Odor Absorbing Indoor Plants: Pros and Cons

odor absorbing indoor plants

Indoor plants can be a great way to add natural beauty to your home. But did you know that certain plants can also help absorb unpleasant odors? It’s true – some indoor plants are surprisingly effective at removing smells from the air.

In this article, we’ll explore the top odor absorbing indoor plants, looking carefully at the pros and cons of each. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about using plants to control smells inside. Read on to learn which fragrant indoor plants can leave your home smelling fresh and clean!

Table of Contents

Spider Plant


  • One of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde, which is found in things like cleaning solutions, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products
  • Removes xylene and toluene, pollutants commonly found indoors
  • Easy to care for and propagate by dividing clusters of spiderettes
  • Fun, unique appearance with long arching leaves


  • Doesn’t directly absorb smells like smoke or food odors
  • Needs bright, indirect light to thrive indoors

Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)


  • Top plant for filtering out airborne toxins like formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
  • Especially effective against nasty fumes released from varnishes and solvents
  • Tolerates low light conditions
  • Hard to kill, perfect for beginner gardeners


  • Doesn’t directly absorb odor molecules
  • Grows slowly and won’t proliferate to fill a large space quickly

English Ivy


  • NASA rated it excellent for removing airborne fecal particles like those from cat litter boxes
  • Also absorbs benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
  • Trailing vine growth makes it perfect for hanging baskets
  • Can be planted in soil or trained to climb decorative trellises and poles


  • Toxic to kids and pets if leaves or berries are consumed
  • Needs ample humidity and bright, indirect sunlight to thrive

Peace Lily


  • Excellent for eliminating traces of acetone, alcohol, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and toluene
  • Known to combat indoor air pollution by up to 60%!
  • Lovely white blooms appear in spring and summer
  • Low maintenance tropical plant


  • All parts of the peace lily are poisonous if ingested by kids or pets so caution is required

Florist’s Chrysanthemum


  • Found by NASA to absorb benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia
  • Mums make cheerful, long-lasting indoor bouquets
  • Wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes to choose from
  • Give as gifts or use as holiday centerpieces


  • Not as effective at removing pollutants as other indoor plants
  • Generally used as a cut flower and discarded after blooming

Garden Mum


  • Absorbs ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene very effectively
  • Adds warm color to indoor spaces in autumn when blooming
  • Inexpensive, hardy perennial to plant in outdoor gardens
  • Blooms late in the season when few fall flowers remain


  • Not commonly grown as a long term indoor plant or houseplant
  • Some varieties have allergenic pollen



  • Soaks up benzene particles that accumulate indoors from oils, paints, tobacco smoke and detergents
  • Features elegant, bell-like blooms in a variety of gorgeous colors
  • Adds gorgeous style to indoor nooks and shelves


  • The entire foxglove plant contains toxins that can be fatal if ingested
  • Needs special winter care and goes dormant after flowering

Golden Pothos


  • Effective remover of formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene
  • Trails beautifully from hanging baskets
  • Cascades impressively around shelves and railings
  • Thrives in low light areas
  • Super easy care and propagation


  • Toxic if leaves are ingested by children or pets

Red-Edged Dracaena


  • Dracaena marginatas are superb for stripping xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde particulates from indoor air
  • Distinctive red-edged foliage adds unique visual interest
  • Handles low light environments extremely well
  • Tolerates occasional neglect or drying out between waterings


  • Poisonous to pets and people if leaves are chewed or eaten

Barberton Daisy


  • Extremely effective at absorbing benzene and formaldehyde
  • Cheerful daisy flowers bloom prolifically indoors
  • Does well in containers for tabletops or hanging baskets
  • Enjoyable for novice gardeners due to fast growth and easy care


  • Prefers very bright light so can be challenging to site suitably indoors
  • Odors from flowers may bother those sensitive to scents

Chinese Evergreen


  • Aglaonema species soak up immense amounts of benzene as well as formaldehyde, toluene and xylene too
  • Striking green and white or silver color variations exist
  • Tolerates extreme shade and low light gracefully
  • Adds lush tropical flair to desks and tables


  • Contains insoluble calcium oxalates that may cause skin irritation for sensitive individuals

