What is a neti pot? And why would I use one?

Answer From James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.


A neti pot is a container made to rinse debris or mucus from the nasal cavity using saltwater. You might use a neti pot to treat symptoms of nasal allergies, sinus problems or colds. Using a neti pot can help when indoor air dries out nasal passages.

Neti pots use saltwater to avoid irritating nasal passages.

To start, use water labeled as distilled or sterilized. To use tap water, boil it for several minutes and then let it cool until it's only slightly warm, called lukewarm. If you can't boil water, you can use tap water that's been passed through a water filter. Filters may be labeled in a few different ways. Look for terms such as: 1 micron or smaller pore size, NSF 53, NSF 58, cyst removal or cyst reduction.

Salt packets may be sold with the neti pot or bought separately. You also can make your own salt mix. In a lidded container, combine three measures of noniodized salt with one measure of baking soda and stir. Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 1 cup of the boiled, distilled, sterilized or filtered water.

To use the neti pot:

  • Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve the salt mix. You can combine the water and salt it in the neti pot or in a separate, clean container and pour it into the neti pot.
  • Tilt your head down and sideways over a sink.
  • Place the spout of the neti pot just at the entrance of the upper nostril.
  • While you breathe through your open mouth, start to pour the water into the top nostril. If the water flows into your mouth, tilt your head further down so the water flows into the bottom nostril.
  • The water may drip out of the bottom nostril at first. But once the water is draining out of the nostril, you can stop pouring and set down the neti pot. Then blow your nose.
  • Repeat, switching sides to allow water to drain from the other nostril.

Rinse the neti pot after each use with distilled, sterile or filtered water or water that has been boiled and cooled. Leave the neti pot in the open to air-dry.

Neti pots are often sold in pharmacies, health food stores and online. Other devices, such as squeeze bottles and pressurized canisters, also can be used to rinse or irrigate the nasal passages.

Talk with your healthcare professional to see if nasal rinsing is right for you.

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March 08, 2024 See more Expert Answers