20+ Surprising Uses for Vapor Rub

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Vicks Vapor Rub is known for helping soothe coughs, stuffy noses, and the like, but there are other practical uses for Vicks® VapoRub (or most more natural or homemade alternatives) that you probably didn’t know about. Get ready to be surprised about how versatile this common household remedy is.

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Vicks® VapoRub is one of those things that almost all of us have memories of from childhood. We’d get sick and mom would bring out chicken soup, ginger ale, tissues, and the Vicks®.

Well, believe it or not, Vapor Rub is actually a pretty versatile thing. And never fear–for those of you who aren’t a fan of Vicks® (I’m not really, however there are much worse things out there that you could put on your skin), much of the versatility applies to other chest rubs on the market, as well as ones you can make yourself.

One way to avoid waste, as well as to save money, is to have multiple uses for things that you have on hand–that way even if you only need a little of something, you don’t end up tossing whatever is left over.

So instead of buying (or making) Vapor Rub and having it go rancid, try out some of these other uses to really get your money’s worth–some of them are sure to amaze you!

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Unusual Uses for Vapor Rub

Soften Feet

Vapor rub is essentially made up of a base of petroleum jelly and essential oils. This combo can be great for softening your feet.

Apply a layer to your feet at night, or just after taking a bath or shower. Massage in and then cover with socks.

Your tootsies will thank you!

Remove Warts

Some people report that vapor rub is a great (mostly) natural wart remedy–crazy, huh?

To address warts, try applying a thin layer of vapor rub and then covering with a bandage.

Protect Irritated Skin

Do you sometimes get itchy, irritated skin?

Petrolatum is a great barrier, while cedar oil is known to soothe skin.

Soothe Blemishes

Some of the ingredients in vapor rub help soothe inflammation and address bacteria, and help dry out oily skin. The cedar oil in Vapor Rub has been shown to address blemishes (source), while eucalyptus is antimicrobial (source).

Combined, these features make for a great alternative blemish salve that is another option to try in addition to this DIY acne cream.

Soothe Itching Skin

The same antimicrobial and moisturizing properties can also be put to use when dealing with itching. Simply put a thin layer of vapor rub on the irritation and rub in gently.

Soothe Dry Cuticles

Vapor rub can also help revive your dry cuticles. You can rub it on your cuticles just like a cuticle cream.

The combination of camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oil have been known to moisturize the cuticles nicely,

Stop Cats From Scratching

Do your cats use your furniture and curtains as a scratching post? If so, you can rub a bit of vapor rub on the things you want them to stay away from.

Cats don’t like the smell of vapor rub, so it’s a great way to repel them. Try mixing a small amount of vapor rub with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist your furniture and curtains whenever needed.

Remove Ticks

Some people swear by using vapor rub to remove ticks. They recommend smearing a bit of it near where the tick has lodged itself.

The strong scent of the vapor rub causes the tick to let go, so you can easily remove it and kill it. Make sure to save any tick for testing for Lyme and other tick borne diseases.

Repel Insects

Vapor rub contains cedar leaf oil, which insects apparently hate. Rub some Vicks® on your skin to help repel all kinds of insects–including ticks. 

Soothe Tick and Insect / Mosquito Bites

Interestingly, it’s sometimes said that things that repel insects will help soothe their bites as well. Vapor rub can help to not only soothe the itching, but it can also help to reduce swelling and redness. 

Ditch Toenail Fungus

Have a stubborn bout of toenail fungus and can’t wait to get rid of it? Yet again, the antimicrobial ingredients in vapor rub allow it to do so much more than just getting rid of chest congestion.

Clean your feet thoroughly and then apply some vapor rub onto the affected area.

This isn’t going work overnight, of course, and should be monitored. If you feel that the toenail fungus is getting worse even while using the vapor rub, please contact your physician.

Moisturize Skin

Several of the ingredients in vapor rub are fantastic for hydrating your skin and locking in the moisture. 

Petrolatum is a great balm (while some prefer a more natural alternative, it does work really well) and cedar leaf oil is known for its moisturizing qualities.

Take caution if your skin is exceedingly dry, however, as Vapor Rub is best not to be used on severely dry and potentially highly damaged skin.

Prevent Wrinkles and Stretch Marks

Not only can vapor rub help to hydrate your skin – but it can also help to tighten it. This is good news for those of us wanting to fight wrinkles and stretch marks.

I can’t say that this product will make your stretch marks disappear (though some say that this is the case), but it can help soften them and reduce the dryness that often makes stretch marks stand out.

Train Dogs

Got a pooch who keeps marking his territory in your home? Try “spot treating” those areas with some Vapor Rub to steer him (or her) in another direction.

Soothe an Earache

If you or someone else is struggling with an earache, try placing a dab of Vicks on a cotton ball in your ear for several hours.

Of course, see a physician if need be to rule out an ear condition that needs further attention.

Get Rid of Bruises Faster

Vapor rub can also be used to help bruises fade faster–especially if you manage to use it shortly after the bruise appears.  Put a dab of vapor rub onto the bruise and massage it in. Most likely this is due to the action of the menthol and camphor on blood flow.

Some say that adding salt to the rub helps it work faster. Not sure why that would be, but….it’s an interesting thought for sure!