Bamboo Palm


  • Excellent removers of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene
  • Adds the serene, zen quality of an indoor bamboo with handsome palms
  • Graceful arching leaves create visual drama without taking too much space
  • Does very well in low to bright indirect light


  • Occasional yellowing of leaves indicates it dislikes overly dry soil

Heart Leaf Philodendron


  • Shown by NASA to battle air pollution extremely effectively
  • Delicate, deep green leaves with signature splits add tropical charm
  • Trails beautifully in hanging containers
  • Can be trained up a moss stick or trellis for added visual appeal


  • Contains insoluble calcium oxalates which may irritate skin
  • Toxic to curious pets if leaves are consumed

Elephant Ear Philodendron


  • Cheerful, lush and fast growing making it a fun indoor plant
  • NASA approved for removing formaldehyde, especially around insulation and electronics
  • Trails well along shelves
  • Large, tropical leaves add drama to desks, tables and counters


  • All parts are poisonous if ingested causing painful swelling and irritation of mouth and throat

Boston Fern


  • Extremely effective at combating formaldehyde which is common in cleaning products, toilet papers, tissues and personal care items
  • Lacy fronds have an elegant, delicate texture not replicated in other houseplants
  • Does well in hanging containers or set on plant stands
  • Removes considerable amounts of xylene and toluene too


  • Requires more light and humidity than most indoor spaces provide naturally

Kimberly Queen Fern


  • Excellent absorption of atmospheric formaldehyde around insulation, plywood and electronics
  • Soft, arching fronds and chartreuse color unique among indoor ferns
  • More compact and manageable size than Boston fern


  • Needs bright, indirect light plus ample humidity to thrive
  • Can be challenging for inexperienced indoor gardeners

Corn Plant (Dracaena Massangeana)


  • Dracaenas rated tops by NASA for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde
  • Adds fun vertical form interest with strappy green and yellow variegated leaves
  • Tolerates extremely low light environments
  • Great floor plant to tuck into ignored corners or fill problem areas


  • Toxic to pets, especially cats and dogs, if leaves are chewed on

Janet Craig Dracaena


  • Wonderfully effective in absorbing formaldehyde, often found indoors in insulation, plywood, electronics and fabrics
  • Also soaks up xylene, ethanol and toluene gases
  • More compact and attractive than standard corn plants
  • Thrives even in low light and with occasional neglect


  • Poisonous to curious pets that nibble on leaves

Florist’s Mum “Yellow Star”


  • These chrysanthemums soak up massive amounts of benzene and ammonia
  • Blooms for months as a spectacular indoor bouquet or potted plant
  • Adds bright, fresh color for autumn and early winter months
  • Inexpensive way to enjoy beautiful blooms year round


  • Not as hardy or effective at removing pollutants as other houseplants
  • Discarded after flowering period is over

Warneckii Dracaena


  • Shown in studies by NASA to absorb formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene
  • Handles low light with aplomb and adjusts well to indoor conditions
  • Interesting white markings on leaves brighten up darker corners
  • Compact growth habit takes up less space than other dracaena


  • Poisonous to children and pets if leaves are munched on

Dendrobium Orchids


  • Dendrobium nobile orchids soak up massive amounts of xylene, toluene and formaldehyde gases
  • Exotic, gorgeous blooms that perfume rooms beautifully
  • Bloom profusely several times per year with proper care
  • Add tremendously glamorous style to indoor spaces


  • Require very specific care and environments to thrive and rebloom
  • NotBeginner friendly houseplants

Purple Waffle Plant


  • Extremely effective at absorbing formaldehyde from sources like insulation and construction materials
  • Visually striking rippled purple leaves make amazing accent plants
  • Trails beautifully from mixed containers and hanging baskets


  • Poisonous foliage really limits options for placement
  • Needs very bright light to maintain best coloration

Rubber Plant


  • Effective at removing formaldehyde from insulating materials and wood products
  • Also absorbs other toxins like xylene, toluene and benzene
  • Large, shiny leaves in dark green or burgundy add lush tropical style
  • Withstands lower light and drier air better than other Ficus plants


  • Produces mild latex that can irritate sensitive skin
  • Toxic to pets if leaves are chewed on

Variegated Snake Plant


  • Striking yellow leaf margins provide stellar visual contrast
  • Extremely resilient and adaptable to indoor conditions
  • Filters gases like formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and benzene
  • Great for contemporary and minimalist room styles


