 9.62% 10.20% 13.70%
Golden pothos
(Scindapsus aureus)
10.10% na 30.30% na
Lacy tree philodendron
(Philodendron selloum)
9.14% na 27.41% na
Green spider plant
(Chlorophytum elatum)
7.94% na 23.81% na
Elephant ear philodendron
(Philodendron domesticum)
7.75% na 23.26% na
Heart leaf philodendron
(Philodendron oxycardium)
6.67% na 20.00% na
Gerbera daisy
(Gerbera jamesonii)
5.34% 4.26% na 11.76%
Banana
(Musa oriana)
2.85% na 8.55% na
Pot mum
(Chrysanthemum morifolium)
1.83% 5.49% na na

Percent of chemical removed by plant (Percent based on the amount of chemical in air after 24 hours)

Percent
of chemical removed by plant 
Total Percent Benzene Formaldehyde Trichloroethylene
Pot mum
(Chrysanthemum morifolium)
51.73% 53.00% 61.00% 41.20%
Gerbera daisy
(Gerbera jamesonii)
50.90% 67.70% 50.00% 35.00%
Warneckei
(Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”)
46.73% 70.00% 50.00% 20.20%
Mass cane
(Dracaena massangeana)
34.63% 21.40% 70.00% 12.50%
Peace lily
(Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)
34.17% 79.50% na 23.00%
English ivy
(Hedera helix)
33.57% 89.80% na 10.90%
Janet Craig
(Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”)
31.70% 77.60% na 17.50%
Marginata
(Dracaena marginata)
30.73% 79.00% na 13.20%
Ficus
(Ficus benjamina)
29.30% 30.00% 47.40% 10.50%
Mother-in-law’s tongue
(Sansevieria laurentii)
22.00% 52.60% na 13.40%
Chinese evergreen
(Aglaonema modestum “Silver Queen”)
15.87% 47.60% na na

Source: Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement 

Featured Image Credit: m-louis .®

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