Homemade Decongestant Chest Rub – Compare to Vicks®

The information provided in this post is for information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.
It is not a substitute for your doctor's care plan or advice.

DIY Chest Rub Recipe! Ditch the Vicks® and make this instead! No added chemical nasties, it's cheaper, and can be customized with your favorite essential oils for sinuses!

Homemade Vapor Rub / DIY Chest Rub

I never even thought of making my own decongestant homemade chest rub.

In fact, I had completely forgotten that there even was a product like that.

Until I needed it.

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

In this case, yes.  And though I didn't really invent this, I finally cobbled together information from the internet and made my own.

About two weeks ago, at bedtime, my youngest son's nose was completely stuffed up.  It's allergy season here so a bit of sniffling is to be expected, but not the total clogging that he was experiencing.  And he was pretty miserable.  There is nothing harder for a mom than when her child is suffering and you don't know how to help him.

We tried our saline nasal rinse and blowing, but neither worked well at all.

Then I remembered an email I had gotten from a reader, mentioning that she had a recipe for Vicks Rub.

So I reread her email and the web and I was once again off and running to “Make Your Own Land” :-).

If you have the ingredients on hand, this is a breeze.   And it has much cleaner ingredients than the commercial brand.

Now some people might not think that it is a big deal, but there is reason to be concerned about what you put on your skin.

Toxins in Skin Care

1.  Think about how pharmaceutical companies are producing drug patches these days.  You put the patch on and the drug seeps into your skin.

2.  Then there is the whole paraben/breast cancer issue.  Parabens (used in lots of personal care products) haven been found in breast cancer tissue.

The jury is still out on how the parabens got in there.  And I know that there are different sizes of molecules so that some things may pass through the skin while others won't.

Then, I looked at the ingredients in Vicks and thought,  “who wants to put turpentine oil on a child's skin anyway?”  Yes, there is turpentine oil in Vicks — Ugh!) (UPDATE 1/1/13: I was just informed by a reader that turpentine oil is approved for use in decongestant rubs.  However, I will say that there is a warning on one of the resources that I checked, stating that:

There isn’t enough information to know whether turpentine oil can be safely inhaled by children or put on their skin. It’s best to avoid any use of turpentine oil in children.

UPDATE 4/16: Wake Forest has published a warning about the ingredients in Vicks:

“The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway,” said Bruce K. Rubin, M.D., lead author of the study and a professor in the department of pediatrics at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist. “Infants and young children have airways that are much narrower than those of adults, so any increase in mucus or inflammation can narrow them more severely.   (Source)

There is also petrolatum in Vicks and I try to avoid that whenever I can as it is a derivative of petroleum.)

So, I whipped up a batch, rubbed some on my son's chest and even dabbed some on his PJ's directly under his nose.  Another good tip is to place some on the sick person's pillow.

It worked immediately and about ten minutes later, he was asleep :-).

{Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, a commission might be made. Your support is much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.}

DIY Chest Rub Recipe! Ditch the Vicks® and make this instead! No added chemical nasties, it's cheaper, and can be customized with your favorite essential oils for sinuses!

This is a great option for a container off of Amazon.  Nice color, nice compact size, and travels well.

Important note:  Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin, or injest them, unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer. Here is a post on How to Use Essential Oils for more information.

I hope this works for you!

DIY Chest Rub Recipe! Ditch the Vicks® and make this instead! No added chemical nasties and much cheaper!











If you enjoy frugal, healthy options to over the counter products, check out my Recipes page where you can find a lot more “Make Your Own” options including:

Interested in more about Essential Oils?

Do you have a favorite natural remedy that you would care to share?

Or leave a comment with something that you would like a natural remedy for.  I'm game for a challenge!

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. I love the idea of making my own vapor rub to be safe for my family.
    My problem with the original vapor rub is this…. petrolatum. So to have information to explain why I went to a website and found the following. (My apologies if this subject was already discussed.)

    Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is a byproduct of petroleum. Petrolatum is a soft paraffin or wax mixture sold as a topical skin ointment. It is acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an approved over-the-counter skin protectant and is used in the manufacturing of cosmetic skin care. However the side effects of petrolatum include finding the petroleum byproduct in breast tumors, suffocation of the skin, premature aging and aggravated acne.
    I posted the website below.

