Lawn & Garden Gardening

7 Ways to Use Vicks VapoRub in the Garden

From repelling pests to healing cuts, this cough and cold staple offers some surprising uses.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
Vick's VapoRub packaging and jar.


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Many people reach for Vicks VapoRub to find relief from a nasty cough. When the ointment is rubbed on the chest, the vapors from the eucalyptus oil, camphor, and menthol in the formula enter the nose and mouth, soothing a cough. While treating a cold is the most common way to use Vicks VapoRub, it is far from the only way you can use the ointment. When gardening, you can use it for everything from keeping pests away to lubricating tools.

Before you start exploring the many potential uses, it is important to note that Vicks VapoRub shouldn’t be used on children under two years old, as swallowing even a small amount of camphor can be deadly for toddlers. Similarly, camphor is toxic to pets. So, avoid trying to use Vicks VapoRub as a cat repellent to prevent them from scratching your furniture.

1. Repel Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes hovering outside in the sun.

Keeping mosquitoes away from your yard and garden can feel like a never-ending task. In addition to planting herbs and flowers to repel mosquitoes, try using Vicks VapoRub to keep them away. Mosquitoes don’t like the scent of camphor oil and menthol, two of the key ingredients in the cough medicine. They’re likely to try to stay away from you if you smear a small amount of Vicks on your wrists or ankles before heading outside.

2. Get Relief from Itchy Bug Bites

Mosquito bites on leg.

Believe it or not, Vicks VapoRub can be weirdly effective at treating bug bites. If you forgot to apply some Vicks VapoRub before spending time outdoors and end up with tons of mosquito bites, it may still be able to help. Spread a little of the ointment over the bug bite. The menthol will help soothe the itch to give you the relief you desire. Plus, Vicks offers antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, so it may even help decrease the swelling and allow the bitten skin to heal more quickly.

3. Lubricate Garden Tools

Clean garden tools near a patch of dirt in green grass.

Squeaky garden shears? Grab that bottle of Vicks and use it to lubricate the shears—along with your other gardening tools. The ointment will help prevent rust from forming and solve your squeaky problems. It doesn’t take much; just apply a small amount over any areas that are responsible for the squeaky noises or where you see rust starting to form.

4. Keep Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders

Squirrels attempts to reach a green bird feeder.

If you’re tired of squirrels breaking into your bird feeders and stealing all the bird food, try using some Vicks VapoRub to alleviate your woes. Squirrels are repelled by the scent of the ointment, so spreading it around the area where you have the feeder may deter the squirrels. If you have a feeder on a pole, the greasy ointment will also make it too slippery for them to climb easily. Just take care with where you place the ointment. Because Vicks is toxic to animals, you don’t want the birds—or squirrels—to ingest it or get it on their bodies.

5. Repel Pests from Garden Plants

Beetle eating a pink flower.

If you’re trying to protect your hydrangeas, geraniums, eucalyptus plants, and other flowers and greenery from garden pests, let Vicks VapoRub help you out. As mentioned earlier, many pests and insects, such as mosquitoes, ants, beetles, and squirrels, don’t like the way Vicks smells. They’ll want to stay away from your garden if they catch a hint of its odor.

To use the ointment to your advantage, spread a small amount along the stem of the plants. Alternatively, make bug bombs by saturating cotton balls with the ointment and placing them around the perimeter of your garden. Monitor for the presence of bugs and replace the bombs as they seem to become less effective or after heavy rains.

6. Ease Muscle Pain


When the gardening is done for the day, the camphor and menthol in the Vicks VapoRub formula may be able to ease muscle pain. Menthol and camphor are topical analgesics, which means they can alleviate pain when applied to the skin. The reason these ingredients are effective is because of the cooling sensation they create (think about how Vicks instantly makes your chest feel cool when you spread it around to help a cough). When spread over a sore muscle, it will deliver that same feeling, which can help temporarily decrease the pain you’re feeling.

7. Help Minor Cuts Heal Quickly

Small cut on arm from gardening.

Scraped yourself on that rose bush? A 2021 study published in Pharmaceutics found that menthol offers anti-inflammatory properties that can help cuts heal more quickly. Because menthol is one of the key ingredients in Vicks VapoRub, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ointment may be able to deliver similar results. The next time you get a small cut, try rubbing a small amount of Vicks over the cut to accelerate the healing process. However, you shouldn’t use Vicks on an open wound. Remove the product with a clean, damp cloth immediately and rinse the area with water if it stings or burns when you apply it.