Top 10 Houseplants for Oxygenating and Filtering Indoor Air, According to NASA

NASA’s Clean Air Study found these houseplants removed up to 90 percent of air toxins in a sealed room within 24 hours

During the energy crunch of the late 1970s, Americans started building air-tight, super-insulated buildings.

These energy-efficient buildings significantly reduced electricity bills, but came along with a new set of problems.

The lack of fresh-air flow, combined with off-gassing from synthetic building materials and furniture, created a new health condition known as “sick building syndrome.”

Office workers breathing nearly 100-percent-recycled air all day began complaining of itchy eyes, skin rashes, drowsiness, headaches and allergies.

As the manufacturer of the most air-tight “office” spaces in the world, NASA began working on a solution to indoor pollution in the 1980s. Here’s what they came up with: houseplants.

Below is a list of the best indoor-air-cleaning houseplants, according to NASA’s 1989 study.

As well as soaking up carbon dioxide and creating fresh oxygen for you to breathe, the following plants also all eliminate impressive amounts of the common indoor air toxins benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

“As an emitter of carbon dioxide, man himself is a source of indoor air pollution,” the authors of the report write.
“Since man’s existence on Earth depends upon a life support system involving an intricate relationship with plants and their associated microorganisms, it should be obvious that when he attempts to isolate himself in tightly sealed buildings away from this ecological system, problems will arise,” wrote lead investigator B.C. Wolverton, a microbiologist for NASA.
“The answer to these problems is obvious,” he added. “If man is to move into closed environments on Earth or in space, he must take along Nature’s life support system.”

Here are the Top 10 air cleaners:

English Ivy removed 90 percent of dangerous levels of benzene injected into a sealed room:

Mass Cane removed 70 percent of formaldehyde:

Gerbera Daisy removed 50 percent of formaldehyde and 68 percent of benzene:

Marginata removed 79 percent of benzene:
Peace Lily removed 80 percent of benzene:
Chrysanthemum removed 61 percent of formaldehyde, 53 percent of benzene and 41 percent of trichloroethylene:

Warneckei removed 50 percent of formaldehyde and 70 percent of benzene:

Golden Pothos removed 73 percent of benzene:

Janet Craig removed 78 percent of benzene:


Snake Plant removed 53 percent of benzene. The snake plant is also one of the few plants that continues emitting oxygen (rather than reabsorbing it) at night, and is therefore safe to keep in your bedroom!

NASA researchers suggest at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space for effective air cleaning.





15 responses to “Top 10 Houseplants for Oxygenating and Filtering Indoor Air, According to NASA”

  1. Gandhi Avatar


  2. Lurrae Lupone Avatar

    Thank you, Sara.

    As a Feng Shui consultant I often suggest one of these plants for health and to bring nature and “life force energy” into the home.

    A wonderful suggestion for holiday gift giving.

  3. Lurrae Lupone Avatar

    Thank you, Sara. As a feng shui consultant I often suggest one of these plants for health and to bring nature and “life force energy” into the home. One of these plants would be great idea for holiday gift giving.

  4. Liz T Avatar
    Liz T

    Are any of these cat safe? If not, can you recommend cat safe plants?

    1. Torge Avatar

      May the force of google be with you 😉

  5. Nancy Avatar

    I have a small, dark house. If I try to grow house plants, they die too soon. I have two large windows, and if I put a plant there, it fries!

    1. Michael Paulson Avatar
      Michael Paulson

      Pathos will grow well with little light.

    2. Deb Avatar

      Suggest a full-spectrum daylight bulb in a lamp or light fixture where you want to have the plants. I believe they’re available in LED bulbs now.

      Direct sunlight through any window is rarely good for plants; the infrared (heat) waves in the light are amplified. Also, if it’s a single-pane glass window, cold can be as bad as heat.

    3. anna v. Avatar
      anna v.

      shade for window?

  6. bc hudson Avatar
    bc hudson

    Sara, why are you recycling this news from the year you were born? I’m certain the 1989 report was recycled from the first study done in the 1970s. Many of these plants are so out of fashion that they’re not even sold. Furthermore, some are impossible to grow in a typical house. Gerbera? Come on!
    Please write something worth reading.

    1. anna v. Avatar
      anna v.

      pretty negative reply. I am interested and I lived through the 80’s.

    2. Cande Avatar

      I agree that it is lovely these clean air. But I have never lived in a house that had enough light for several of these. I’m all for clean air and good Feng Shui, but I thought it was bad Feng Shui to have a dead plant in your house….

  7. Bobbye Avatar

    Can’t you just be nice and move on? There isn’t a single plant on this list not available in S FL.