Indoor air quality isn’t always as good as we think it is, since many of the bad things that we’re breathing in are invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Unbeknownst to us, many things in our home, like our electronics, furniture, carpets, and even walls, and activities, like cooking and cleaning, will leach toxic chemicals into the air. So what do we do? We have plenty of cleaning services here in Indianapolis, but none of them are exactly known for cleaning air! Well, thankfully, the solution is as simple as air-cleaning houseplants.


It’s not an urban myth and it isn’t too good to be true—there is an assortment of plants that have been proven to clean the air around them at a rate that makes a difference in the relatively enclosed spaces of our homes. In fact, the science of air-cleaning plants is backed by NASA, who investigated plants as a cost-effective way to keep the air on their high-tech space stations breathable. And luckily, the same plants that help to keep the air of a synthetics-stuffed space station free of toxins are just as effective at cleaning up toxins, like formaldehyde and benzene, that are found in our Midwest homes.


Like most other living things, plants breathe. Instead of living on oxygen like us, though, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale unused oxygen. While they breathe, they also take in toxins and chemicals in the air and absorb them to be used as nutrients in their roots. So, not only are they stripping out the dangerous stuff that we don’t want to be breathing, but they actually use it as fertilizer to fuel their growth! 


While all plants do some air cleaning, some are much better at it than others. Choose the right air-cleaning plants with an affinity for toxins to get the most from your potted plants. Thankfully some of our favorite plants make the list:


This favorite houseplant was the star of the NASA study that started to look into plants as air purifiers. One of the oldest houseplants, the Boston fern not only looks elegant and gorgeous, but it goes hard to work for you, too. With a high transpiration rate—that is, how much air they take in and process every hour as they “breathe”—helps them to devour chemicals and mold in the air. As a bonus, it is also low-maintenance, meaning you can reap the benefits without any headache, even in rooms with only indirect light. 


The epitome of “laid-back”, snake plants are ultra-tough houseplants that thrive in low-light environments and can handle long periods without water. They make a real statement with their upright foliage shaped like their namesake animal. Snake plants are also excellent at removing toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the air. These chemicals seep into the air from all kinds of sources; the building materials in your home, furniture, even rubber-soled shoes! Snake plants gobbles them up and converts them into pure oxygen. Just one snake plant can make a big difference in air quality and aesthetic for a small, dimly-lit college dorm room.



The peace lily is an absolutely striking plant, and you’d never guess that it’s more than just a pretty face. Peace lilies love to consume benzene, a carcinogen that is offgassed from paint and fabrics, as well as acetone that comes from electronics—both of which you can find in nearly any home. Keep your peace lily moist and you’ll be rewarded with elegant, white flowers year-round, making a statement while it works hard to keep your air safe. 


This plant tackles formaldehyde and benzene with a simple care schedule that makes it more than accessible for anyone. As an added bonus, the spider plant is an expert at absorbing carbon monoxide, which is a lethal gas that might be released from fireplaces and kitchen appliances. This plant requires very little light so you can easily place it wherever without stress. Enjoy the bedhead look of the plant and the “pups” it produces that can be made into other spider plants for more air cleaning power! 



This air-cleaning plant is probably the easiest to grow and maintain. For those that are looking for something simple to care for or those that suffer from allergies, many people will benefit from this plant’s affinity for absorbing mold and allergens. Try placing it in a place where you can make the most from its cascading vines, like on a shelf or in a hanging basket. Placing in a high area has an added bonus of keeping it away from curious children and pets, as the plant is toxic if eaten. 

These air-cleaning plants look great, are easy to care for (even for beginners), and provide that much-needed peace of mind in our own homes. They’ll tidy up the air so we can breathe a little easier, all while providing a great accent of greenery to be enjoyed!