Mya Care Blogger 01 Jun 2023

There are numerous home remedies for common cold and you probably have tried a couple of them that work for you. One such remedy is using neti pots that people resort to when they have a stuffy nose to rinse out their sinuses.

A neti pot is a small utensil with a long spout that resembles a small teapot. It comes in either plastic or ceramic forms. It is designed to wash out your nose by flushing solution through your sinuses. Neti pots are very easy to use as they involve a straightforward process you can do from the comfort of your home without medical help. However, it is more than just running liquid through your nose.

As much as several ear, nose, and throat surgeons have recommended its use for nasal irrigation, the FDA still warns that if not properly used, using neti pots can be dangerous and put you at a higher risk of infections. So is it safe to use this device to rinse sinuses? This article details this process and how you can do it the right way. 

Rinsing your Sinuses

Sinuses - small air-filled spaces behind facial bony structures. Left Paranasal and frontal sinuses seen clogged with mucus.

Sinuses are small spaces filled with air behind the face's bony structures. The openings in your nose lead to them, which is why they are susceptible to becoming clogged with mucus due to the inflow of contaminants such as dust, pollen, and debris, often leading to infections which could lead to inflammation. When the sinuses are clogged, they could make breathing difficult and make you uncomfortable. Unclogging sinuses can be done by rinsing them out, a process also known as nasal irrigation.

Several irrigating devices are used to carry out this process, such as bulb syringes, neti pots, squeeze bottles, and pulsed water devices. Out of these devices, none is safer or better than the other as long as they are properly cleaned and used. They are the most effective non-pharmacologic means to clear mucus and debris from your sinuses. Another alternative is nasal spray bottles, but they only provide the right amount of mist to dry sinuses, whereas irrigation devices do a better job at rinsing out. Neti pots are the most commonly used of all these devices.

Importance of Nasal Irrigation

This process is very useful in several conditions and can relieve symptoms such as continuous sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and difficulty breathing. Irritation of the sinuses often happens due to pathogens, debris, or allergens that get trapped in the nose during breathing. If you experience any of these ailments, you can try rinsing your sinuses to relieve your symptoms:

  • Upper respiratory infections, which include sinusitis (sinus infections), pharyngitis (sore throat), common cold, laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx), and epiglottitis.
  •  Flu
  •  Corona Virus (CoVID)
  •  Allergic reactions

Fun fact: Studies have shown that people who carry out nasal rinse daily have noticed their allergic symptoms reduce after a few weeks.

Aside from relieving infection symptoms, nasal irrigation also has other benefits, which are:

  • cleansing your nasal cavity
  • improving your sinuses’ ability to self-clean
  • preventing harmful microbes from getting into the brain
  • removing elements that could cause inflammation.

Nasal irrigation is contraindicated in some conditions. If you suffer from any of the following conditions, you should not rinse your sinuses:

  1. Ear infections
  2. If a nostril or both nostrils are entirely clogged
  3. Presence of pressure in either or both ears
  4. History of previous surgery performed on either the ears or the sinuses.

How to Use Neti Pots to Rinse Your Sinuses: A Stepwise Approach

Nasal irrigation using neti pots can be carried out in easy steps. If unsure how to do it, you can ask for help or seek another alternative to clear your sinuses. The steps involved are described below:

  1. First, wash your hands and the neti pot you use for nasal irrigation with soap and water. This is to prevent further sinus contamination from either your hands or the solution that will be run through your nose.
  2. The next step is to get your saltwater solution. This could come in powdered form or are sometimes already mixed and filled into containers with applicators and ready for use. If you are using the ready-made solution, you can skip to the fourth step. But if you plan to make a DIY solution, you must get very clean filtered water that has already been distilled or boiled. Then take a cup or two of water and mix it with either a quarter or half a teaspoon of non-iodized salt (sodium chloride) and boil for at least a minute in a pot or kettle to make it warm. Be careful not to make use of table salt that has been iodized.
  3. Let the boiled solution cool down until it is not too hot or cold. Then fill up the neti pot you want to use with the lukewarm saline solution.
  4. Next, attain a position where you can lean over the bathroom sink, look down and then tilt your head to one side, keeping one ear close to the sink and the other towards the ceiling. This should appear as if you are trying to listen to a sound from the drain. Then depending on how you want the water to run, you can adjust your position.
  5. After positioning, you are ready to rinse your sinus by placing the neti pot’s snout inside your top nostril and tilting it till water flows through your top nostril to the one below. While doing this, you will feel the liquid drain through the lower nostril and spill into the sink until you run out of solution. Throughout this process, you want to keep breathing through your mouth so you do not aspirate the solution.
  6.  Lastly, blow your nose by breathing out forcefully to eliminate the remaining mucus or solution. You can repeat the steps to clear your sinuses further.
  7.  When you are done, throw away the prefilled container, or the neti pot you used should be cleaned and dried with a fresh towel.

