Caitlin Gallagher
April 13, 2018 12:17 pm
GavinD / Getty Images

Take a deep breath in. Along with all that good oxygen you just filled your lungs with, do you know you might also be breathing in benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia? Even if you don’t know what those lovely-sounding toxins do, you can guess that you probably don’t want them in your body. But luckily, there’s a natural way to remove these types of organic chemicals from your breathing space: plants. So if you’re craving a green and toxin-free space, you may want to add one of these air-cleaning plants to your home. Happy Plant Appreciation Day!

Back in the ’80s, NASA conducted a study that showed that certain plants can remove certain toxins from the air. (You can read the original 1989 NASA study here.) Since then, the air purification benefits of plants have continued to be studied and debated. However, there’s no doubt that plants make for a better, healthier living space. And if the scientists behind space travel believe that plants can make for cleaner air — well, that’s good enough for us.

Using scientific studies, we’ve gathered a list of some of the best plants for cleaning the air. But keep in mind that some of the plants with the ability to remove the most toxins from air are ironically toxic to animals. So if you have pets, do careful research — since you don’t want to bring a plant in your home that could help you but potentially harm your animal. If you are pet-free, then no need to worry. Find the plants that work best for your living situation and start breathing easier as soon as possible.

1Boston fern

The lead scientist of the NASA study, Dr. B. C. Wolverton, has since created his own company, Wolverton Environmental Services, whose website notes that Boston ferns are excellent at removing formaldehyde from the air. Even if you don’t live in Beantown, you’ll want one of these plants.

2Peace lily

Not only do peace lilies have a striking flower, but they are great for the air. If you’re not partial to white, the more colorful flamingo lily is also a purifier. Unfortunately, both lilies are toxic to animals.

3Red-edged dracaena

Another toxic plant to animals is the red-edged dracaena, but this tree-like plant will win you over if your home is pet-free.

4Devil’s ivy

The name sounds bad and it is toxic to animals, but its role in cleaning the air is all good. Plus, it also goes by the nicer name of “golden pothos.”

5Zanzibar gem

Gardencorner.com notes that a 2014 University of Copenhagen study found that the Zanzibar gem (or ZZ plant) removes “several volatile organic compounds” from the air.

6Barberton daisy

These daisies may look dainty, but they’re mighty powerful when it comes to removing benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.

7Bamboo palm

Want formaldehyde out of your air? Yeah, we thought so. Well, the bamboo palm is a master at removing it. This plant is also easy to grow and has a striking tree-like shape.

There are a number of other plants that NASA found to clean the air — including animal-themed ones like spider plants, snake plants, and elephant ears. So check out NASA’s nearly 30-year-old study and turn your apartment into a beautiful, clean-air oasis.

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