DIY Cold & Flu Remedies, for those Change of Season Bugs (Shower Disks & Vapor Rub)

This post was first published last year as the winter came to an end. But now it’s starting up again and I have got the lurgy good and proper. So instead of spending Sunday in my office, writing this week’s blog post and catching up on paperwork, I spent it in bed with no voice and a SPLITTING headache. But I did *think* about blog posts, and this is what I thought: I need to make some of those cold a flu remedies. I just used my last shower vapor disk last week, and my vapor rub is long gone. And I need some more. And some ginger tea. So, without further ado, here is how to make some cold & flu remedies to have on hand for the winter.

Shower vapor disks | Sustainable Suburbia

So it’s time to make a batch of DIY shower vapor disks, and some more home made chest rub too, since the last batch is mostly spread into a corner of the carpet (out of sight, luckily) thanks to Ms Three-Year-Old Charming-Menace. Oh well, it wasn’t strong enough anyway.

Read on for simple instructions to make both.

Homemade Shower Vapor Disks

You will need:

  • 1 cup bicarb (baking) soda (or a little more)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 silicon muffin pan, or a metal muffin pan plus 6 patty pans (cupcake liners).
  • Essential oils (your choice of two or three of peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, thyme or lime oils, all of which are beneficial for respiratory illnesses) (See cautions)

You can either use your oven, in which case preheat it to 120C (about 250F), or you can leave these to dry naturally for 12-18 hours.


In a mixing bowl, mix 1 cup bicarb soda with the 1/3 cup of water. This is enough to make 6 disks. If you want to make more, just keep that ratio of about 3:1 and increase as much as you like.

Make your own Shower Disks

This is so easy – and non-toxic – that you can get your three year old to do it for you (with supervision, of course!).

DIY Shower Vapor Disks  |

The consistency will be something like thick icing – a good thick paste. If it seems too runny, just add a little more bicarb.

You can either add your essential oils now, or add them individually after they dry (which allows you to vary your oils). For this size batch, I would put in about 30 drops each of Eucalyptus and Peppermint, and 15 drops of Rosemary (which I don’t love as much).

DIY shower disk mixture

Spoon the bicarb mixture into your muffin tray (using liners if it’s a metal tray) and leave for a few minutes to settle down. They should end up looking nice and smooth like this:

Make Your Own Shower Vapor Disks  - smooth -

(If you don’t have a three year old helping you, they will probably look even neater!)

Now, you can either leave them in a warm, dry place, out of reach of little fingers, for 12-18 hours, or you can bake them at about 120C for an hour or more.

When they’re done they should look something like this, and be really hard to your tapping finger:

Homemade shower disks just our of the oven, in silicon muffin tray |

Leave them to cool and then add your essential oils before carefully removing them from the muffin tray.

There are lots of different combinations of essential oils you could choose, and you can also experiment with how strong you like it.

For this batch, I used four drops each of Eucalyptus and Rosemary oil, and eight drops of Peppermint oil, which can be quite strong, but has a lovely refreshing – and head clearing – scent. But mix it up and see what you like. (See cautions.)

You can certainly make more than six at once, but keep in mind that the essential oils’ potency will reduce over time, especially if they are not kept in an opaque container. Of course, you can always add more oil just before your shower!

Store in a sealed container. To use, just drop them on the floor in the corner of your shower, and allow the steam to bring the oils up. Depending how long you shower for, you may have part of a disk left over, which you can allow to dry out and use another time.

DIY Chest Rub for Colds and Flus

Having that steamy shower is great if you have a cold, but sometimes, especially when you are going to bed at night, you want something to rub on your chest.

Coconut oil is one of the ingredients in homemade vicks vapor rub

For a small batch, you will need:

  • 10g (about 1 tbsp) pure bees wax (you can grate a block of it, or use pellets, or just chop up a sheet you have on hand for making candles)
  • 60 g coconut oil (4 tbsp) (you can use olive or almond oil instead, if that’s what you have)
  • 2 tsp cacao butter (about 10g) (completely optional, but lovely)
  • Essential oils – I used 20 drops Eucalyptus, 30 drops Peppermint and 10 drops Rosemary.


  1. Combine your oils and wax in a glass jar, except the vitamin E oil.
  2. Fill a medium size saucepan with a couple of inches of water, and place on a medium heat on the stove. Stand the glass jar in it. (You can use a double boiler instead if you have one.)
  3. Gently melt the oils and wax. The wax will take the longest.
  4. Take off the heat, add your essential oils and stir well. You can also add 10 drops cinnamon, thyme or lavender oil.
  5. Decant into a small container, and leave to solidify. If you store in an opaque container, the essential oils will remain effective for longer. Brown or blue glass is ideal.

