Clean Your Indoor Air

by Ivory Soap on 09/20/2009

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I read a great study by NASA the other day about cleaning your indoor air with plants.  They did all these crazy tests and found the top species.  But, lots of them were toxic to kids and pets if broken or swallowed.  So here’s the abbreviated list that I got for my house.

NASA recommends 1 6-inch plant for every 100 sq feet of indoor space to effectively clean your air.  I recommend you get them all at Home Depot for $3-5 each since they have that 1-year guarantee.  You kill it, they replace it free!  Luckily, all of the species (except Daisy) below are on the “almost impossible to kill” lists on the web.

Best non-toxic species for cleaner air (bolded are pictured later):

  • Snake plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (sansevieria laurentii)
  • Bamboo palm  (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
  • Green spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum)
  • Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig)
  • Marginata (Dracaena marginata)
  • Corn Plant or Mass Cane  (Dracaena massangeana)
  • Warneckei (Dracaena warneckei)
  • Gerber Daisy

Snake Plant…pretty obvious name, I think.  I keep mine in the boys’ room.

This is another Snake Plant.  It’s our favorite.

This is a baby spider plant.  They have GIANT ones at Depot for $10.

Dracaena Marginata (I call her Margie)

Dracaena Janet Craig (Seriously, she came as Janet)

Dracaena Warnecki (Ours is Warren)

Dracaena Massangeana, bought at Walmart for $10.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce September 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the info. Your link to NASA’s PDF has an extra “c” at the end of the filename, though, which may make it confusing for some people to find and read.

Erin September 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm

There is an extra character in the NASA link, so it isn’t working correctly. I’ve been trying to convince my family that we need more plants for the same reason… if he doesn’t believe me, maybe he’ll believe NASA. Thanks!

Jon September 21, 2010 at 12:24 am

How do you water them all? What’s your watering regimen like, with kids help, how often how much, how long do you spend watering indoor plants? Any tips on this? You’re so eminently practical and low-maintenance, you’ve GOT to have some brilliant system for houseplants, right!

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife September 21, 2010 at 5:09 am

If you know anyone with a spider plant already, ask them if they have any spares before buying one yourself. Each year, healthy plants grow dozens of plantlets which can be plucked off and grow into another full size spider plant, which in a year or so will grow its own dozen plantlets… (Wait until the plantlet leaves are about 4 or 5 inchs long, and little root-like shapes have started forming, to make sure it’s strong enough for planting on).

I bought a single spider plant a few years for £1 and it’s had many, many offspring – even planting a few plantlets to a pot to ensure a full new plant, I’ve had more than I could ever need and give them away to friends, family and even strangers who pass by my garden gate. A great buy!

Corinne September 21, 2010 at 8:50 am

Thank you! And thanks NASA!
We are moving in the next few weeks and i knew that i wanted to fill the new house with plants, but I had no idea what to get! Clean air is AWESOME!

Carmen September 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

So does that mean that some of the other plants they listed are toxic? We have a little one arriving in Dec, and I have lots of Chinese evergreen and a couple pothos and Peace lilies in my house. Any idea on where to find a list of toxic plants? (I do have quite a few spiders and dracaena as well).

Tanya Walton September 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Wow…I have never really thought about using plants to ‘clean the air’ and I have to admit I’m not much of an indoor plant person…I like my plants outdoors in the open air as they should be…but I do open the windows on a daily basis to air the house out…does this count??

alice September 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I have had a Dracaena for years and it has not grown more than a quarter inch — I can’t imagine it is doing any air cleaning. Any ideas on how to get it to LIVE and grow?

Lori September 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I have a snake plant that has survived the brutal, hostile world of being a houseplant with me as its caretaker. Seriously, I can grow anything outdoors, but if it comes inside, it is a goner! This plant grows in low light, and the more you neglect it, the bigger it gets (with infrequent watering to keep it on the brink of death). I’m thinking of getting several more of them now, thanks to your post! Is there anything else out there a savage indoor gardener might be able to care for without killing?

Jenn September 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I would love to have house plants again, the last one i had did not fair so well through no fault of the plants or my own lol. It was a sago palm which i found out is HIGHLY toxic after it was already in my home, so i kept it up on the kitchen counter to keep it away from the dogs. Suddenly in the middle of winter I started seeing ants everywhere! I could not for the life of me figure out where they were coming from till i watered Pete (the palm) and ants came spilling out all over my counter like a plague, they had a nest in the plant! needless to say he got chucked out side pronto and could not handle the weather and i have been plant-less since.

chris May 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Snake plant is toxic to pets. Try the ASPCA website for a complete list

no November 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm

snake plant is toxic

Marie May 3, 2014 at 6:15 am

Actually several of the plants you listed above are toxic to pets! Go to the ASPCA website to see what plants are safe and which aren’t!!

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