How to Get Rid of Mucus and Phlegm vector image

33+ Ways to Get Rid of Mucus and Phlegm (Home Remedies)

by | Updated: May 7, 2024

We’ve all been there — the annoying sensation of mucus and phlegm that just won’t go away. Whether you’re dealing with a cold, allergies, or something else entirely, the constant coughing and throat clearing can be both frustrating and embarrassing.

Fortunately, there are several effective strategies you can use to reduce mucus and phlegm buildup, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to over-the-counter remedies.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective ways to get rid of mucus and phlegm so you can feel better and breathe easier.

How to Get Rid of Mucus and Phlegm

  1. Stay hydrated
  2. Use a humidifier
  3. Gargle salt water
  4. Perform coughing techniques
  5. Try honey and ginger
  6. Cover your face with a warm, wet washcloth
  7. Use a bowl and towel
  8. Perform breathing exercises
  9. Sleep with your head elevated
  10. Eat a lung-healthy diet
  11. Avoid mucus-producing foods
  12. Use a vapor rub
  13. Try PEP therapy
  14. Never suppress a productive cough
  15. Use saline
  16. Try herbal remedies
  17. Try essential oils
  18. Avoid cigarette smoke
  19. Stay active
  20. Use eucalyptus
  21. Eat spicy foods
  22. Try postural drainage
  23. Monitor outdoor air quality
  24. Purify indoor air
  25. Prevent lung infections
  26. Use steam therapy
  27. Use chest percussion
  28. Change your home air filters
  29. Avoid artificial scents
  30. Try a lung cleanse
  31. Get the essential vitamins for lung health
  32. Avoid allergens
  33. Try over-the-counter medications

Watch this video or keep reading to learn more about the best methods for getting rid of mucus and phlegm.

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated helps support the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract. This is essential for preventing dust, debris, and other harmful particles from entering the lungs.

If the mucus membranes become dry, the secretions in the airways begin to thicken, making it difficult to breathe.

Drinking plenty of fluids like water or tea can help thin out mucus and make it easier to cough up. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated and your mucus thin.

2. Use a Humidifier

If you often wake up with a dry throat or stuffy nose, it could be due to the lack of humidity in your bedroom. Dry air can cause irritation in the nasal passages and throat, leading to the production of more mucus.

This can make breathing difficult, disrupt sleep, and even cause a sore throat.

However, by placing a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom, you can create a more comfortable sleeping environment. The humidifier adds moisture to the air, helping to keep your nasal passages and throat lubricated and reducing the production of mucus.

Our Top Pick
Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

A high-quality cool mist humidifier for improved wellness, comfort, and breathing in your home.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

3. Gargle salt water

Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat and loosen up mucus and phlegm. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water, gargle for 30 seconds, then spit it out.

4. Perform Coughing Techniques

Certain coughing techniques can help loosen up mucus and phlegm, making it easier to expel. Two popular methods include:

  1. Huff coughing
  2. Deep coughing

To perform a huff cough, take a deep breath, then exhale forcefully with an open mouth. To perform a deep cough, take a deep breath, then cough from the depths of your lungs.

Related: Forced Expiration Technique (FET): An Overview

5. Try Honey and Ginger

Honey and ginger have natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe a cough and reduce mucus production. You can add honey to tea or hot water, or try drinking ginger tea.

6. Cover Your Face With a Warm, Wet Washcloth

Placing a warm, wet washcloth over your face and breathing through it is a simple and effective way to get rid of mucus. The warmth and moisture from the washcloth help to loosen and thin out mucus, making it easier to expel.

Breathing in the warm, moist air also helps to hydrate and soothe the nasal passages and throat, reducing irritation and inflammation.

7. Use a Bowl and Towel

Fill a bowl with hot water and lean over it, draping a towel over your head to create a tent. Breathe in the steam for several minutes to help loosen up mucus and clear your airways.

8. Perform Breathing Exercises

Performing breathing exercises can help get rid of mucus by improving lung function and promoting better airflow.

Certain breathing techniques, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, can help to strengthen the muscles involved in breathing and increase the amount of air that can be exhaled.

