Here’s How to Purify Your Air with Nature — Love, NASA

We know the air outside is polluted. And pollution is…

Micro-contaminants in the air that change the environment around it.

The outside air has pollutants from vehicle exhaust, landfills, pesticides running into water sources, factory smoke, etc. But the indoor air isn’t any safer.

In fact, studies done on the quality of most of our indoor air show that it’s stale, rarely refreshed, and full of every pollutant we bring into the house with us. And since Westerners spend the vast majority of their time indoors, up to 90% in some places, it’s a serious problem that should be factored into the discussion about how pollution affects our health.

And especially when the home is kept at a warm and humid temperature and outside air isn’t diffused throughout the space, pollutants can increase in concentration.

A lot of the modern solutions to this problem bring more chemicals into the home — cheaply made candles, air fresheners spraying toxins, and more. Plug-in air fresheners were found to contain over 20 organic compounds, where a third of those compounds were classified as hazardous or toxic. 

Additionally, xylene, benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde (found in paint and lacquers, furniture wax and insect sprays, cleaners and adhesives, upholstery and air fresheners) can cause negative reactions like headaches, breathing issues, and irritated throats. 

It would seem that the solution to man-made pollution isn’t more man-made concoctions — it’s nature.

And the National Aeronautics and Space Administration agrees. You see, they created a division to combat the issue of stale and toxic air in space stations, and what they found is…

The answer is house plants.

The Dwarf Date Palm

This plant is excellent in filtering xylene out of the air.

Although it’s slow to grow, the plant can live for decades and is even resistant to droughts. Just be careful of their pointy needles, as they can penetrate skin and clothing. 

Boston Ferns

Called “the bathroom plant” because it thrives in high humidity and low light, since it’s native to forests. 

Not only does it remove xylene like the dwarf date palm, it also filters out formaldehyde. 

Spider Plant

This imposing plant with its “spiderette” offshoots was found to remove 95% of the formaldehyde in the air from a sealed plexiglass chamber within 24 hours.

Pretty powerful stuff!

Chinese Evergreen

Keep this plant up high, since its leaves are toxic when ingested. But as long as babies and pets can’t eat them, it’s incredible for purifying the air.

Slow-growing and able to stand low light, this plant is pretty hard to kill. And it’s known to absorb both formaldehyde and benzene.

Weeping Fig Plant

These plants are perfect for placing in every room, especially in rooms with carpets. You see, xylene and toulene occur in higher quantities when exposed to carpet and furniture cleaners. 

But this plant absorbs those chemicals, along with formaldehyde, leaving the air clean and clear. Plus, they don’t need much sunlight to thrive!

English Ivy

This lush climbing plant is not only beautiful, it also does quadruple duty: it filters trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene. These chemicals are often found in salon products, so it’s the perfect plant to give in the room where you normally do hair and nailcare.

It also tolerates low light well and occasional watering.


Until we realized what benefits came from this lovely daisy, it was mostly kept outside. But when it’s tended to regularly inside with well-draining soil, sunlight, and plenty of water, its flowers can last up to six weeks. But that’s not the cool part…

Gerbera’s dark green leaves are very effective in lowering formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene quantities in the air!


Ideal for an office plant, this gorgeous spiky-leafed ground cover plant can easily be kept in a window sill planter.

And while it’s there, it will filter trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air, which are all found in office supplies like colored pens and markers, printer ink, and printer cartridges.

It’s very difficult in the modern Western world to avoid pollutants and chemicals.

Almost everything we use, from cleaning supplies to nail polish, has been modified for storage and longevity of use with chemicals that are poisonous to us.

So strategically bringing a bit of nature inside can go a long way in restoring healthy air to our environments.

Remember — always check to make sure you’re keeping plants you can’t ingest safely up high! And place each plant in the room where it will do the most good.

That way, you’re breathing clean again.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.