The other day I was feeling allergic and thought it would feel great to drop a little Vicks VapoRub into the bathtub. I imagined it would smell amazing and decongest me while I soaked. But I was wondering if that would be safe to do?
There are ways to safely use Vicks in the bathtub, but don’t add it straight to your tub water. The hot bath water will cause it to clump up and disperse unevenly. This can irritate your skin and cause stinging. It can also make the bottom of the tub slippery and put you at risk of a fall. That said, there are several alternative ways to use Vicks VapoRub in the bathtub or shower.
Why Vicks VapoRub In the Bathtub Sounds Like Such a Good Idea
Vicks in the bathtub seems like a great idea. A bath can really do so much good when we’re feeling under the weather. After all, the steam from a hot bath can loosen mucus blocking our nasal passages when we’re stuffed up from a cold or allergies.
So when we think of all that bathtubby goodness, we naturally want to mix it with something else known to relieve congestion: Vicks Vaporub. This gel-like substance sold over-the-counter claims to relieve a cough and sore throat caused by the common cold.
You can apply it to your chest and throat for relief. To use it to relieve body aches, you can rub it into other parts of the body.
Active ingredients in Vicks VapoRub include menthol and camphor, which are both cough suppressants and topical analgesics, as well as eucalyptus oil, which is a cough suppressant. Please be aware that there are special formulations of Vicks VapoRub for children age 2 and older and for babies three months and up.
In any case, it makes perfect sense to want all of the best healing powers to work all at the same time.
But Wait! The Problems With Vicks in the Bathtub
When I tried 1 Tbsp of Vicks in my bathtub, it clumped up. I tried to rub out the clumps in my hand before I got in the tub. Little did I realize that one lump of gel escaped notice. As I soaked, the smell was sensational and did, in fact, decongest me. But then my arm started to burn.
It was then I noticed I had an errant clump of Vaporub that got wedged in the crook of my elbow. I then wiped it away. In the wiping motion, I accidentally splashed my face, which promptly started to burn.
I never have been the type to read product directions in advance. I usually dive right in (no pun intended) and only search the instructions if I encounter a problem. So once I got out of the tub, I put on the world’s coziest bathrobe and embarked on a bit of research.
Come to find out, the Vicks VapoRub FAQ page says this:
You should not heat or microwave the product. Do not add Vicks VapoRub to hot water or any container where heating water. Doing so may cause splattering and result in burns.
In my research, one forum respondent answered the question about whether you can put Vicks VapoRub in the tub by saying, “There’s no way I’d let that stuff near my junk.”
So I guess my experience bathing in Vicks could have been a heck of a lot worse.
Alternatives to Putting Vicks Directly in Bath Water
While I was sorely disappointed that my first experiment with Vicks didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, I was determined to figure out alternatives to putting Vicks VapoRub directly into my bathwater: After some experimentation, I have come up with some great options that allow me to experience delicious menthol relief when I feel yucky.
In order to devise with these other methods of relieving a cough or cold, I first researched the active ingredients in Vicks. These include menthol and camphor, which are both cough suppressants and topical analgesics, as well as eucalyptus oil, which is a cough suppressant.
So without further ado, I present these alternatives to putting Vicks Vaporub directly into bathwater:
1. Rub In Vicks Before You Get into the Tub
Rub a dime-sized amount of Vicks into your chest before you get into the tub, and then soak. You’ll get all the steamy decongesting benefits but you’ll ensure to get the Vicks on the spots where it will do the most good.
2. Use a Winter Wonderland Bath Bomb Instead
Certain essential oils have naturally decongesting properties. These include peppermint essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil. If you order or make bath bombs with these two ingredients, you’ll be able to decongest your mucous membranes in the tub.
And then you can apply Vicks Vaporub once you get out. Here is a recipe for the Winter Wonderland Bath Bomb that contains these two important essential oils, as well as shea butter to nourish your skin.
3. Make DIY Vicks Bath Salts
I love this bath salt recipe! When I get out of the tub after scrubbing these bath salts onto my body, I feel like a giant wintergreen mint! (You’ll have to try it yourself to see what I mean.) Because I mix the VapoRub in with the bath salts, it gets evenly dispersed and far less likely to irritate your skin than if you just dropped the Vicks straight into your bathwater.
Here’s how to make it:
- 2 Cups Epsom Salt
- 12 drops green soap dye
- 2 Tbsp Vicks VapoRub
My favorite Epsom salt to use when feeling achy all over is Dr. Teal’s Muscle Recovery Soak, but really any Epsom salt will do.