This can help to clear out the mucus that has built up in the lungs and airways, making it easier to cough up for removal.

9. Sleep With Your Head Elevated

Sleeping with your head elevated can help prevent mucus from pooling in your throat and causing congestion. Use an extra pillow or invest in an adjustable bed to achieve an elevated angle.

10.  Eat a Lung-Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can improve respiratory function and reduce the risk of breathing problems. Some examples of healthy foods for your lungs include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Leafy greens
  • Salmon
  • Coconut oil
  • Garlic
  • Brazil nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseeds

Backed by research, these foods have been shown to help reduce inflammation, limit mucus production, improve airflow, and protect against damage to lung tissue.

Read our full guide on the best foods for lung health to learn more.

11. Avoid Mucus-Producing Foods

Just as there are foods that support lung health, there are also certain inflammatory foods that can cause the production of too much mucus.

Some examples include the following:

  • Bread
  • Processed meat
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Fast food
  • Soda
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Sodium

By avoiding these foods and choosing a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, you can reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract and decrease the production of mucus.

This can help to alleviate symptoms of congestion and promote better respiratory health. Read our in-depth guide on the foods that cause mucus to learn more.

12. Use a Vapor Rub

Applying a vapor rub to your chest or under your nose can help to relieve congestion and make it easier to breathe.

The active ingredients, such as camphor and menthol, work by creating a cooling sensation that can soothe irritated airways and reduce inflammation.

13. Try PEP Therapy

PEP therapy, or positive expiratory pressure therapy, is an airway clearance technique that involves breathing into a device that creates resistance and vibrations when you exhale. This helps loosen secretions from the airways for easier removal by coughing.

PEP therapy can be performed in combination with other airway clearance techniques, such as chest percussion and postural drainage, to help improve lung function and reduce symptoms of congestion.

Note: It’s important to work with a physician or respiratory therapist to determine what’s best for your specific needs and to ensure proper technique and safety.

Our Top Pick
Portex Acapella DH (Green)

A flutter valve is a small, handheld device that is used to help clear mucus from the lungs.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

14. Never Suppress a Productive Cough

While a cough can be annoying, it’s an important mechanism for clearing mucus and other irritants from the lungs.

Therefore, it’s important to never suppress a productive cough with cough suppressants, as this can actually make it harder to get rid of mucus and prolong the duration of your illness.

15. Use Saline

Using saline is a simple and effective way to clear mucus from the nasal passages and airways. Saline solutions are made from a mixture of salt and water and can be used in the form of nasal sprays, drops, or rinses.

The salt in the saline solution helps to break up mucus and make it easier to expel, while the water helps to moisturize and soothe irritated nasal passages.

Related: The Best Neti Pots for Allergy and Sinus Relief

16. Try Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to support the respiratory system. This explains why they are often touted as a natural way to help clear mucus and phlegm.

Some examples of the best herbs for lung health include:

  • Osha root
  • Turmeric
  • Horehound
  • Licorice
  • Ginseng
  • Elderberry
  • Camellia sinensis
  • Yarrow
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

Many of these herbs can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, added to teas or soups, or taken in supplement form.

Read our full guide to learn more.

However, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal remedies, especially if you are taking medications or have underlying health conditions.

17. Try Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote physical and mental well-being. They can also play a role in supporting lung health.

Some examples of the best essential oils for respiratory health include:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Black seed oil
  • Bergamot oil
  • Nettle leaf oil

These oils can be added to a warm bath, used in a steam inhalation, or applied topically (diluted in a carrier oil) for maximum benefit.

However, it’s important to use essential oils safely and properly, as they can be potent and may cause allergic reactions in some people.

Read our full guide to learn more about the benefits and risks of essential oils.

Our Top Pick
Smart WiFi Wireless Essential Oil Diffuser

This is a popular choice for anyone who needs an essential oil diffuser for home use. The smart WiFi functionality is great because it lets you automate the entire process.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

18. Avoid Cigarette Smoke

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and it can have a profound and lasting impact on your overall health.

The chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke can cause serious damage to the delicate tissues of your lungs, leading to chronic respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.