  • Slow growing so can’t quickly multiply to filter larger areas

Cast Iron Plant


  • Soaks up benzene and chemical byproducts from furniture polish very effectively
  • Nearly indestructible formulation can withstand dark corners or bright windows
  • architectural style adds drama without flowers or fuss
  • Tolerates benign neglect for traveling homeowners


  • Very slow growing and propagates extremely gradually
  • Must ingest large quantities to harm pets

Ficus Alii


  • Excellent formaldehyde and xylene absorber, especially around furniture
  • Distinctive slim, willowy leaves and branches add delicate texture
  • More compact and versatile than a Ficus tree with braided trunk options
  • Does very well in low to moderate light levels


  • Weeping branches drop lots of leaves which frustrates some owners

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos)


  • Top notch removers of airborne formaldehyde and benzene
  • Gorgeous variegated varieties brighten up dark corners
  • Trails spectacularly from bookshelves, rails and hanging pots
  • Nearly impossible to kill and adapts well to low humidity


  • Rapid growth needs occasional pruning back
  • Toxic to curious pets who ingest leaves

Chinese Evergreen Silver Bay


  • Leaves distinctly edged in silver strip xylene, benzene and formaldehyde
  • Elegant variegation pattern livens up tabletops and office spaces
  • Withstands remarkably low light and adapts well to indoor conditions
  • Fun, versatile houseplant great for beginners or pros!


  • Occasional sensitivity reaction from sap for sensitive skin types

Madagascar Dragon Tree


  • Super adaptation for stripping xylene, toluene and benzene gases
  • Unique architectural shape works with modern, Asian and bohemian decors
  • Thrives beautifully in low to bright indirect light
  • Lives hundreds of years when cared for properly!


  • Slow growing means limited ability to multiply quickly

Parlor Palm


  • Excellent absorption capacities for trichloroethylene, xylene and formaldehyde
  • Dark green fronds have tropical flair without huge size
  • More compact and manageable than other palm varieties
  • Quite inexpensive and easy find at garden outlets


  • Tiny yellow flowers on mature plants can bother those sensitive to fragrances

Alternative Odor Control Ideas

Beyond odor absorbing plants, some additional natural ideas to make indoor air smell fresher include:

Baking Soda

Baking soda placed in small plates, cups or bowls around the home helps soak up moist smells lingering in fabrics and carpets.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal pads made specifically to absorb odors effectively combat smells from litter boxes, gym sneakers, basements and bathrooms.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is excellent at removing bad scents from laundry, kitchen counters, floors and walls. It works to permanently remove smells rather than simply masking them.

Beeswax Candles

Natural beeswax candles give off a tiny hint of honeyed sweetness when burned. Beeswax also helps neutralize other unpleasant smells in a room.

Hydrogen Peroxide

As hydrogen peroxide breaks down, one of the gasses it emits is oxygen. Allowing a shallow bowl of it to sit out can help freshen up stale indoor air.

Scented Dryer Sheets

Simply tuck scented linen sprays or dryer sheets under shelves, in dresser drawers, between mattresses, behind sofas or any hidden home scent traps.

Air Purifiers

Portable air purifiers offer the most consistent and powerful odor removal for whole rooms or entire homes without need for maintenance. Their special filters trap various smelly compounds.

So try experimenting creatively with different odor eliminating plants and efficient odor absorbers to conquer challenging indoor smells! Pay special attention to plant species that scored highly in NASA air cleansing studies for top effectiveness. With some simple strategies, you can easily banish unpleasant smells.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which plants absorb bad smell?

Some excellent odor absorbing plants include:

Snake plant
Spider plant
Janet Craig dracaena
English ivy
Peace lily
Red-edged dracaena
Focus specifically on plants NASA calls good air purifiers, able to combat chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia which make up common bad smells.

Can house plants remove odors?

Yes! Indoor houseplants are surprisingly effective at removing odors. Plants absorb odor molecules and contaminants from the air through tiny openings on their leaves and leaf surfaces.

NASA studies on the best odor fighting plants showed top performers can reduce airborne pollution by 60% or more once fully grown!

What plant makes a room smell good?