Mix Epsom Salt and green soap dye well in bowl. Melt down Vicks VapoRub in the microwave for 1 minute. Combine into the salt, mixing thoroughly. Store in glass jar with tight-fitting lid.
To use, scoop out mixture and dissolve under running water as you fill your tub, or take a handful and rub against your skin when you’re in the tub for some exfoliation. I like to rub some into my cheeks and chin. But if you do put it on your face steer clear of your forehead and eyes. I’ll use about a cup of this mixture each time I bathe.
4. Soak Your Tootsies in a Vicks Foot Bath
If you’re at all familiar with foot reflexology, you know that Chinese medicine believes you can heal the whole body from the feet. In fact, there is an acupuncture point for each part of your body somewhere on your feet, whether on your insteps, heels or toes.
So it makes sense to treat the feet when you’re feeling ill. Plus, a foot bath is great when you can’t quite muster the energy to fill an entire tub. Instead, fill a basin halfway with warm water. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 tsp Vicks VapoRub
- 8 drops of lavender essential oil
- A basin big enough for your feet (or you can sit on the edge of the bathtub)
- 1 Gallon warm water
- 1 Gallon hot water
Add ½ teaspoon of Vicks VapoRub. If the Vicks clumps and lumps, rub it between your two open palms to disperse it throughout the footbath. Next, fill the basin with hot water.
Leave a few inches because as Archimedes discovered, your feet will displace some of the water making the overall level rise. Feel free to add 8 drops of lavender essential oil or eucalyptus essential oil. And then submerge your feet for 15-20 minutes.
The glorious scent of the Vicks VapoRub will make its way to your nostrils, subtly relieving congestion. Meanwhile, your entire body can relax.
5. Try Vicks Shower Melts
These will definitely help decongest you! You can buy them but they are pretty quick to make yourself. Whether you purchase or DIY, it’s a great idea to have these on hand for the next time you feel really bad with a cough, cold or flu. They will definitely seem to perform magic on your stuffiness when you use them at the right time.
To DIY, simply combine the following:
- 1/3 cup water
- 6 drops blue soap dye or food coloring
- 2 Tbsp Vicks VapoRub (or 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil)
- 1 cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup baking soda
Mix water and soap dye. Set aside.
Mix cornstarch and baking soda.
Meld down Vicks VapoRub in microwave or 1 minute until liquid. (May need additional 30 seconds.) Mix Vicks into cornstarch and baking soda. Combine well. Now slowly add water and soap dye, mixing well–you may not need to add all of the liquid. (It will depend on the humidity where you live.)
To test when your mixture has enough liquid, try the “Snowball Test.” Scoop it up in your fist. Release and see if it holds its shape in a ball. If it does, you’ve added enough liquid.
Pack into silicone mold (or an ice cube tray). Press down hard to pack the mixture into each mold. Freeze until hardened, about 1 hour. Pop out and store in a sealed glass jar or tupperware. They should last at least six months.
When you use the Vicks Shower Melt, place it over the drain. This way the bottom of the shower won’t get too slippery. If you use food coloring instead of soap dye, don’t worry; it won’t stain the shower floor because the water will rinse it away.
History of Vicks VapoRub: Prepare to Be Amazed
Vicks VapoRub first hit the market in 1905. At the time it was branded as Vicks Magic Croup Salve, and later renamed Vicks VapoRub in 1912. (I rather prefer the original name, as I do feel there’s something magical going on whenever I use Vicks.) In any case, Vicks VapoRub really took off during the 1918 flu season. Fast forward to 1985. Procter & Gamble bought the rights, marketing the product as “the only thing more powerful than a mother’s touch.” I’ll say!
If You Still Insist On Putting Vicks Directly in Your Bath Water
If you do put Vicks in the bathtub, I’d recommend a very small amount like ½ Tablespoon. Before you get into the tub, check for clumps of gel in the water, and when you find them, rub clumps between your palms. Then try not to touch your eyes in the bathtub to avoid stinging. Also, be careful getting in and out of the bathwater because the bottom of your tub may be slippery.
Finally, don’t be surprised if the next time you use the tub, it still smells of Vicks. (That is, unless you’ve taken time to clean your bathtub in between. Here are The Bathtubber’s tips for How to Make Your Bathtub Gleam Like New.)