It’s a well-known fact that plants produce oxygen. But did you know that some plants also “clean” the air that we breathe? It’s true. These plants can remove harmful chemicals, from paint fumes to furniture polish. This can help reduce respiratory problems, allergy symptoms, and headaches. But it’s important to note, that not all plants do this. And some that do are not safe for pets and young children, because they are considered toxic if consumed.

If you’re thinking about adding some house plants that promote indoor air quality, and are also good for pets and your youngsters, here are some great options to add some safe greenery to your space.


Why are chemicals in my air, anyway?

You don’t have to live in a chemical plant to be exposed to VOCs, volatile organic compounds. VOCs are emitted as gases from certain things that are common in our homes. Cleaning products, paints, cosmetics, printer ink, and even building materials can create these pollutants.

The NASA Clean Air Study and other studies looked at different plants’ effects on reducing VOCs. We culled the list to include those plants that were safe for pets, too.


8 Safe Indoor Plants

1. Spider Plant (scientific name: Chlorophytum comosum)

spider plant

Named for the long leaves that resemble a spider’s legs, these plants remove formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air. These chemicals are found in household products such as glue, paint, lacquer, nail polish, and stain removers. Formaldehyde also is in some cosmetics, dishwashing liquids, building materials, and insulation.

Spider plants are great plants for beginning gardeners. They are easy to grow; you can even start them from cuttings. They just need water and bright indirect light.

Pro tip: A spider plant’s dangling leaves may attract curious kittens. Make sure your plant is in a safe place where your cat cannot knock it over.


2. Money Plant (scientific name: Epipremnum aureum)

money plant

This plant is named for its round, flat leaves that, with a little imagination, resemble coins. According to tradition, these plants are supposed to bring luck. Money plants are lucky in other ways; they soak up toxins in the air like formaldehyde.

This plant likes bright indirect light. It’s also a great plant for beginners. You can grow it in water or soil.


3. Areca Palm (scientific name: Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)


This is a big, bold plant that commands attention with its feathery, arching fronds. It naturally purifies the air by absorbing formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, pollutants found in many common household products.

Make sure you have enough space if you’re growing it indoors. It can grow as tall as six or seven feet. An Areca Palm needs indirect sunlight and enough water to keep it moist. Because it grows big, your Areca Palm will need repotting every couple of years.


4. Boston Fern/Sword Fern (scientific name: Nephrolepis exaltata)


Fondly known as a living humidifier, the Boston Fern loves humidity. It will naturally put moisture back into the air and is great for sinuses and allergies. It also is an air-purifying superstar. It absorbs formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, pollutants found in many household products.

Boston Ferns do need indirect sunlight in a spot that isn’t too warm, and regular watering to keep the soil damp. Since they love humidity, Boston Ferns do well in bathrooms and kitchens.


5. Wax Plant (scientific name: Hoya Carnosa)

wax plant

This low-maintenance plant is named for its green waxy leaves, and it produces clusters of tiny starry flowers. The Wax Plant is great for anyone frequently exposed to chemicals found in paint, gasoline, or smog. It absorbs VOCs like benzene.

It’s a tropical plant that thrives in bright indirect light and high humidity. It’s easy to grow a Wax Plant from cuttings. Place them in a water jug for 2-3 months until the roots are well developed, before planting.


6. Moth Orchids (scientific name: Phalaenopsis)


These colorful, long-lasting flowers look exotic but actually are very hardy. Their flowers resemble moths in flight, which was the inspiration for their name. These beautiful plants are great at absorbing paint fumes.

Interestingly, Moth Orchids get their nutrients from the air. You may see them grow roots above the soil. Don’t cut them off as the plant needs them to thrive. Moth Orchids need indirect sunlight and prefer higher temperatures and humidity.


7. Barberton Daisy (scientific name: Gerbera jamesonii)


While the Barberton Daisy comes in traditional white, it also blooms in yellow, orange, red, and pink. Its bright colors make it a favorite house plant. The fact that it also filters out benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene is a bonus! These chemicals are found in adhesives, cleaning fluids for rugs, paint removers, spot removers, and typewriter correction fluids.

Indoors, they can flower any time of the year. They love direct sunlight and moist soil. They usually last for a single growing season but your Barberton Daisy can last for two to three years with good care.


8. Purple Waffle Plant (scientific name: Hemigraphis alternata)

purple waffle

Also called Red Ivy, the Purple Waffle Plant has beautiful gray-green leaves with purple undersides. Its coloring makes it a popular plant for homes and offices. An added bonus is that Purple Waffle Plants are very good at removing VOCs such as benzene, toluene, and octane. These are common pollutants found in paint, cleaners, hair spray, and more.

This plant likes medium to bright light indoors. It thrives in moist soil. Purple Waffle Plants will produce white flowers in the summertime.


What to Do If Your Fur Baby Eats a Toxic Plant

While the plants on this list are safe for pets, not all plants are. If your fur baby ingests any part of a toxic plant, call your veterinarian immediately. You may be asked to bring your pet in for treatment. For emergencies like this, pet insurance can help. Find out more about what pet insurance can cover by talking with a California Casualty customer service representative.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or


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