Neti Pots Explained: How the Device Helps Clear Your Nasal Passages

Using a saline solution, they help relieve sinus pressure and remove excessive mucus
woman using nuti pot

Yes, using a neti pot might appear a little ridiculous, but these teapot-looking contraptions actually do wonders for nasal congestion. Some people swear by them, especially as they get relief so quickly without using medication.

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But there’s more to these seemingly simple devices. It’s important to know how to use a neti pot correctly and safely to prevent any bigger issues than you started with.

Here’s how you can start reaping the benefits of safe neti pot use. Ear, nose and throat specialist Raj Sindwani, MD, gives us some tips.

What is a neti pot?

A neti pot is a device that pushes a flow of a saline solution through your nasal passages, clearing out built-up mucus and allergens trapped inside your nasal passage. Why saline instead of just water? It helps prevent irritation of your nasal passage.

As the use of neti pots grew over the years, so did the different nasal care tools that offered similar treatment in slightly different forms. Here are some types of neti pots:

  • Standard version. This design relies entirely on gravity to force the flow of the solution through your nasal passage.
  • Squeeze bottle design. This is one of the most popular options. While this version gives users a firmer flow of the solution through their nasal passage, you don’t want to squeeze too hard or you’ll risk causing a big-time mess.
  • “Automatic” version. This one uses suction to regulate the flow of water through the nasal passage. These automated neti pots are easier to use and create less of a mess, but they can be pretty darn expensive and require a bit more upkeep for safe cleanliness.

How does a neti pot work?

Your neti pot will push a flow of saline solution through your nasal passages, clearing out mucus and allergens inside your nasal passage. Saline helps prevent irritation of your nasal passage.

You may want to use a neti pot for sinus infections, nasal congestion, allergies and colds.

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There are several advantages to choosing a neti pot as your means of sinus treatment. Neti pot benefits include:

  • Fully rinses your nasal passage.
  • Removes backed-up mucus.
  • Limits congestion and improves breathing.
  • Relieves sinus pressure.
  • Improves conditions without the side effects of over-the-counter medication, like drowsiness or stimulation.

You may be wondering, Are neti pots safe? And, Do neti pots work? Yes, if you use them correctly. But it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider about the best course of action and if a neti pot is a good choice for you.

How to use a neti pot

Need some neti pot instructions? For your standard teapot-shaped neti pot, the tool works pretty simply. Here’s what do to:

  1. Combine warm or room temperature water with the salt package provided with your neti pot to make the saline solution and pour that in your neti pot.
  2. Position yourself over a sink. You’ll be pouring water from your nose so you want the minimum amount of cleanup.
  3. Place the tip of the spout inside one nostril, creating a seal.
  4. Tilt your head forward, looking down at the sink, and lift the neti pot at an angle, sending the saline solution into your nasal passage. Gravity carries the solution through your nasal cavity and out of your other nostril.
  5. Allow the solution and any excess mucus to drip out from your nostril, blowing your nose to clear the nasal passage.
  6. Repeat for your other nostril.     

While there are several benefits to using a neti pot, there are important tips to keep in mind to get the best possible results and to avoid creating any unnecessary issues from regular use:

  • Don’t use tap water. Use distilled, filtered, bottled or boiled water at room temperature — never tap water. Tap water may not have been filtered or treated like distilled or bottled has and may cause infections.
  • Don’t use a cold solution. You should never use a cold solution in your nasal passages — especially if you’re irrigating your nasal passages after sinus surgery. “Some of the solutions we prescribe after sinus surgery must be kept in the refrigerator,” says Dr. Sindwani. “You need to allow the solution to come to room temperature before using them.” If you just had sinus surgery and you used a cold solution, you could develop bony growths in your nasal passages called paranasal sinus exostoses (PSE).
  • Clean your neti pot thoroughly. It’s important to disinfect and clean your neti pot thoroughly to avoid infections. Rinse the irrigation device after each use with safe water and leave the device open to air dry completely. “I recommend using hot water and antibacterial soap to clean your neti pot,” says Dr. Sindwani.

Neti pot solution recipe

The solution packets that come with your neti pot, or ones that are sold separately, are great because they offer the perfect amount of salt. Too little or too much salt may cause irritation in your nasal passage.

But if you want to make your own neti pot solution at home, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends the following recipe:

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  • 3 teaspoons of iodide-free salt.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • 1 cup of distilled or boiled water.

Mix the salt and baking soda together and store in an air-tight container. To make enough solution for one use, add 1 teaspoon of mixture to 1 cup of lukewarm water.

For the most part, neti pots are safe to use as long as you properly follow directions, especially with the saline solution, and keep your neti pot properly cleaned.

And, as mentioned earlier, if you don’t clean your device thoroughly, you do risk putting bacteria right back in your nasal passage for additional infection.

So, how often can you use a neti pot?

“Be careful about overusing your neti pot, too, because that can lead to irritation of the nasal passage,” cautions Dr. Sindwani. “If your issues continue after a few days, contact your healthcare provider.”

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