How to Safely Use a Neti Pot


neti pot, sinuses neti pot, sinuses
There are many different types of neti pots, from ceramic to electric. This one is made of plastic and known as a rhino horn neti pot because of its shape. Wikimedia Commons

If you're into the latest wellness trends, you've definitely heard of a little something called a neti pot. A neti pot is a shallow vessel — usually made of ceramic or plastic — with a thin spout that uses a stream of sterile saline solution to wash out your sinuses, clearing out the mucus and other debris that can clog up your nasal cavities.

The neti pot also has been making headlines after a woman rinsed her nostrils with untreated tap water instead of the recommended sterile saline solution, possibly leading to a fatal batch of brain-eating amoeba. However, when used properly, neti pots are not only safe, but also an effective way of reducing sinus-related problems.

Getting Started

If you've purchased salt in a kit along with your neti pot, follow the package instructions. You can also make your own saline solution. Use a ratio of one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of non-iodized salt per eight ounces of warm sterilized water, or one teaspoon of non-iodized salt per pint of water if you're doubling the amount of solution. Mix until the salt dissolves.

The key to safe nasal irrigation is to use sterile or distilled bottled water — it is inexpensive and by far the safest option. However, tap water that has been boiled for 3-5 minutes and cooled to a lukewarm temperature will also work. Do not put boiling water into the neti pot.

It's best to do the irrigating over a sink, preferably in front of a mirror. Once you've poured your saline solution into the neti pot, lean slightly over the sink and shift your head sideways so that one nostril is elevated above the other. While breathing through your mouth, raise the neti pot and calmly insert it through the upper nostril. If your head is tilting down to your left, this will be your right nostril. If your head is titling down to your right, this will be your left nostril.

Take care to keep your forehead level with your chin and avoid leaning too far forward. Otherwise, the water may not exit properly or could accidentally flow out through your mouth.

After you've inserted the neti pot, water should flow from the pot into the upper nostril and out the lower nostril without any delay. Remove the pot once emptied. Lightly exhale and blow your nose to clear it of any extraneous mucus or solution. Refill the pot with saline solution and repeat the process using the other nostril.

While many neti pot users rinse on a daily basis, consult your doctor about how often is appropriate for you.

What to Expect

If you experience burning or an otherwise irritating feeling in your nostrils after use, it's probably because you used too little or too much salt. Adjust the ratio of salt to water or decrease your neti pot routine to every other day.

When in doubt, consult the instructions provided with your neti pot or seek out the guidance of a trusted physician, particularly if you experience adverse effects like headache, fever, nausea or vomiting. The procedure may not be appropriate for children under the age of four without the recommendation of a pediatrician.

Some Safety Tips

  • Rinse out your pot thoroughly with hot water and soap after each use, and let it air dry before your next session. Many neti pots are also dishwasher safe, but check the instructions that come with your vessel. Do NOT microwave your neti pot.
  • Sharing isn't always caring: Do NOT share the neti pot with family or friends.
  • And above all, do NOT use tap water that has not been boiled or otherwise properly sterilized. Your standard Brita filter will likely not protect you from the ravages of brain-eating amoeba. The one exception: Tap water processed through filters with a pore size of 1 micron or smaller can be used for your neti pot.

You can purchase Neti pot kits with the appropriate saline products included at your local pharmacy or through an organization such as the Himalayan Institute. And definitely don't grab any old teapot out of the cupboard. Nasal rinsing is serious business!