A NASA-approved study proved that certain plants can remove the build-up of three household pollutants.

By Alexandra Churchill
May 29, 2015
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In the summer of 1989, NASA and the National Association of Landscape Professionals conducted a study using houseplants as a natural way to produce and purify the air in space stations. According to their findings, plants that required low light demonstrated a surprising potential for improving indoor air quality because they helped remove the build-up of pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and richloroethylene (some of which are found in household supplies and furniture). It stands to reason, then, that we might consider living like those space-bound astronauts and populating our living spaces with more living plants.

Their leaves absorb carbon dioxide-converting it into energy-along with other gases, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde. "I keep a peace lily in my bedroom, another in the living room with a couple of snake plants, and ivy in the bathroom," says Martha Stewart Living Features and Garden Editor Melissa Ozawa. One of her go-to online plant sources is Glasshouse Works, where users can learn more about the holistic benefits of any plant. Here are some of the more effective varieties to bring home.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')

Perfect for homeowners who enjoy bouquets of flowers, but not the upkeep. This resilient tropical plant, recognizable for its pristine white blossoms, is pretty and incredibly powerful: It removes benzene (found in plastics and synthetic fibers), formaldehyde (in carpets and upholstery), trichloroethylene (in adhesives and paint removers), xylene, ammonia, and more.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

This popular houseplant is especially easy to grow and maintain. As a tropical foliage plant, it's great for a budding (pun intended) gardener as it tolerates poor light, dry air, and drought. The best part: It's efficient at removing benzene and formaldehyde.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

This "spider-like" plant, often potted in a hanging planter, gets its name for its long, droopy leaves. Spider plants eliminate formaldehyde as well as xylene and toluene, the latter of which are both found in many household products.

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also commonly known as "devil's ivy," this sturdy plant has a subtle yellowish hue on its leaves. It's known to eradicate carbon monoxide and benzene, making it suitable to entryways from the garage and garden.

Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

This plant grows slim, ribbonlike stalks with red edges and can grow quite tall. Another powerful purifier, it eliminates benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')

This lush fern features featherlike fronds and thrives in humidity. While harder to care for than others, it proves to filter pollutants like formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

While technically not a houseplant, these bright, colorful blossoms do more than just look pretty: Mums help eliminate harmful pollutants like formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and ammonia.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

This popular evergreen is recognizable for its verdant, trailing vines. It is particularly effective at eliminating formaldehyde, which lurks in furniture and cabinets.

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