Simple Steps to Clearing Mucus From Throat and Lungs

Chest phlegm is annoying and uncomfortable, but luckily there are many ways to loosen the phlegm and clear the congestion. Try gargling with salt water, inhaling steam, and keeping your body well hydrated. If these home remedies don’t work, try taking an over-the-counter expectorant. If constipation worsens, see your doctor and ask about a medicated inhaler or other prescription medical treatment.

Loosen the slime

Inhale steam from a bowl of hot water or take a long, steamy shower.

The heat and humidity of the vapor will loosen the phlegm that’s lodged deep in your lungs and throat. Take a hot shower or fill a bowl with very hot water and inhale as much steam as you can (without coughing). Inhale the vapor for at least 15-20 minutes once or twice a day until your symptoms subside. When inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water, hold your face over the bowl and drape a towel over your head to catch the steam. Hold your face there for at least 15 minutes and breathe deeply. You can choose to add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil, which can help loosen the mucus.

Put a humidifier in your room at night while you sleep.

Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which, when it enters the lungs, can loosen mucus and open the airways. The humidity can also help open your nose so you can breathe much better. Position the device so that it sprays moisture toward the head of your bed, making sure it’s six to ten feet away from your head. Using a humidifier has the greatest positive effect when the air in your home is on the dry side. If you use the humidifier every night, you’ll need to refill it every 3-4 days or whenever the water runs out.

for a minute or two with one

Gargle Gargling is an effective way to loosen mucus in the airways. Mix 120ml of warm water with 1-2 tablespoons (12.5-25g) of salt. Stir the mixture to dissolve the salt a bit, then take a sip. Gargle it in the back of your throat for 1-2 minutes and spit out the salt water. Gargle three to four times a day until the mucus starts to loosen.

Put a hot compress on your chest if you feel congested.

Lie down with your head elevated and place the hot compress (or washcloth) over your sternum. Slide a towel under the hot compress to create a barrier and prevent burning. Let the heat work through your skin for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this two to three times a day to get as much mucus out of your lungs as possible. Applying a hot compress or steaming hot towel to your neck and chest will help relieve congestion and warm the airway from the outside. It also loosens phlegm, making it easier for you to cough it up. You can purchase hot compresses at a local pharmacy or drug store. To make a steaming towel, dampen a towel with water and microwave it for 60-90 seconds.

Place a portable massager on your back and chest to relieve congestion.

Place the massager on the part of your lungs where you feel the most congestion (such as your upper chest if you have bronchitis). You can also ask someone to put the massager on your back if you can’t do it yourself. Alternatively, you can hold your hands in a cupped position and slap them across your chest to loosen the mucus. You can also ask a friend or partner to pat you on the back (above the lungs) with a cupped hand. Depending on where the blockage is, putting yourself in a leaning or lying position can drain the mucus in your lungs. For example, if you have an obstruction in the lower back of your lungs, go into a downward-facing dog or child pose. Have someone tap your lower back while you’re in this position.

Elevate your head with two pillows when you sleep at night.

If you hold your head up, the mucus in your nose and throat will drain into your stomach. This allows you to sleep well and prevents you from waking up extremely tired. Support your head and neck with several pillows so your head is slightly higher than your torso. You can also lift the top of your mattress and slide a 2″ x 4″ or 4″ x 4″ piece of wood underneath to permanently raise the mattress.

Cough 5 to 8 controlled coughs to cough up phlegm once it’s loosened.

Sit in a chair and breathe deeply until your lungs are full of air. Tighten your abs and contract them three times in a row to cough. Make a “ha” sound with each cough. Repeat this four to five times until your cough becomes successful. Coughing is your body’s way of removing excess mucus from the lungs. It is unhealthy to cough uncontrollably or shallowly from the throat. But a deep, controlled cough can clear phlegm and relieve congestion.

Prevent slime build-up with food and drink

Drink herbal tea and other hot beverages without caffeine.

Hot liquids generally help loosen the mucus that causes chest congestion. However, tea offers a dual benefit by adding helpful herbs and spices that can relieve chest pain and congestion. Brew a cup of peppermint, ginger, chamomile, or rosemary tea to drink four to five times a day. Add some honey for sweetness and additional expectorant properties. Avoid caffeinated beverages like black tea, green tea, and coffee. Caffeine can increase phlegm and make your chest congestion worse.

Eat spicy foods and foods like ginger and garlic to help clear up phlegm in your chest.

Certain foods can help clear the mucus from the chest. These foods encourage the body to expel mucus by irritating the nasal passages, causing them to secrete thin, watery mucus that can be easily expelled. These pull other, thicker mucus with them. Try increasing your consumption of spicy foods, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, and ginger to loosen chest mucus. Incorporate these foods into your lunch and dinner for three to four days to relieve constipation. Some fuzzy foods have also been shown to have benefits in clearing chest mucus. These include licorice root, guava, ginseng, and pomegranate. Many of these spicy foods have anti-inflammatory effects that could help with chest congestion, but these are only long-term effects and will take months to kick in.