Risks and Side Effects Involved in Rinsing Sinuses Using Neti Pots

Generally, no risks are involved in using neti pots for nasal irrigation. However, the problem occurs when you use just any water you get your hands on. As simple as making the saline solution is, using contaminated water can do more harm than good to your sinuses. Hence, you must use water free of contaminants, dissolved minerals (hard water), or other substances that could cause an infection. 

Using tap water directly should also be avoided, even if it is safe for drinking because there are enzymes in the stomach that can render the microbes harmless. These enzymes are absent in the sinus, so these microbes could stay, grow, and get to the brain, resulting in life-threatening conditions such as meningitis and meningoencephalitis. This is why it is specifically mentioned to use distilled or sterile water before mixing.

Nasal irrigation has no side effects. However, some people have reported experiencing a burning or stinging sensation in their noses while carrying it out. This can happen due to a high concentration of salt in the solution or using water that is not warm enough not to irritate the sinuses. Nose bleeding could also result from its use if care is not taken while sticking the pot’s pout in the nostril to run the solution.

Safety Tips while Using Neti Pots

As discussed above, there are more benefits than risks involved in using this device to relieve nasal congestion or irrigate sinuses. There are some tips you can also take note of regarding its use. Here are some of them:

  • Change your neti pot as frequently every three or four months as you change your toothbrush to prevent the buildup of microbes on the snout. However, the ceramic type can be used for longer, even up to several years.
  • Refrain from sharing your neti pot with anyone as you could pass bacteria or other microbes to the other person or vice versa.
  • To eliminate any potential germs in the water that could cause infections, only use distilled or boiling water.
  • Too hot or too cold water might not only damage your neti pot but might not do the job effectively. Lukewarm water is most suitable.
  • Avoid using neti pots on babies to clear their sinuses.
  • Before using it for younger children, speak with a pediatrician to see if it is age appropriate and consider other safer alternatives for nasal irrigation.
  • If you begin to feel a sting in your nostrils while using a neti pot, or you begin to feel ear pain, or it does not improve your symptoms, you should not use it any further.
  • Avoid using the neti pot too often, as it could irritate your sinuses. A decent amount of mucus in your nasal passages is important to protect the body from infections or bacteria.
  • Use nasal irrigation only when you have symptoms.
  • After each use, clean your neti pot with hot water and antibacterial soap, then dry properly with a paper towel or clean cloth. Alternatively, you can simply air dry it.
  • Ensure you put your washed neti pot away in a clean place, not exposed to germs.

Are There Alternatives to Neti Pots?

As listed earlier, there are other irrigation devices you can make use of.

  • Nasal squeeze bottles: They do the job as well as neti pots when flushing out the sinuses. On the other hand, these bottles do not require tilting your head all you have to do is lean forward.
  • Nasal bulb syringes: These are used for infants and young children. They carry a decent volume of saline solution at a time, and the long spout makes it reach the sinuses.
  • Sinus rinse kit: It contains an irrigation bottle, nasal washes, and already mixed packets of saline solution.
  • Electrical nasal irrigator: This device uses electric power to supply a stream of saline solution to rinse the nose cavities.

Other irrigation devices, such as saline sprays, do not get the solution past the outer part of the nose. However, they are suitable for people who can only tolerate a small volume of solution at a time.


Using a neti pot is a good and popular home remedy for helping with clogged sinuses or upper respiratory infections. You can use it with either a saline solution bought in the store or any homemade one. As long as you use neti pots as directed, there is no harm associated with the use of neti pots. You should only continue using it if it relieves your symptoms.

If you are struggling with severe nasal congestion, you can seek medical help before purchasing and using a neti pot. If your symptoms do not improve after repeated usage or you develop a headache or fever, consult a healthcare professional. The bottom line is that using neti pots is an effective and safe remedy, always readily available to help with clogged sinuses.

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