  2. Hauntyboy says:

    I think you are overreacting to ingredients in commercial branded products. Vicks is a highly reputed brand used by millions of parents across the globe. If you think essential oils are the best, then I sincerely suggest you to read the chemical active component of every essential oil and let us see your reaction. You said which mother wants to apply turpentine oil on their children. Turpentine oil, for your kind information is the active component of Pine essential oil. (Pinus roxburghii). So applying turpentine oil is just applying essential oil of pine. If you would mention only the active chemical component of all your essential oils, then you would panic to an extent where you would feel your home made product would sound too scary. So, please read the content of the products and get sufficient knowledge before you allow your prejudice against store brought products to create fear and panic.

  3. Brandi Badgett says:

    The small 4oz. Mason jars with the plastic lid are even better for things like this. They don’t react with the oils even over time a last for pretty much forever!

  4. Turpentine is pine essential oil

  5. Do you know what turpentine?

  6. I have used eucalyptus for many years on cotton balls throughout the home. It is very good by itself, even on pillow slips. Not too much or it will make the throat sore. Just a small dab on the night cloths. Never on the skin. I make a spray to keep in the bathroom with eucalyptus and 1 or 2 other oils mixed in. It is good to use throughout the home. Or in sick rooms. (my family stays quite well, Thank God!) I also make a chest rub with 2 oz. of olive oil, in 2 oz bottles with 20 drops of eucalyptus, 5 drops of peppermint, and 5 drops of two or three other ess. oils. Any will do, for the eucalyptus oil is what does the killing of germs. Rub it up and down on the throat at the first sign of a runny nose, or a tinkle in the throat. And finish by rubbing the finger you’ve used under the nose. I have made this for friends with children, who ask for more,

    • Just be careful w/ eucalyptus and little ones :). Due to the high percentage of 1,8 Cineole constituent in Eucalytpus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus, we do not recommend use on children under the age of 5. Eucalyptus citriodora is a safer alternative.

  7. Brenda Wiggins says:

    The problem with using Vick’s Rub on the chest, is that you cannot fan about. The Doctors always said that vick’s opened the pores up and you could take in more cold and make yourself worse.

    I would do some checking and make sure that the oils I was using didn’t open the pores like Vick’s.

  8. My daughter had an Asthma attack overnight and after using her inhaler, saline wash and everything I knew to do, a light turned on in my head and I reached for the tea tree oil. I rubbed it on her feet, put socks on and within ten minutes she was sound asleep after over five hours of continuous coughing. ?

  9. Thank you so much! I’ll be making this very soon. I was trying to find a recipe like this that doesn’t call for beeswax and other ingredients that I normally don’t have on hand. I will post my results soon as I can.

  10. Love this! I had my first baby last May & we have been trying to find a safe decongestant. Perfect, I’ll be making this asap, ????

  11. Cady Shepard says:

    I found the same containers at Target for 99c. I use them for eyelash growth serum.

    Something to think about: everything you put on your skin, ingest, or breathe in, has to be filtered by your liver. Your skin is the largest organ so be very careful about everything to which you expose yourself. Soap, lotion, cosmetics, etc.
    The liver was never meant to be able to act as a filter to all the garbage we are exposed to nowadays. If the liver becomes toxic, overloaded with chemicals that it can’t filter, then we become ill and all of our other organs, immune system and hormones are affected. Be aware, read labels and make informed choices about what goes on your skin and in your body.
    Baby oil seems innocuous. It’s made from crude oil. Vaseline..same thing. Coconut oil, Cocoa Butter, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar are very wise, and very healthful alternatives to many things that we pay much more for in our everyday lives.
    Go Organic in everything you can. Google is your friend. <3

  12. Love therecommended oil companies,I use plant therapy and mountain herb and love the effects the oils have had over the years

  13. Peppermint and eucalyptus are for use on children 10 years and older due to the ability to slow respiratory functions

