Chemicals from building materials, furniture, and even air fresheners can make indoor air toxic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But just getting some greenery can help, says B.C. Wolverton, PhD, a former NASA research scientist and the author of How to Grow Fresh Air.
“Houseplants give off oxygen and help remove chemicals like formaldehyde, a common indoor vapor that can cause respiratory and neurological problems, as well as cancer,” he says. These five great picks may not cure asthma, but they can help you breathe easier.
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Available in all kinds of colors and shapes, this climbing vine helps clear out formaldehyde. It’s superversatile, too: You can grow it in hanging baskets, low planters, or even as a topiary. It needs regular misting, though, especially during winter.
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Great at removing formaldehyde from the air, the bamboo palm is also low-maintenance: Just put it where it’ll get a couple of hours of direct sunlight, and water it regularly.
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A pro at removing a laundry list of toxins, including acetone, benzene, alcohols, and ammonia, the peace lily is the only air-cleaning plant on our list that flowers. To keep it healthy and insect-free, you’ll need to wash the leaves occasionally.
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This plant clears your air of chemicals, including ammonia, and is highly resistant to insects. It’s fairly easy to care for, but you’ll need to trim the leaf tips if they turn brown from a buildup of salt and minerals.
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Got a black thumb? The hearty rubber plant is for you. It ranks high at eradicating nasty formaldehyde and can tolerate cooler temperatures and low light. You just need to keep it well-watered.