Since you are sticking your fingers in this (and so are your kids, perhaps) I prefer to make small batches more often, rather than one big one. But this can be scaled up with no problem.


Keep in mind that peppermint oil can be an irritant and both peppermint and rosemary EOs are sometimes listed as contraindicated during pregnancy and/or nursing and usually not recommended for use with very young children. Eucalyptus oil should also be avoided around babies. If you have any specific condition (eg epilepsy or high blood pressure) you should always do your own research and make an informed decision. “Experts” are divided, with some listing numerous oils as contraindicated for various issues, and others being more moderate. Pure steam is a great remedy for coughs in babies and young children – just take them into the shower with you, or have them sit in a steamy bathroom.

What’s your favourite homemade cold & flu remedy?

Let us know in the comments!

Edited to add: I meant to say, I first heard about the shower disks from my lovely Osteopath, who printed out this recipe for me, from Sarah at Frugal By Choice. After testing a variety of different recipes, mine is a little different to Sarah’s, but none the less, credit where it’s due: I’d never even heard of them – even the shop bought variety, which were apparently only available for a short time – before Sarah posted that recipe.

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This post was shared at IBOT (I blog on Tuesdays) along with a gazillion other interesting posts, and at Homemade Mondays

  18 comments for “DIY Cold & Flu Remedies, for those Change of Season Bugs (Shower Disks & Vapor Rub)

  1. Penelope R
    August 21, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Fantastic. I’ll take your word for it that it’s easy – my daughter has a sore throat and is a bit nasally – I will give it a go and let you know.

    • Kirsten
      August 21, 2013 at 9:07 am

      I forgot to say, if there’s some shower disk left at the end of the shower, you can also just leave it in there for the next person and/or a lovely peppermint smell in the bathroom for the rest of the day πŸ™‚

  2. August 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

    This is fantastic- I love natural remedies (as I’ve mentioned many a time) and anything with coconut so these look wonderful, thank you for sharing! #teamIBOT

    • Kirsten McCulloch
      June 2, 2014 at 10:46 am

      You’re welcome Twitchy πŸ™‚

  3. August 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Wow that is awesome – I will share with my friend who LOVES natural remedies and has a sick boy right now!

    • Kirsten
      August 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks Emily, I hope it helped her.

  4. August 27, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Love the idea of the home made chest rub! I hadn’t even thought of looking for a recipe for this. I will definitely give it a go. Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Kirsten
      August 27, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Yeah, I love to be able to make my own, and to vary the strength (I like it a lot stronger than the kids!) and the oils, depending how I feel πŸ™‚

  5. June 2, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Love this! I had never even heard of shower disks before. Definitely bookmarking this for next winter (it’s summer here and I’m just about to try making DIY sunscreen for the first time!)

    • Kirsten McCulloch
      June 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Oh I hope the sunscreen goes well Karin. I haven’t tried making my own yet, unless just using coconut oil counts πŸ™‚

      • Ben
        June 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        DIY sunscreen recipe sounds like a great idea for summertime.

  6. June 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm

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  7. June 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you! I’m sick with the lurgy right now and it’s driving me mental. I’m going to make a homemade chest rub with the coconut oil and essential oil I have on hand. I don’t have any bees wax or cacao butter, so I’ll just have to leave those out! x

    • June 2, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      That works! The essential oils will still do their job just as well πŸ™‚
      Hope you feel better quickly!

  8. Kristin
    June 17, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    In the recipe for the Vicks vapor rub is it cacao butter or cocoa butter or is there a difference? Thanks!

    • January 23, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Sorry I missed this Kristin. Cacao is just raw Cocoa. So you could use either, but cacao has many more nutrients in it, so I prefer it, generally.

  9. Victoria Popiel-Machnicki
    January 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Vitamin E is mention in the instructions, but I didn’t see it in the list of ingredients nor when to add in the directions to make the ‘chest rub’. Did I miss something?

    • January 23, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Sorry Victoria, you are quite right! The vitamin E is a preservative, and not essential, depending how much you make and how quickly you will use it.

      I just use a one or two capsules, pierce them open and add them at the same time as essential oils. I probably left it out of the final recipe because I make such a small amount of this at a time.

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