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The Best Air-Purifying Plants for Your Home This Holiday Season

Now is the time of year when we all tend to hunker down inside to gather—and eat—with friends and family. And while cooking holiday feasts can fill your home with deliciously warm aromas, it can also serve up some unwanted byproducts.

Over the years, numerous studies have shown just how harmful cooking indoors can be. The heat sources we all use—from gas to electric stoves—create indoor air pollution. Natural gas and propane stoves can release carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other pollutants. And cooking oil, fat, and various ingredients on either gas or electric stoves produce unwanted residue.

Range hoods are the best way to keep your kitchen well-ventilated. Yet there is another way to breathe easy in your house this season—and it starts with your hardy, humble houseplants.

We spoke to experts from across the country to find the best air-purifying plants you can easily add to your home for the holidays. Here’s the roundup of the hardest-working greenery.

Snake plants

The name of these plants might sound creepy, but rest assured snake plants look good and are one of the best to have in your home if you plan on cooking a lot this season.

“The ever-popular snake plant can actively convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during the night,” says horticulturist and botanist Andrew Gaumond, of Petal Republic.

Most plants go through photosynthesis and absorption—both processes that remove toxins—only during the day. Snake plants do this at nighttime (i.e., after dinner), Gaumond explains. This is a rare quality, making snake plants a great greenery to have as a cornerstone of your air-purifying plant collection.

English ivy

Not only are English ivy plants incredibly easy to grow, they’re also great air purifiers.

“English ivy improves your indoor air quality by absorbing formaldehyde,” says Lindsey Hyland, founder of Urban Organic Yield. “Formaldehyde is a chemical that’s emitted from some building materials such as pressboard and plywood, and can irritate mucous membranes when in the air.”

Besides lurking in your furniture and walls, formaldehyde is also released in higher concentrations as a result of indoor cooking or smoking.

Spider plants

Spider plants thrive in most indoor settings and also work hard to clean the air you breathe.

“Spider plants can improve the quality of indoor air by removing both benzene and formaldehyde,” says Hyland. (Benzene is a toxic chemical found in everything from smoke to detergents.)

Get creative by planting your spider plants in a hanging basket, which they love. And watch as they throw off new starter plants (called a spiderette). You can snip off these plant babies, set them to root in a vase, and then share them with friends.

Weeping figs

If you tend to run humidifiers to combat dry winter air, then you’re going to love this air-purifying houseplant.

“Weeping figs serve as an excellent air purifier that also helps humidify your home,” says Hyland. “They work well in shady spots and can be pruned to fit any space.”

For the best results, Hyland recommends allowing the surface soil of your weeping fig to dry out between waterings.

Rubber plants

As a member of the Ficus family, a rubber plant won’t disappoint with its bold green leaves and incredible air-purifying abilities.

“There are several species of plant in the fig genus that are well-regarded for their ability to convert high volumes of carbon dioxide into oxygen throughout the day,” says Gaumond. “NASA even tested a cousin of the rubber tree in their clean air study, proving it was useful in removing formaldehyde and toluene from the air.” (Toluene is found in glues, nail polish, and some paint.)

Gaumond advises keeping your rubber plant in medium to bright light, and letting it dry out between waterings.

Bamboo palm

Stunning and tropical, this larger indoor plant is perfect for a sunny corner that’s lacking a little je ne sais quoi.

“The bamboo palm excels at removing known indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene, as well as being a great converter of carbon dioxide into oxygen,” says Gaumond. “They’re also super easy to care for and tolerate a great deal of neglect.”

But don’t neglect this greenery too much. Keep your bamboo palm in moist soil and a sunny spot for the best results.

Aloe vera

That’s right, this magical plant isn’t just a topical cure for your sunburn. It’s also a great succulent to have around to boost your air quality.

“Aloe plants are a brilliant, nature-powered warning system for poor air quality thanks to their ability to display telltale brown and yellowish spots when there are excessive toxins in the air,” says Gaumond. “They’re also particularly great at dealing with formaldehyde.”

Keep your aloe happy with lots of bright, indirect light and a deep soak every few weeks.

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