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Ways to Clear Your Lungs at Home

By Chris Brown

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN
  • Whether you’re dealing with seasonal allergies, fighting off a cold, or dealing with something a bit more serious, know that clearing your lungs at home is possible.
  • Controlled coughing, postural drainage, steam therapy, and investing in an air purifier are all effective ways to clear your lungs at home.
  • Lifestyle adjustments like changes to your diet, engaging in aerobic exercises, and spending time outdoors can be effective too.
  • Remember that your lungs are just waiting for the opportunity to clean themselves and help you breathe better.

Fighting for breath can be scary, exhausting, and just plain old annoying. Whether you’re dealing with seasonal allergies, fighting off a cold, or dealing with something a bit more serious, know that clearing your lungs at home is a path that is available to you.

It’s way easier than you may think too. Today, you’re going to learn a few doctor-recommended techniques for clearing your lungs alongside some tips to keep them clear moving forward. It’s time to take back control of your breathing and your life.

Why Clear Your Lungs?

Chest tightness, congestion, inflammation… your lungs aren’t afraid to let you know that something is wrong. You don’t have to look far and wide to find a list of top-10 quick fixes. The internet is full of them. And though they may offer temporary relief, you’ll no doubt learn today that only the long-term approach can deliver lasting results.

As rough as they may sometimes seem, our lungs have this amazing ability to recover after they are exposed to pollution. Give them enough time away from the harmful pollution that’s causing the irritation and they’ll literally clean themselves.

But clearing your lungs at home doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit around and wait. There are ways to speed up the process. I think it’s about time we look at a few of them.

Controlled Coughing

Most of the time coughing doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. Uncontrollable coughing is a natural mechanism that your body uses to loosen congestion and send mucus packing. The thing is, you can harness the power of coughing to clear your lungs any time congestion strikes.

Anyone can cough, but controlled coughing is a doctor-recommended technique to clear congestion. The trick to controlled coughing is breathing. Start by taking a seat and folding your arms around your stomach. Then, take a deep breath. While exhaling, push down on your abdomen, cough two or three times, and repeat as necessary.

Postural Drainage

Postural drainage aids respiratory problems associated with excess mucus in the airways. It may help improve your breathing and treat or prevent lung infections.

This can be accomplished on a chair, a wedge pillow, an exercise ball, or just lying on your side. Simply get into a position where the chest is lower than the hips and breathe in such a way that each exhale takes twice as long as each inhale. You’ll want to do this for about 5-minutes at a time, two to three times per day.

Steam Therapy

Steam therapy has been around for centuries, and it endures today because it’s effective. Lung condition or no lung condition, dry air has a way of irritating your airways. There is evidence that steam therapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms of COPD in the short term.

The goal is to inhale water vapor, which can be done in a number of ways. Most choose to use a kettle to bring some tap water to boiling, pour it in a large bowl, then drape a towel over the back of their head, close their eyes, and slowly inhale while their head hovers over the bowl. Just be sure the water and steam aren’t so hot that you burn yourself.

Adjust Your Diet

What you eat can make a substantial impact on how easily you breathe. If you find your lungs are particularly congested, avoid dairy and drink at least 6 glasses of water per day. Integrating new, healthier food items can help too.

Foods rich with anti-inflammatory properties can help ease airways that are restricted from inflammation. Turmeric, leafy greens, cherries, olives, beans, lentils, and blueberries are just a few of the widely available, anti-inflammatory-rich grocery items you can start incorporating into your diet today.

Get an Air Purifier

One of the easiest things you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home today is to invest in an air purifier. These ingenious little devices are designed to eliminate harmful chemicals, neutralize unpleasant odors, remove radon, and more generally clean up the air that you breathe every day.

They’re affordable, widely available, and incredibly effective at easing your breathing. Owning one may even increase your life expectancy. The air that you breathe indoors can be five times as polluted as outdoor air, so clean it up and breathe easier.

Change Air Filters

The air filters in your car, air purifier, and furnace are designed to trap airborne particles before they ever get a chance to reach your lungs. But air filters are only as useful as they are clean. Get to know your living spaces and structure out an air filter replacement schedule for all the elements of your home, office, and vehicle that need one.

You should be switching out your at-home filter every 90-days, or every 60-days if you have a pet. A lot depends on the type of filter you use and how often you frequent the space. But, if you can’t remember the last time you switched your air filter out, it’s safe to say it’s past time.


Before starting any comprehensive workout routine it’s always important to reach out to your doctor and see if your body is up to the task. If you get the green light, know that incorporating cardio exercises into your life can improve your lung capacity over time.

You don’t have to commit 5 days a week to CrossFit either. Walking, running, cycling, dancing, and swimming all serve to get your heart pumping, and your lungs expanding.

Chest Percussion

In people with mucus, a doctor may suggest a type of physical therapy called chest percussion. Physical therapists offer the therapy, though a loved one can usually do it at home too.

It can be done in a lot of different ways, but the general idea is for the helper to clap on the patient’s chest and back using a cupped hand to loosen up the buildup of mucus. This can be done sitting, standing, or lying down, with the best results achieved alternating between as many as three different positions.

Get Outside

There are no two ways about it, fresh air is good for you. Research has shown that spending more time outdoors can make you more resilient to physical illnesses, reduce stress, give you an energy boost, and help you breathe easier.

More specifically to our discussion here, fresh air helps the lungs dilate more fully which can have a remarkable impact on their self-cleaning ability. Look at your daily routine and see if you can’t fit a 30-minute walk into your day. Your lungs, energy level, and overall happiness will be greatly improved if you do.

Breathing Exercises

Just like your biceps and pectorals, there are exercises designed to help you improve your lung function.

Pursed lip breathing is all about exhale control. To do it, take a deep breath for 2-seconds, then exhale slowly, as if you’re blowing on hot soup, for 4-seconds. The goal is to increase the duration of both the inhale and exhale over time.

Diaphragmatic breathing is used to strengthen the diaphragm and improve your ability to breathe. Start by inhaling through your nose until you can no longer take in any more air, then purse your lips and exhale slowly while feeling a gentle contraction of the stomach.

Lifestyle Changes

As great as regular exercise to improve your lung capacity can be, it pales in comparison to the effects of a few small but meaningful lifestyle adjustments. Drinking more water, consuming less dairy, cleaning up your diet, and getting more exercise are all great things.

If you smoke though, quitting will produce the most dramatic results without question. Avoiding second-hand smoke where possible is also highly recommended. Inhaling tobacco smoke damages your airways, may cause cancer, and makes it 12 to 13 times more likely for you to pass away from COPD.

The Takeaway

Hopefully, today’s exploration of the lungs empowered you to take back control of your breathing. It doesn’t matter if you use chest percussion and controlled coughing or brought home a brand-new air purifier and switched out all your air filters.

If you take anything away from this article, remember that your lungs are just waiting for the opportunity to clean themselves and help you breathe better.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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