How Long Does Vicks Vapor Rub Last?

Last Updated on March 14, 2021 by

Vicks vapor rub can remain strong and effective for several decades if properly stored in an airtight jar. You should keep it away from moisture and direct sunlight to remain effective even past its expiry date since most of these dates are only derived. It does not necessarily mean that the Vicks vapor rub has become toxic or non-effective in any way.

What Are The Ingredients Used In Vicks Vapor Rub?

Vicks vapor rub is among many vapors rubs that have been popularly used worldwide for over a hundred years. They all contain menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oils. Vicks vapor rub is a brand name for a company in the U.S by Procter and Gamble. It has always been used to relieve cold and other cough symptoms. Some people use it to relieve joint pain and muscle aches. The main ingredients used include:

Camphor And Menthol

These are the main ingredients used in Vicks vapor rub. They are popularly known to have some effect on cold and cough symptoms. They create that cooling effect when one uses the vapor rub on any kin surface. That cooling sensation helps one feel better but does not relieve pain in any way. The cool and bitter nature also helps in opening up nasal blockages. It reduces the uncomfortable feeling of poor breathing, though for a short time.

The menthol used in Vicks vapor rub has a powerful smell. Some people say that it is not that vapor rub that relieves the nasal congestion but rather a trick played on one’s brain. They believe that the smell is so strong that one thinks they are breathing better. This notion was outdone when people applied Vicks on their feet, and it was still effective even though the strong smell does not get to the nose.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is another ingredient used in Vicks vapor rub containing a natural chemical known as 1,8-cineole. It is a chemical compound that makes the vapor rub antibacterial and antiviral. That is, the ability to fight and protect its users from bacterial and viruses. Eucalyptus oil also has inflammatory properties that help in soothing pain and reduce swellings resulting from insect bites or hits. It also helps the vapor rub users to relieve some aches and pain from fever and colds.

Vicks vapor rub contains other inactive ingredients such as cedar leaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol, and turpentine. These ingredients are ineffective but still play a vital role in some other vapor rub’s home uses. For example, the salve helps create the jelly-like texture apart from adding Vicks vapor rub’s strong menthol scent.

What Are The Uses Of Vicks Vapor Rub?

The following are some uses of the Vicks vapor rub that are scientifically proven by researchers, doctors, and product manufacturers.

Relieving Nasal Congestion

Vicks vapor rub is not classified as a decongestant despite its ingredients’ ability to relieve nasal congestion. The reason is that camphor and menthol’s strong smell creates a cooling sensation in one’s nasal passage triggering their brain receptors. It makes one believe that they are breathing better and more openly for a short period of time. A study conducted on children showed that most of them eased their nighttime cold symptoms. Reduced nasal congestions helps them to get a better night’s sleep.

Easing Coughs

 Camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oil were listed as cough suppressants by NIH ( National Institute of Health). However, one is advised to seek medical attention if their cough has much phlegm. It is also the same case for chronic persons such as asthmatic and those with emphysema because Vicks vapor rub is only used to suppress some symptoms such as cough and pain but does not cure any illness. 

People with underlying conditions such as asthma should consult medical professionals before using the vapor rub. For the vapor rub to be effective, the following are some steps to follow:

1. One should begin by rubbing a thin layer of Vicks vapor rub on their chest and neck region only.

2. Maintain a standing and an upright sitting position and drape a warm, dry cloth over one’s head.

3. Avoid tight clothing around the chest and throat to allow vapor to rise on one’s nasal area. 

4. Carry out the process three to four times in 24 hours if need be.

One should not apply Vicks vapor rub on, in, or around the nose since camphor is toxic and can be harmful once absorbed by the mucus membranes, especially for young children and toddlers. For this reason, Vicks vapor rub should not be used on children below two years. It should be kept as far away from children as possible as it could be very harmful to them. They could mistake it for the normal petroleum jelly, and once vapor rub enters into their eyes. They could suffer from eye irritation which is very painful and uncomfortable. 

Soothing Swollen And Swore Muscles

 Menthol and camphor are topical analogies or pain relievers. They work wonders when applied and rubbed on swollen skin. They achieve this by creating a powerful and cooling sensation that temporarily overrides sore muscles’ pain and painful joints. Active menthol in the vapor rub also reduces pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other uses, such as treating toenails fungi, have been reported from other individuals’ case studies. Vicks vapor rub has been proven to be an effective antifungal and antibacterial. Different people have reported on its ability to eliminate body stretchmarks. However, this is not yet proven as there is no scientific or medical evidence yet to this usge. 

Other cases of using Vicks vapor rub on pet training have been reported. Pet trainers do this with the claim that strong scents keep pets away from things like furniture and urinating in the wrong places. One applies a small amount to be protected from the pet. One should ensure that it is completely rubbed off the surface to prevent the pet from licking it, which could cause them seizures or even death. 

Some individuals have highly used Vicks vapor rub to treat rough and dry skin and feet. Further research is being carried out to create or remove this usage claim. Camphor oil and menthol are known to be effective in repelling some mosquito species. For this reason, some people use Vicks vapor rub as a mosquito repellant. Some people also use it to relieve headaches. It may be effective for some time, but then the amount of menthol used in Vicks vapor rub is too low to be as effective.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Vicks Vapor Rub?

Despite not being a nasal decongestant, Vicks vapor rub helps ease breathing when one suffers from a cold. When used on the skin, it releases a strong and minty smell from the menthol used during manufacturing. It creates a fresh feeling with a cooling effect causing some relief.

Camphor and eucalyptus oil are ingredients used in Vicks vapor rub manufacture. They both help to relieve muscle and joints pain.

Another study carried out on people recovering from knee injuries showed that inhaling eucalyptus oil reduces blood pressure. It also helped them lower other subjective pain ratings associated with the surgery.

There are other unique reported benefits of using Vicks vapor rub, reducing associated nighttime cold in children. Some parents reported that there were reduced coughing, nasal congestion, and breathing difficulties by their children at night by using it. People who use the vapor rub before sleep have also reported receiving better and quality sleep.

What Are The Side Effects Associated With Using Vicks Vapor Rub?

Some ingredients used in the vapor rub, such as eucalyptus oil, may cause allergies. For instance, it may cause contact dermatitis, a skin rash, or irritation triggered by eucalyptus chemicals when used on some people’s skin.

When used on the face or near one’s nostrils, one may accidentally ingest, which can be very harmful, especially for young children below two years. It can be toxic when combined with mucus membranes and can be very dangerous to one’s health.

Vicks vapor rub should be safely stored as swallowing even a single teaspoon can be poisonous and fatal for toddlers. When used in high doses, camphor used as an ingredient is very poisonous and can damage one’s brain nerves. In more serious situations, it can cause seizures in babies.


Vicks vapor rub can last even for decades and still be effective. It all depends on the method of storage applied. It is still usable even after its expiration date, provided it is not directly inhaled, consumed, or applied on open wounds as it may irritate. Vicks vapor rub should be used in specified small quantities as the ingredients used, such as camphor, are very strong and could be hazardous if used in excess. The strong and effective ingredients used, such as menthol, eucalyptus oil, and camphor, should be stored away from the children’s reach.

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