Cigarette smoke can also increase mucus production in the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms of dyspnea and congestion. Additionally, exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of respiratory problems and exacerbate existing symptoms.

Therefore, quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your respiratory health and reduce the production of mucus.

19. Stay Active

Exercise is an excellent way to support lung health and improve your overall well-being. Regular physical activity helps strengthen your respiratory muscles, improves lung capacity, and makes it easy to get rid of mucus and secretions.

During exercise, you naturally take deeper breaths, which allows your lungs to expand and take in more oxygen.

This explains why incorporating regular aerobic exercise into your routine, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or swimming, can be especially beneficial for lung health.

20. Use Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a natural and effective remedy for clearing mucus from the respiratory tract.

Eucalyptus oil contains a compound called cineole, which has natural decongestant and expectorant properties that can help to break up mucus and reduce inflammation in the airways.

This makes it easier to clear out mucus and promotes better breathing.

Try adding eucalyptus oil directly to your chest for relief.

You can also add a few drops to a warm bath or steam inhalation to help soothe and clear the respiratory tract. Additionally, eucalyptus leaves can be used to make tea to promote respiratory health.

Our Top Pick
NaturoBliss Natural Undiluted Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus oil is a natural essential oil derived from the leaves and branches of the eucalyptus tree, known for its distinct fresh, camphor-like scent and potential medicinal properties.
 

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

21. Monitor Outdoor Air Quality

Poor air quality can exacerbate respiratory symptoms and increase mucus production. It’s important to monitor outdoor air quality and take precautions, such as wearing a mask or staying indoors when air quality is poor.

22. Eat Spicy Foods

Spicy foods contain capsaicin, a compound that can help to reduce mucus production and improve breathing by clearing the airways.

Additionally, spicy foods can also help to boost the immune system, fight off infections, and reduce inflammation in the body, making them an excellent choice for supporting overall health and well-being.

Whether you prefer hot peppers, spicy curries, or zesty salsas, incorporating spicy foods into your diet may help to alleviate symptoms of congestion and removes excess secretions from your lungs.

23. Try Postural Drainage

Postural drainage is a simple and effective technique that helps clear mucus from the lungs. It involves changing your position to allow gravity to help move mucus from the lungs and into the airways, where it can be coughed up and cleared more easily

Postural drainage can be performed in various positions, depending on the location of mucus in certain lung segments.

For example: Lying on your back with your head down can help to clear mucus from the upper lungs, while lying on your side with your head down can help to clear mucus from the lower lungs.

This technique is best performed under the medical supervision of a doctor or respiratory therapist, so please use caution, especially if you have an underlying condition.

24. Purify Indoor Air

Indoor air can be a source of irritants that can increase mucus production, such as dust, mold, and pet dander.

Using an air purifier can help to remove these irritants from the air and improve indoor air quality, reducing symptoms of congestion and promoting better respiratory health.

Our Top Pick
LEVOIT Smart WiFi Air Purifier for Home

A high-quality air purifier can relieve allergy symptoms and improve the overall health of your respiratory system.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

25. Prevent Lung Infections

Lung infections cause inflammation and damage to the respiratory tract, leading to increased mucus production and exacerbation of symptoms.

To prevent lung infections, it’s important to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding close contact with sick individuals.

Additionally, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Taking these steps can help to strengthen your immune system and decrease the likelihood that your body produces excess mucus.

26. Use Steam Therapy

Inhaling warm, moist air helps to loosen and thin out mucus, making it easier to clear from the airways of the lungs.

This can be done by taking a hot shower, using a steam inhaler, or adding a few drops of essential oils (such as eucalyptus or peppermint) to a bowl of hot water and inhaling the steam.

Steam therapy can also help to soothe and hydrate irritated airways, reducing inflammation and promoting better respiratory health.

Our Top Pick
Vicks Personal Steam Therapy Inhaler

Whether you suffer from a respiratory condition or simply want to maintain good lung health, incorporating steam therapy into your routine can be incredibly beneficial.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

27. Use Chest Percussion

Chest percussion is a technique that involves the application of mechanical energy to the chest wall to help loosen up secretions for easier clearance. This is often performed by respiratory therapists on patients with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

However, it’s also a powerful method that you can try at home to loosen mucus in your airways.