The best smelling indoor plants include:

Lemon balm
Orange trees
Lemon trees

These flowering and fragrant leafed plants perfume rooms naturally with their enjoyable scents. Periodic touches and brushes against the leaves releases pleasant aromas.

Which indoor plant purifies the air the most?

According to NASA research, the top 3 indoor plants for purifying air pollution are:

Peace lily
Florist’s chrysanthemum
Barberton daisy
These 3 plants scored incredibly high ratings for their ability to combat formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia in the air.

What plant absorbs bathroom odor?

For help absorbing bathroom odors, some great options include:
Bamboo palm
Peace lily
English ivy
Snake plant
Spider plant
These indoor plants soak up massive amounts of chemical compounds that make up unpleasant bathroom smells like mercaptans, ammonia, acetone and formaldehyde gases. Their large leaves and quick growth allow them to work efficiently in small humid bathroom spaces.

Do plants help with smell in room?

Indoor plants are extremely helpful for reducing smells inside rooms. Their absorbent foliage strips toxins, chemicals and odor molecules from the surrounding air.
Great small room options are peace lilies, orchids, ferns, dracaena, and palms. Focus on plants recommended by NASA’s air cleaning studies to best combat common chemicals contributing to poor indoor air quality.

How can I make my room smell nice naturally?

Some simple, natural ways to make rooms smell fresh include:

Open windows regularly to allow fresh airflow
Set out fragrant houseplants like gardenias, lavender or lemon trees
Use an essential oil diffuser with pleasing scents like citrus, jasmine or eucalyptus
Place ground coffee beans, vanilla beans, potpourri, cinnamon sticks or herbal sachets around the room
Simmer cinnamon water, rosemary or lemon peels on the stove
Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and upholstery then vacuum up
Place dryer sheets or linen sprays around room

What plant is best in the bedroom?

Some excellent plants to improve bedroom air quality and smells include:
Snake plant
English ivy
Peace lily
Spider plant
Red-edged dracaena
Heart leaf philodendron
These plants are excellent nighttime oxygen producers able to filter out formaldehyde and benzene compounds prevalent in bedroom environments.

Which flower is king of fragrance?

The bloom recognized as having the most exceptionally powerful and pleasing floral fragrance is the night queen flower or Cestrum nocturnum. Its exotic scent intensifies after sunset when its small, tubular white flowers open.

What plant removes 78% of airborne mold?

Extremely effective at combating airborne mold spores, Peace Lilies removed an incredible 78% of mold from indoor air during controlled studies.
One NASA experiment showed 6 to 8 medium sized Peace Lily plants could clear up to 467 square feet of indoor space from air mold problems.

What plant removes mold from the air?

The leading indoor plant rated by NASA scientists for removing mold from interior air is the Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum.
Other great mold eliminating plants are:
Garden mum
Snake plant
Spider plant
English ivy
Red-edged dracaena
These plants help strip mold along with other allergens like bacteria, fungi and microbes out of indoor spaces.

Is it OK to have a ZZ plant in the bedroom?

Yes! The ZZ plant or Zamioculcas zamiifolia is an ideal bedroom plant.
ZZ plants are:

Extraordinary air cleaners that remove toxins like benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide
Safe, non-toxic choices (if leaves aren’t eaten)
Unbelievably tolerant of low light and dark rooms
Great oxygenators able to produce oxygen at night
Extremely tough, adaptable plants with convenient care needs for bedrooms
So ZZ plants can definitely help create healthier, more restful sleep. Their lush leaves also add wonderful style to nightstands and shelves.


Smelly indoor air can really diminish the comfort and enjoyment of living spaces. But thankfully there are many effective options available to tackle unpleasant odors in eco-friendly ways. Certain houseplants possess almost magical abilities to strip away odor molecules using just their leaves and soil. Strategically placing a few key houseplant varieties can dramatically improve the freshness of indoor air.

Combine good airflow, natural odor absorbers and air purifying plants to create homes that smell as beautiful as they look. Give some NASA approved plant heroes a try and let nature clean naturally while you enjoy their gorgeous green foliage and flowers!

Cathryn Thompson

Hi, I am Cathryn Thompson. I am a full-time blogger. I ditched my 9-5 job many years back to explore life a bit more. In this blog, I like writing about everything that can save us from the monotony of regular life and live our life to the fullest.

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