Lung cleansing techniques may help people with chronic respiratory conditions or who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke or air pollution.

Breathing in air pollution, cigarette smoke, and other irritants can damage the lungs and even cause health conditions. Maintaining the health of the lungs is essential for keeping the rest of the body healthy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to air pollution results in 4.2 million deaths worldwide each year. Cigarette smoking is the cause of death for 1 in every 5 people in the United States.

As the lungs are self-cleaning organs, they can begin to heal themselves once exposure to pollutants stops.

In this article, we discuss some of the methods that people can use to try to cleanse their lungs.

a person breathing underwater to represent cleansing the lungsShare on Pinterest
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It is possible for a person to “cleanse” their lungs and improve lung health.

The best way for a person to ensure their lungs are healthy is to:

For example, when a person stops smoking, their lung circulation and function may start to improve within 2 weeks to 3 months.

A person’s chest may feel full, congested, or inflamed after exposure to irritants because mucus gathers in the lungs to catch microbes and pathogens.

Some techniques may help relieve symptoms by:

  • clearing the lungs of mucus and irritants
  • opening up the airways
  • improving lung capacity
  • reducing lung inflammation

Below, we look at several ways that may help remove excess mucus from the lungs and improve breathing.

Steam therapy

Steam therapy, or steam inhalation, involves inhaling water vapor to open the airways and help loosen mucus.

People with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may notice their symptoms worsening in cold or dry air. This climate can dry out the mucous membranes in the airways and restrict blood flow.

Steam adds warmth and moisture to the air, which may improve breathing and help loosen mucus inside the airways and lungs. Inhaling water vapor can provide immediate relief and help people breathe more easily.

It may also help people with a sore or dry throat, or who have been exposed to environmental irritants.

Controlled coughing

Coughing is the body’s way of naturally expelling toxins that it has trapped in mucus.

Controlled coughing loosens excess mucus in the lungs, sending it up through the airways.

People can cleanse their lungs of excess mucus by:

  1. Sitting down on a chair with the shoulders relaxed, keeping both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Folding the arms over the stomach.
  3. Slowly inhaling through the nose.
  4. Slowly exhaling while leaning forward, pushing the arms against the stomach.
  5. Coughing two or three times while exhaling, keeping the mouth slightly open.
  6. Slowly inhaling through the nose.
  7. Resting and repeating as necessary.

Draining mucus from the lungs

Postural drainage involves lying in different positions to use gravity to remove mucus from the lungs. This practice may improve breathing and help treat or prevent lung infections.

Postural drainage techniques differ depending on the position:

1. On your back

  • Lie down on the floor or on a bed.
  • Place pillows under the hips to ensure that the chest is lower than the hips.
  • Slowly inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Each exhale should take twice as long as the inhale, which is called 1:2 breathing.
  • Continue for a few minutes.

2. On your side

  • Lie on one side, resting the head on an arm or pillow.
  • Place pillows under the hips.
  • Practice the 1:2 breathing pattern.
  • Continue for a few minutes.
  • Repeat on the other side.

3. On your stomach

  • Place a stack of pillows on the floor.
  • Lie down with the stomach over the pillows. Remember to keep the hips above the chest.
  • Fold the arms under the head for support.
  • Practice the 1:2 breathing pattern.
  • Continue for a few minutes.


Exercising has many benefits, such as:

  • improving physical and mental health
  • decreasing the risk of many health conditions
  • helping to keep the lungs healthy

Exercise forces the muscles to work harder, which increases the body’s breathing rate, resulting in a greater supply of oxygen to the muscles. It also improves circulation, making the body more efficient in removing the excess carbon dioxide that the body produces when exercising.

Although exercising may be more difficult for people with chronic lung conditions, these individuals can also benefit from regular exercise.

It is advisable for people with conditions such as COPD or asthma to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise regimen.

Green tea

Green tea contains many antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation in the lungs. These compounds may even protect lung tissue from the harmful effects of smoke inhalation.

A 2018 study involving more than 1,000 adults in Korea reported that people who drank at least 2 cups of green tea per day had better lung function than those who drank none.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Inflammation of the airways can make breathing difficult and cause the chest to feel heavy and congested. Eating anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce inflammation to relieve these symptoms.

Foods that help fight inflammation include:

Learn more about anti-inflammatory diets here.

Chest percussion

Percussion is a manual method that may help remove excess mucus from the lungs. A healthcare professional or respiratory therapist will use a cupped hand to rhythmically tap the chest wall to dislodge trapped mucus in the lungs.

Combining chest percussion and postural drainage can help clear the airways of excess mucus.

There are currently no medications or treatments to specifically clear the lungs. Instead, it is advisable for a person to try to avoid potential pollutants.

This can include making behavioral changes, such as quitting smoking, adjusting the diet, or getting regular exercise to help improve lung health.

A person should consult a doctor if they wish to improve their lung health.

Below are some frequently asked questions about natural ways to clear the lungs.

How long does it take to detox from smoking?

When a person quits smoking, their lung function and circulation may start to improve from as early as 2 weeks to 3 months.

How can a person detox the lungs from smoking?

After quitting smoking, a person can continue to improve their lung health by:

  • exercising regularly
  • steam therapy
  • avoiding toxins, such as cigarette smoke
  • controlled coughing
  • eating an anti-inflammatory diet

What is a good detox for smoking?

Quitting smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke is the most important step to detox the lungs from smoking. Other steps may include reducing lung inflammation and taking steps to improve overall health, such as getting regular exercise.

Toxins from cigarette smoke or air pollution that enter the lungs can affect the whole body. These toxins eventually become trapped inside mucus, which can make it harder to breathe.

Good respiratory health depends on whether or not the body effectively removes mucus from the lungs and airways. This may be more challenging for people living with chronic conditions, such as COPD and asthma, as they may have excess mucus production or unusually thick mucus that can clog the lungs.

Several lifestyle changes and lung cleansing techniques may help dislodge mucus from the lungs and airways.