Soothe Head Pain / Tension

Feeling tension and discomfort in your head? The cooling menthol in vapor rub addresses the pain and pressure, giving quick relief.

Silence a Squeaky Door

Got a door that’s squeaking? Skip the WD-40 and try some Vicks® instead.

It works great and you won’t have to worry about inhaling toxic fumes.

Soothe Sore Muscles

The next two uses are not as “surprising” in the sense that they are actually listed on the Vicks® label. However, they were for me, and I suspect there are some of you out there who didn’t know about these uses either.

The ingredients in vapor rub actually have anti-inflammatory properties. That means it can be great for soothing sore muscles. Simply rub it into the affected area like lotion so it can work its magic. 

You can add a few dabs of vapor rub to a carrier oil (one of my favorites is coconut oil) and massage the blend into your skin for fast relief. The vapor rub will cool the muscles, help with inflammation, and offer some relief from the discomfort. 

Provide Joint Pain Relief

The anti-inflammatory properties of vapor rub also make it a great solution for people who have painful joints. Just rub a small amount into your joints and let it do its job.

Soothe Neuropathy

A reader shared with me that her doctor recommended vapor rub to help soothe her neuropathy–and it worked! Great to know that something so simple can give relief.

How to Safely Use Vapor Rub

Before you dive into any of these uses for vapor rub, make sure to read the following tips / safety concerns. Vicks may or not be safe for you to use, depending on your situation.

Menthol and Young Children

Menthol can be harmful to babies and toddlers (it can actually aggravate a cough for them) (source), so if you’re using any of these tips on small children, be sure to invest in a menthol-free baby rub.

And for sure, skip the Vicks® for babies and very young children.

Avoid Contact with Eyes

When using vapor rub (whether store-bought or homemade), you definitely need to make sure you avoid contact with eyes. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after using vapor rub so that you don’t mistakenly rub your eyes. 

Avoid Use Under the Nose for Kids

Vapor Rub should never be used under the nose for children. While the menthol has a cooling effect, and it seems that it helps with breathing, it can actually make it harder for the child to breathe. (source)

Avoid Use on Broken Skin

Contrary to advice you might see on other sites, do NOT use Vicks® on broken skin. There are a lot of posts out there advocating the use of VapoRub on cuts and splinters, but the company does not recommend this use.

Do a Patch Test

When using something new on your skin, it’s generally a good idea to do a patch test – especially if you have sensitive skin. Choose a small section of your skin to use the vapor rub on and wait at least an hour to see if you have any type of negative reaction.

Reactions can include itching, burning, a rash, inflammation, or anything else out of the ordinary. 

Camphor Toxicity

Camphor is one of the ingredients in Vicks®. It supposedly helps to open up stuffy noses and ease chest issues, but it is, surprisingly, toxic. In fact, eating or drinking as little as 5 ml can kill a young child.

Now, you most likely don’t have to worry about this since in 1983, the U.S. FDA instilled regulations that products like Vicks® could not contain more than 11 percent of camphor. Vicks contains less than 4.8%.

Regardless, overuse of the product is not a great idea, especially for kids. And be really careful about using camphor essential oil in any DIY chest rub or any other product.

Avoid Use on Mouth

Contrary to tips on other sites recommending using Vapor Rub as a lip conditioner or to remove lipstick, do not do this. Vicks® contains camphor. As mentioned above, camphor is toxic in certain amounts. Now, most likely you wouldn’t ingest enough Vapor Rub to cause a problem, but just to be on the safe side, just don’t.

Of course, depending on the ingredients, if you’re making a DIY Chest Rub, you could try your hand at using your homemade version instead for applications like this.

Is Vicks® Safe During Pregnancy?

If you have concerns about the safety of Vapor Rub, please consult with your physician. Some medical groups state that it is safe, while other non-medical groups warn against its use.

Does Vicks® Expire?

Yes, according to Vicks® website, the product does expire, and my homemade vapor rub does as well.

Now, I know–if you’re super duper frugal minded like me, you might be tempted to use any old ancient containers of vapor rub up now that you know about all of the ways you can use this handy dandy product, but—just don’t. It’s not that expensive to head on out and get a new bottle to avoid any issues with expired product.

Which of these uses for vapor rub will you try first?

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    1. Oh my – I didn’t even know there were that many ticks there! We lived there for 2 years. Ticks seems to be everywhere now. Have they recently become more prolific there? :(.

  1. I have toe nail fungus in one toe. It is stubborn. I’ve taken oral medication and applied a topical prescribed by my doctor. Even long term use did nothing to get rid of the fungus. Out of desperation I have been using Vicks Vaporub and low and behold it is working. It’s taking a while but it is certainly getting better.
    I read an article by a podiatrist that says if you have dry feet that doesn’t go away it is likely a foot fungus and it can cause the toe fungus. If the foot fungus isn’t treated then the toe fungus will never go away so I am starting on my terribly dry cracked feet tonight.

    1. YES it can be fungus and also thyroid issues. Hope it works. Would love to hear how it goes!

  2. I can’t thank you enough! My cats were destroying our woodwork by the doors. I tried everything. Since I put Vicks on the door frame the cats aren’t touching it. I only wish I had found this tip earlier so the damage they did wouldn’t have happened.

    1. Wow so glad to hear this! I’m so sorry you had that problem. I guess replacing is the only option. Again sorry but glad you found it!