How to cough up mucus

Updated March 23, 2017

Chest congestion can be miserable. Untreated chest congestion can lead to infections like pneumonia and bronchitis. Thick mucus cannot be easily cleared by coughing. Home remedies can loosen and thin the mucus in your chest. The thinner the mucus, the more easily it will come up when you cough.

Install a vaporiser in your bedroom. High humidity will soothe bronchial passages and help loosen phlegm. Leave the vaporiser running if you'll be out of the room for less than an hour. Likewise, turn the vaporiser on an hour before you intend to be in the room. This keeps the humidity level high.

Take a long shower or bath and deeply inhale the steam from the hot water.

Drink lots of hot tea, taking time to breathe in the steam while it steeps. Some people report that mint or eucalyptus teas work especially well for this purpose. Eating hot soup is another good way to accomplish this goal.

Apply a heating pad to your upper chest. If you don't have a commercially made heating pad, pour 2 cups of uncooked rice into a sock. Tie a knot in the open end and microwave the sock for about 4 minutes. Voila: instant heating pad.

Gargle with salt water. Though this won't clear out the lungs, this will clear out the mucus from the upper throat. It can also soothe a throat that has grown raw from coughing.

Eat spicy foods. The capsicum in hot foods is a natural expectorant. It will thin the mucus in your sinuses, throat and chest. This will allow you to cough up more mucus.

Inhale steam treatments of eucalyptus, mint or menthol. Boil water with a few drops of extract (or even a cough drop). Stand with your face over the pot and breathe the water vapour as it rises. For added effectiveness, drape a towel over your head and the pot while doing this.

Take an over-the-counter expectorant.


Spicy soup helps to provide moisture and thin the mucus in one delicious dose. A great recipe is to combine 1 can of chicken soup with 1/2 can of enchilada sauce. Bring to a boil (breathing the steam in all the while); then pour and eat.


Chest congestion can be a symptom of a more serious condition. If your congestion doesn't respond to treatment or is accompanied by a high fever, see a doctor right away.

Things You'll Need

  • Vaporiser
  • Shower or bathtub
  • Hot tea
  • Hot soup
  • Heating pad
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • Sock
  • Microwave
  • Saltwater gargle solution
  • Spicy foods
  • Eucalyptus, mint or menthol extract or cough drops.
  • Pot
  • Stove
  • Towel
  • Over-the-counter expectorant
  • 1 can chicken soup
  • 1/2 can enchilada sauce
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About the Author

Beverlee Brick began writing professionally in 2009, contributing to various websites. Prior to this, she wrote curriculum and business papers in four different languages. As a martial arts and group fitness instructor, she has taught exercise classes in North America, Europe and Asia. She holds master's degrees in French literature and education.