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Best Indoor Plants to Purify the Air and Keep Pets Safe

Smiling woman and potted snake plant

This post rounds up the top 5 indoor plants that are both pet-friendly and perfect for purifying the air in your home!

We don’t often think about the air quality inside our homes.

Sure, almost every weather service now gives a report on OUTSIDE air pollution, but we tend to assume our homes are safe little pockets of clean air.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Hairspray, our furniture, cleaning supplies, and even cooking can cause crazy spikes to the air pollution of our homes — enough to rival the most polluted city in the world and potentially cause disproportionate health effects.

How to minimize indoor air pollution

What can you do to manage the air pollution in your home? First, you can make some simple swaps to the products you use (like ditching the chemical cleaners for non-toxic, eco-friendly versions).

Beyond that, you can pepper your home with air-purifying houseplants that work overtime to remove toxins like formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and more.

Any plant is better than no plants, but some plants are more efficient at pulling these toxins from the air.

But for pet owners like me, you have a whole additional layer of houseplant shopping to consider — is this thing going to harm my pet?!

I pored over NASA’s list of top air-purifying plants, but found that the majority of them are toxic to pets.

So I cross-referenced NASA’s list with the ASPCA’s database of toxic and non-toxic plants to find the top 6 pet-friendly houseplants that are best at purifying the air!

Before we get into the list, though, here are a couple more things to keep in mind.

Every pet has different tastes.

One of my all-time favorite houseplants, the snake plant, is technically toxic to cats and dogs. Many websites list it as a great pet-friendly houseplant, but your pet could get an upset stomach from eating it.

That said, I still have this plant in my home and LOVE it! 

Why? This is one plant my cats never touch. They might sniff at the leaves (my biggest plant is in a pot on the ground), but have never tried chewing on it.

On the other hand, I tried introducing a pet-friendly palm plant into the home, and my cats chewed it apart in a matter of weeks (RIP my little palm). Great in theory, but now it’s doing nothing to purify the air… whereas my snake plant is endlessly thriving.

The point: every pet will approach plants differently.

Just because a plant could cause GI issues doesn’t mean your pet will eat it. I still wouldn’t introduce a deadly plant like peace lilies into my home, hoping that the cats won’t touch it, but I’ll take my chances with my beloved snake plant. After all, catnip is technically toxic to cats, too!

If you grab a snake plant and your pets seem interested in it, just place in on a high shelf they can’t touch. I know, that could be a challenge with cats. But it’s worth a shot!

Always double check if a plant is toxic.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all pet-friendly houseplants. You may even have a hard time finding the exact plants on this list in your area.

Remember, as far as air-purifying houseplants go, any plant is better than no plants. So don’t feel limited by NASA’s top air-purifiers or my list of best indoor plants.

But ALWAYS check with the ASPCA’s database to see if a plant is toxic or non-toxic for pets. I love the database because it delves a little deeper into the symptoms of a pet eating the plant.

As I mentioned above, some plants can be listed as “toxic” but present low risk for your pet, so it’s still up to you whether you’ll risk a certain plant or not.

Related: 10 Ways to Stress Less and Simplify Your Life

Top 6 Pet-Friendly, Air-Purifying Houseplants

1. Snake plant

Scientific name: Sansevieria trifasciata
AKA: Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

I know, I won’t shut up about it. I ADORE my snake plant. Not only are they elegant, these are one of the easiest houseplants to care for.

The joke with snake plants is that they like a little neglect. They do need to be watered occasionally, but this air-purifying plant actually enjoys drier conditions with indirect sunlight.

A note of caution, though, because snake plants can cause nausea and diarrhea in cats and dogs if they eat the leaves. As mentioned above, my cats don’t touch my plant — but be warned!

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

2. Rubber plant

Scientific name: Peperomia obtusifolia
AKA: Pepper Face

These cute little non-toxic plants make great air-purifiers! Easily one of the best indoor plants.

Rubber plants are easy to care for and very versatile – you can keep them small or nurture one into a big, impressive indoor tree. Your choice!

Pollutants removed: formaldehyde

3. Bamboo palm 

Scientific name: Chamaedorea elegans
AKA: Good Luck Palm

I’ve got a love affair with palm plants right now (despite my cats’ best efforts to thwart my palm frenzy). Since my failed attempts with the first, I just hadn’t found the right one until putting together this post.

Bamboo palms are named for their similarity to bamboo — reedy stalks that clump together. But they still feature gorgeous palm foliage.

Another palm option that’s wonderful at purifying the air? Areca palms.

Bamboo palms are powerhouse detoxifying plants, especially known for filtering formaldehyde out of the air.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

4. Gerbera daisy 

Scientific name: Gerbera jamesonii
AKA: Barberton Daisy

If you’d like a houseplant that isn’t all greenery, gerbera daisies are the way to go. They do require a little more care than a snake plant or rubber plant, but the bright and sunny blooms are worth the effort if that’s what you’re after!

Pollutants removed: trichloroethylene, benzene

5. Pilea Peperomioides

Scientific name: Pilea peperomioides
AKA: Chinese Money Plant, Lefse Plant, UFO Plant

This cheery plant is awfully unique, with waxy, orblike leaves. I picked one up on a whim and it’s one of my favorite plant additions yet!

They’re easy to care for (just don’t overwater) and propogate, meaning you can replant the “babies” that pop up through the soil to spread the pilea peperomioides love around.

Pilea won’t grow into a massive plant like some of the others on this list, so it’s perfect for your office desk, windowsill, and nightstand.

Pollutants removed: Unfortunately, wasn’t able to dig up any info on this, likely because they surged in popularity just a few years ago. But I couldn’t resist keeping it on the list.

6. Spider plant

Scientific name: Chlorophytum comosum
AKA: Spider Ivy

It’s a good thing spider plants made the list of best indoor plants, because these houseplants check all the boxes: easy to care for, non-toxic to pets, and awesome air detoxifier.

In fact, spider plants are crazy fast at their air-purifying abilities — as soon as one is placed in a room, the levels of pollutants noticeably drop.

They make wonderful hanging plants or office plants, since they don’t need direct sunlight.

Pollutants removed: formaldehyde and xylene