  14. Stumbling onto your post, I read what you wrote about terpentine oil ; ‘Who wants to put terpentine oil on a child anyway?’ I do!
    But I am an aromatherapist and I know the difference betwen “Essential Oil of Terpentine” and “Terpentine oil”. Unfortunatelly, the english language put the same name on both, which induces a lot of confusion.
    The “Essential Oil of Terpentine” had been part of the European pharmaceutical books for more than two centuries and is very effective in case of coughs and all the respiratory infections; It is safe and very usefull.
    The “terpentine oil” is used for treating woods!!
    If both come from the Pinus pinaster bark, the ‘Essential Oil of Terpentine” is made out of the sticky residu left over once all the esthers are gone, residu that contains the essential oils.
    But I’ve never seen any “Essential Oil of Terpentine” in the US

    You can use essential oil of Camphor in your Vapor Rub preparation without hesitation. And simply add your EO ( Eucalyptus, Ravintsare, Tea-tree, Manuka, Pine, Linanol Thyme, camphor …) on a vegetable oil (sesame, Wheat germs oil, …) or shea butter and put it on, it will work wonders. The EO do the work, not the carrier! But be carreful with spearmint as it has a cooling effect.

    I agree about Petrolatum which is now forbidden in European Skin care.
    I would add I do not agree with Palm oil or shortening ; look into the disasters that crop brings to underdevelopped countries because of unscrupulous multinationals. Plus the oil qualities are very disputable…

  15. Hi there,

    We recently featured your article on a blog post titled ’top 31 amazing things to make with coconut oil’

    You can find it here: http://www.honesthealthblog.com/31-amazing-things-make-coconut-oil/

    Please share if it’s ok with you! I’ve also sent you an email about this via the contact page!

  16. I don’t have any eucalyptic or peppermint essential oil( my son took it to his house). I do have peppermint extract for Christmas baking. Would this also work in my coconut oil?

    • I don’t know – but you could try. Can’t hurt :).

    • No, it won’t work>
      The extract is an infusion of spearmint into a base, often an alcoholic base.
      The Essential Oil comes from the distillation of the whole plant and contains all the active principle.
      Nothing replace a true uncut EO

  17. You mention in several of your responses that you were going to try a different recipe or rework this one. However, I do not see that update. Any more thoughts?

  18. Danielle R says:

    I work with aromatherapy. Be careful with Eucalyptus and children under 5. You can dilute it more or keep it on the feet. It can be too much for their lungs. Always read up on them(this is for all looking into aromatherapy). Young living is a great resource to learn about essential oils and cautions. Thank you for the recipe, I will be using it on my children.

    • Hi Danielle. Thanks for commenting. This is what Mr. Dean, the owner of Native American, has to say about eucalyptus:

      Eucalyptus is an oil that some people have a negative reaction where others do not. Personally it is always wise to be more careful when working with a new essential oil and the feet is a great place to start. Understanding how it will react to your body will assist you in using the oils safely. (People will react differently to the oils.)

      Now with small children, you always want to be extra careful. They have more sensitive skin and are smaller. When starting out with a new essential oil, always use a small amount mixed a bit with a carrier oil. Understand how the oil works on your child before you start using the oil more abundantly. Treat the oils with respect and use them with wisdom because they can be very powerful.

      I know that there are a lot of safety extremists out there that say all types of things about the oils. This is great information to keep the masses safe but in reality don’t hold water for most people. If you slowly use the oils in dilution, you will understand how they work for you and your family and gain more specific wisdom about your situation.

      Over twenty years ago I used pure Eucalyptus blend, with four different types of Eucalyptus, to assist in healing my newly adopted three year old daughter from a chronic lung infection she had for years. This oil was eventually put on in the chest and back in their pure form, howbeit only a couple of drops.

      Before using them in the pure form, I tested the oil for several days with a carrier oil. I used wisdom and caution in my application process and understood the power of the essential oils. The result was I got rid of a health problem in two weeks that the doctors could not get rid of with all their drugs in two and a half years. The oils are that powerful.

  19. Awesome post. We do something very similar. .45 oz Coconut oil, 1/8 tsp.(small pinch) camphor, 6 drops eucalyptus eo, 2 drops lemongrass eo, 2 drops lavender eo and 2 drops peppermint/tea tree eo <3

  20. Just a little note on using peppermint on kids. Be careful using Pepermint on children as it can be too strong and cause their throats to close if they are too young. Under 3 years old you should substitute spiramint.