Keep your body hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.

Drinking plenty of water is especially helpful for clearing chest mucus, especially when the water is hot. Not drinking enough water causes the mucus in your chest and throat to clot and thicken. This makes it stickier and more difficult to remove. Drink water throughout the day and with your meals to thin the mucus in your body. There is no set number of glasses a person should drink during the day as the amount they need depends on many factors. Instead of drinking so-and-so many glasses of water, just drink when you’re thirsty.

Drink sports drinks and juice to increase your electrolyte production.

When you’re sick, your body works hard to fight off your infection, and this can significantly decrease your body’s electrolyte levels without restoring it. Drinking sports drinks is an efficient way to bring electrolytes into the body. Drink the same amount of sports drinks as water and try to get at least a third of your daily fluid intake from electrolyte-rich beverages. This is also a smart move if you’re someone who doesn’t like the taste of plain water. Drinking sports drinks keeps you hydrated and many people prefer their taste. Look for low-sugar or decaffeinated sports drinks.

Avoid fatty foods that increase mucus production.

Dairy products (such as milk, butter, yogurt, and ice cream), salt, sugar, and fried foods increase mucus production. Eliminate these items from your diet until your chest is clear. Only do this for the 3-4 days when your chest is congested to make breathing easier. Also, avoid eating pasta, bananas, cabbage, and potatoes, as these foods can promote mucus production.

Medicate mucus in the chest

Take an over-the-counter expectorant to help your body cough up the phlegm.

Expectorants are medications that loosen mucus and make it easier to cough up and expel from the body. There are many over-the-counter expectorants available at drugstores or online, including brands like Robitussin® and Mucosolvan®, which contain the drugs dextromethorphan and guaifenesin. These are both common brands that you can easily find, and both drugs are very effective at preventing mucus production. Take the medication as directed on the packaging. You can take up to 1200 mg of guaifenesin a day. Always take it with a full glass of water. Expectorants are not suitable for children under the age of six, so ask your doctor about a child-safe alternative.

Use an inhaler if you have trouble breathing due to mucus in your lungs.

Ask your doctor about inhalers or humidifiers that you can use to do your own breathing treatments. These usually include prescription medications like salbutamol, which loosen thick mucus in the lungs and relieve congestion. Try to get a few controlled coughs after using the inhaler, since the medication has loosened the mucus in your lungs. When using a prescription inhaler, always follow the directions on the package. Inhalers are primarily for severe cases of chest mucus congestion. However, if you’re tired of struggling with mucus, you can ask your doctor if you can try one.

See a doctor if your constipation hasn’t cleared up in a week.

If none of these methods improve symptoms, see a doctor and describe the severity and duration of your symptoms. Ask about an antibiotic shot, nasal spray, pills, or prescription vitamin therapy to clear stubborn or deep chest mucus. Also see a doctor if you develop worse symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, a rash, or wheezing.

Avoid taking cough medicine when you have phlegm in your lungs.

Cough suppressants are used to minimize coughing, but unfortunately, they can thicken mucus in the chest. Thick, heavy phlegm will make it difficult for you to cough up. Avoid taking a sedative or combination of sedative and expectorant, as chest congestion may worsen. Remember that coughing is normal and healthy and you don’t need to reduce or stop it.

Don’t take antihistamines if you cough up phlegm.

Also, avoid decongestants when coughing up phlegm. Both types of medication can dry the mucus secretions in the lungs and make them harder to cough up. Some cough medicines contain antihistamines, so read the labels before taking over-the-counter cough medicine. A cough that loosens mucus in the chest is called a productive cough. It’s normal for mucus to be yellow or light green when you have a cold or the flu. However, if it’s a different color, see a doctor.


Avoid smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke while suffering from phlegm in the lungs. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke irritate your airways and make you cough unnecessarily. If you are a smoker and unable to quit, take a break from tobacco while you try to clear the phlegm in your chest. Chest congestion can lead to pneumonia if not treated early. Go to the doctor to make sure you don’t develop an infection! If you’re having trouble coughing up the phlegm, have someone tap the upper left and right sides of your back. A tapping motion loosens the mucus and makes it easier to cough up.


Don’t drive after taking a strong oral medication like Wick Medinait. It’s only meant to be taken before bed to help you get a better night’s sleep. If you have an infant or toddler who is suffering from chest mucus, do not give them any medication without first checking with a doctor.


About the Author

Helen Miller

Helen Miller is a freelance writer at CouponKirin. She covers personal finance topics in a syndicated column that appears in Financial Planning Magazine. Her work has been featured by Market Watch, Digital Journal, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and Yahoo Finance. Helen has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of California, Los Angeles.