With its potent combination of camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol, Vicks VapoRub has been helping people with colds breathe a little easier for years. A humidifier can help soothe cold symptoms as well, so putting the two together seems like a smart idea. Unfortunately, you can't put Vicks VapoRub in a humidifier. You can, however, use special products like Vicks VapoPads and VapoSteam products with your appliance.
Put Safety First
Vicks VapoRub has been a household staple for so long that it's easy to forget that it can be dangerous. VapoRub is a petroleum-based product, and inhaling it can cause exogenous lipoid pneumonia. It's also of note that swallowing as little as a few teaspoons of VapoRub can be fatal to children under the age of 2.
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To use VapoRub safely, never rub it anywhere but on your chest and neck. Keep it away from your nose and out of the dehumidifier. Never use it on babies younger than 2. The vapors can irritate a baby's airway and make them feel worse rather than better.
Can You Put Vicks VapoRub in a Cool Mist Humidifier?
In short, no — you can't put Vicks VapoRub in a cool mist humidifier. Vicks VapoRub is a greasy substance that can clog up and ruin a cool mist humidifier. VapoRub simply wasn't designed for use in a humidifier, and ignoring this fact can leave you with a clogged appliance that may never come completely clean. Different cool mist humidifiers work in slightly different ways, but all react poorly to VapoRub. Vicks VapoRub and humidifiers are just a bad combination.
Impeller humidifiers pull water upward through a screen that will clog if exposed to VapoRub. Evaporative humidifiers use a wicking device to pull water out of the tank, and this too clogs when exposed to petroleum jelly. An ultrasonic humidifier vibrates the water in the tank quickly to vaporize it. VapoRub, however, has a much higher viscosity than water and won't evaporate properly.
Can You Put Vicks VapoRub in a Warm Mist Humidifier?
Again, the answer is no, you cannot put Vicks VapoRub in a warm mist humidifier. Vicks VapoRub is a petroleum-based product, which means it's flammable. Warm mist humidifiers contain a heating element that gets hot enough to boil the water. Getting VapoRub or other petroleum products too close to this element creates a fire hazard. If you're sick and you feel the need to use VapoRub and a humidifier, simply use the humidifier as intended and then put some of the VapoRub on yourself.
Alternatives to Putting Vicks VapoRub in Your Humidifier
You can't put VapoRub in your humidifier, but you do have other options to clear your sinuses. One of them is Vicks VapoSteam. VapoSteam is a liquid that is safe to use in a humidifier. You simply add 1 tablespoon per quart of water and then turn on the humidifier. This solution works with warm mist humidifiers but only certain cool mist units.
You can also try VapoPads. These pads tuck into a compartment on many different Vicks humidifier appliances. They last up to eight hours and are simple to use. You may be able to use Vicks VapoPads with other humidifiers if they have a place for them, but most other brands probably won't. If you do buy a compatible Vicks humidifier, be aware that you can run the unit with or without the VapoPads.
Can You Put Essential Oils in a Humidifier?
You should never put essential oils in your humidifier. Adding these oils to your humidifier will likely void the warranty. The heat used in warm mist humidifiers can change the chemical composition of the oils, changing them into something else that could be unhealthy at worst or negate the oil's benefits at best.
Essential oils can also damage your humidifier's water tank or other parts of the machine. Like Vicks VapoRub in a humidifier, oils can also clog filters and wicks. If you really want to use oils, purchase a warm mist humidifier that contains a medicine cup and put the oils in the cup rather than in the humidifier's water tank. You can also use an essential oil diffuser, which is meant to release the fragrances into your space.
What to Do if You Put Vicks VapoRub in Your Humidifier
Now you know that you should never put Vicks VapoRub in a humidifier, but this information isn't helpful if you've already done the deed. In that case, you may be able to save your appliance with a good cleaning. To clean a warm mist humidifier, perform the following steps:
- Turn off and unplug the unit.
- Remove the water tank, cooling chamber, removable tray, and any other parts that come away easily. Wash these parts with white vinegar and rinse them thoroughly.
- Fill the base of the unit with enough vinegar to cover the heating element. Soak the element in the vinegar for at least 20 minutes.
- Use a soft brush to scrub away any debris left on the heating element.
- Rinse the heating element well, allow the pieces to air dry, and then reassemble your appliance.
If you have a cool mist humidifier, the cleaning process is as follows:
- Turn off and unplug the unit.
- Remove the water tank. Empty it and the base of the appliance.
- Fill the base with enough white vinegar to cover the nebulizer and let it soak for at least 20 minutes.
- Use a cotton ball or very soft cloth to remove any debris from the nebulizer.
- Empty the base and rinse it with warm water. Wash the water tank as best you can with some vinegar as well and then rinse it.
- Allow the humidifier parts to dry completely and then reassemble your humidifier.
Even if you haven't put Vicks VapoRub in your humidifier, you should still clean your appliance periodically using these methods. If bacteria and mold build up in the humidifier, using it can make you sicker instead of providing relief. It's best to clean your humidifier at least once a week.