The technique involves cupping your hands and striking the chest wall with rhythmic percussions. Perform a circular pattern back and forth over a targetted area for 3–5 minutes.

These vibrations and percussions loosen mucus from the airway walls so that they’re easier to cough up for removal. This helps keep your airways clear, making breathing much easier.

28. Change Your Home Air Filters

Dirty air filters can circulate dust, pet dander, and other irritants in the air, which can increase mucus production and exacerbate respiratory symptoms.

Changing your home air filters regularly can help to improve indoor air quality and reduce symptoms of congestion.

29. Avoid Artificial Scents

Artificial scents can be found in many everyday products, from perfumes and scented candles to air fresheners and cleaning supplies.

However, these synthetic fragrances contain a mixture of chemicals that can irritate and harm the delicate mucous membranes in our lungs.

Avoiding these scents and opting for natural alternatives can help to reduce symptoms of congestion and promote better respiratory health.

30. Try a Lung Cleanse

A lung cleanse involves using a combination of natural remedies and lifestyle changes to help clear out mucus and other toxins from the lungs.

This may include things like deep breathing exercises, drinking herbal teas, and eating a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods.

Note: A lung cleanse is not a medically recognized term and is not necessary for most people with healthy lungs.

However, if the accumulation of excess mucus and phlegm is a persistent problem, you may consider experimenting with this technique.

31. Get the Essential Vitamins for Lung Health

Maintaining adequate respiratory health requires a holistic approach, and taking vitamins can play an important role.

Some examples include the following:

  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin D
  • Resveratrol
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Omega-3
  • Magnesium

For example: Vitamin C and zinc help boost the immune system, keeping harmful infections from reaching the lungs. Vitamins A and D play a role in lung development, while beta-carotene and selenium can help prevent lung cancer.

Incorporating these vitamins into your diet through foods or supplements can help boost lung function and ward off lung-related illnesses.

Read our full guide on this topic to learn more about each vitamin.

32. Avoid Allergens

Avoiding allergens is an important step in maintaining the health of your lungs. This is especially true for people with respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD.

Some examples of the most common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Smoke
  • Pollution
  • Mold
  • Chemicals

The inhalation of these allergens can trigger symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and increased mucus production. That is why it’s important to minimize your exposure as much as possible.

33. Try Over-the-Counter Medications

If you’ve tried other home remedies with no luck, then it may be time to consider over-the-counter medications.

Some examples include decongestants and expectorants, which can help to relieve symptoms of congestion and promote better breathing.

Decongestants work by narrowing blood vessels in the nasal passages, which helps to reduce swelling and congestion. Expectorants, on the other hand, help to thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up and clear from the respiratory tract.

While these medications can be effective in reducing mucus and phlegm, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional before using them, especially if you have an underlying condition.

Additionally, overuse of these medications can lead to side effects like dizziness, insomnia, and increased heart rate, so it’s important to use them only when necessary and to follow dosage instructions carefully.

How to Get Rid of a Mucus Cough

In order to get rid of a mucus cough, a multifaceted approach is usually the most beneficial. One effective measure is to maintain good hydration, which can thin the mucus and make it easier to expel.

A warm herbal tea or a simple glass of water can be helpful in this regard. Inhalation of steam, perhaps by taking a hot shower or using a humidifier, can also assist in loosening the mucus, enabling it to be coughed up more easily.

Over-the-counter expectorants, which are drugs that encourage the expulsion of mucus from the lungs, can be used as an additional aid.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that a persistent mucus cough could be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a lung infection, and therefore should not be ignored.

Note: If a mucus cough continues for more than a week or is accompanied by other severe symptoms like fever or shortness of breath, it is essential to seek medical attention.

FAQs About Getting Rid of Mucus

What Causes Phlegm in the Throat?

Phlegm in the throat, also known as postnasal drip, is often caused by an excess of mucus production in the respiratory system. This can result from several factors, including:

When excess phlegm builds up in the throat, it can cause symptoms like coughing, throat clearing, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

What’s the Difference Between Mucus and Phlegm?

