Can houseplants help the quality of air in my house?

Yes. The air inside your home might be filled with toxins from tobacco smoke, cleaning products, ceiling tiles, and upholstery. Scientists have discovered that many types of houseplants absorb airborne pollutants as part of their normal “breathing” process—they take carbon dioxide in through their leaves, and let oxygen out. The plant transports these toxins to their roots, where microbes feed on and detoxify them.

Although scientists disagree about how many—and what types of—houseplants it takes to clean the air, they suggest using a mix of plants. Bill Wolverton, a former NASA scientist and environmental engineer, studies the effects that plants have on air quality and has rated the areca palm, lady palm, bamboo palm, rubber plant, and dracaena as highly effective at clearing pollutants from the air.