5 Indoor Plants that Remove Harmful VOCs from Your Home

Don’t have a green thumb or the desire/time to maintain houseplants? You may change your mind when you find out how many benefits they have for your family’s health.

Here’s the lowdown on harmful VOCs and 5 easy-to-grow houseplants that’ll keep your air clean:

Leaves of Health

We know that through photosynthesis, plants release oxygen into the air. The leaves and roots of a plant work to give us cleaner air by removing low levels of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. But what about the more dangerous pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are lingering in the air from products that we use every day? Many of us unknowingly contribute to the release of VOC gasses into our home by using cleaning products, nail polish remover, printers, dry-cleaned clothes, air fresheners, and even the new sofa we just bought, which all can contain harmful chemicals.

VOCs and Your Family

Some cleaning products work well, but the odors are so strong you have to open a window to keep from passing out. What you’re smelling are VOCs being released into the air. Some common VOCs are acetone (nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol), benzene (furniture polish, liquid ant traps), formaldehyde (carpet, pressed wood products), 1.4-dichlorobenzene (air fresheners) and tetrachloroethene (dry-cleaned products, spot removers).

Studies show that our homes can have three to five times more pollutants than outside. VOCs affect human health differently depending on the person’s age, health condition, and the level of exposure. Headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, eye and skin irritation, allergies, and asthma are some common symptoms of VOC exposure.

Super Plants to the Rescue!

Vadoud Niri and his team at State University of New York at Oswego conducted research with various plants to find which species had a higher rate of VOC removal. Five plants really stood out for absorbing common VOCs. The jade plant, spider plant, bromeliad, Caribbean tree cactus, and dracaena all were shown to help provide better air quality in our homes. All five of these super plants were able to absorb acetone, but the dracaena took the gold for absorbing 94%. The bromeliad plant was the best VOC fighter. Of the 6 out of 8 VOCs studied, it absorbed 80% in a 12-hour period.

Fab Five

The plants that rated top in VOC absorption aren’t rare. In fact, they’re fairly easy to grow in your home. Most plants are sold in shallow soil that quickly become nutrient starved. Once you get the plant home, replant it with fresh soil to give your plant fresh nutrients to get a healthy start. Plants, small children, and pets aren’t always a good combination. The jade and dracaena for example, are toxic to cats and dogs. If you have younger children, keep plants out of reach. They may not be toxic, but could still cause vomiting if ingested.

Jade Plant

Jade plants require minimal care. Replant it with all-purpose soil. With medium light for a few hours a day, it will grow to about 24 inches. Allow the soil to dry between watering. If you notice brown spots on the leaves or leaves dropping, it needs more water. Note: It can be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.

Spider Plant

The stems of the spider plant extend to 12-18 inches and may produce tiny white flowers during the first summer it’s alive. The spider plant looks great in hanging baskets that are exposed to bright to moderate sunlight. It requires all-purpose soil and occasional watering in new plants. Once the plant is more mature, water more frequently, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged.


These plants prefer shallow pots and lighter potting soils with sphagnum moss. Place them in medium to bright light. Bromeliad plants have “cups” at the base of the leaves. This is the best place to water the plant. If water collects in the saucer between watering, empty it out to protect against disease and insects. The colorful, showy part of the bromeliad doesn’t last long, but the pups at the base of the plant can be removed from the parent plant once they are matured. Just clip them and replant in another pot.

Caribbean Tree Cactus

The Caribbean Tree Cactus requires plenty of light so make  sure to place it near a window that gets bright light for most of the day. A young cactus in a pot requires more watering than mature plants. All-purpose soil with good drainage is key. Once the plant is established, it usually only needs watering once a month.


This plant favors bright, filtered light, like what you get behind a sheer curtains on a window. The dracaena requires all-purpose soil with good drainage. It’s fairly drought-resistance and doesn’t do well in soggy soil. If the soil feels slightly dry, give it a good watering and drain the saucer if necessary.

What are some of your favorite houseplants, and how do you maintain them? Share your tips with us!

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