Mucus and phlegm are terms often used interchangeably to describe the sticky, viscous substance that can build up in the respiratory system. However, there is a subtle difference between the two.

Mucus is a natural substance produced by the body’s mucous membranes to help protect against infection and irritants. It mostly originates from the nose and sinuses.

Phlegm, on the other hand, originates from the airways of the lower respiratory tract and is often caused by inflammation.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference between mucus and phlegm to determine the underlying cause of respiratory symptoms and determine the most effective treatment plan.

What’s the Difference Between Mucus and Mucous?

The terms “mucus” and “mucous” are often used interchangeably to refer to the sticky substance that lines the respiratory tract, digestive system, and other parts of the body.

However, there is a subtle difference between the two.

“Mucus” is the noun form of the word, referring to the actual substance itself, while “mucous” is the adjective form of the word used to describe something that contains or is covered by mucus.

What Causes an Overproduction of Mucus?

Overproduction of mucus can be caused by several factors, including allergies, infections, irritants, and underlying medical conditions.

When the respiratory system is exposed to irritants like smoke, dust, or pollutants, or when it becomes infected with a virus or bacteria, the body may respond by producing more mucus.

Allergies, such as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, can also cause an overproduction of mucus, as the body produces excess mucus in response to allergens like pollen or pet dander.

Certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchiectasis, can also cause an overproduction of mucus as a result of structural changes in the respiratory system or impaired mucociliary clearance.

Is it Normal to Have Phlegm Every Day?

It is normal for the body to produce a certain amount of mucus each day to help protect and lubricate the respiratory system.

However, having phlegm or excessive mucus production daily may be a sign of an underlying respiratory condition or another health issue.

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms of phlegm or excessive mucus production, such as coughing, throat clearing, or difficulty breathing, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

How to Get Rid of the Feeling of Mucus Stuck in Your Throat?

To alleviate the feeling of mucus stuck in your throat, there are several effective methods you can try.

First, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, which helps thin the mucus, making it easier to swallow. Gargling with warm salt water can also soothe your throat and break down the mucus.

Additionally, consider using a humidifier in your room to add moisture to the air, which can reduce throat irritation and mucus build-up.

Over-the-counter medications like decongestants or expectorants can help, but it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication.

Also, avoid irritants like tobacco smoke, and try to identify any potential allergens in your environment that may be contributing to the problem.

Lastly, practicing good nasal hygiene with saline nasal sprays can help clear mucus from the nasal passages.

How to Get Rid of Mucus in the Chest That Won’t Come Up?

To alleviate mucus in the chest that is difficult to expel, it is beneficial to stay hydrated, which helps thin the mucus and makes it easier to cough up. Steam inhalation, either from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water, can also loosen the mucus.

Using a humidifier adds moisture to the air and can be particularly effective during dry weather. Over-the-counter expectorants may help reduce the thickness of the mucus, thereby facilitating its removal.

If these methods do not provide relief, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider, as persistent mucus can be a sign of an underlying condition that may require medical treatment.

When to See a Doctor

While mucus and phlegm are often a normal part of the respiratory system’s defense against infection and irritants, there are times when it’s important to seek medical attention.

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms of mucus and phlegm, it may be a sign of an underlying respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. You should also see a doctor if you experience other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or fever, as these may be signs of a more serious condition.

Additionally, if you have a history of respiratory conditions or are at an increased risk of complications from respiratory infections, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional about ways to manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of complications.

In general, if you’re unsure whether or not to see a doctor about your symptoms, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention if you have any concerns.

Final Thoughts

As you know, dealing with excess mucus and phlegm can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience.

Fortunately, there are many effective remedies and lifestyle changes that can help you alleviate these symptoms and improve your overall respiratory health.

Whether it’s staying hydrated, using a humidifier, or trying out natural remedies like ginger or eucalyptus, there are plenty of options available to help you get rid of excess phlegm and mucus.

If you want to go a step further, check out our full guide on how to detox and cleanse your lungs. Thanks for reading, and, as always, breathe easy, my friend.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.

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