BOD-ities: Are Neti Pots safe to use?

Young woman holding neti pot to nose for nasal irrigation

Over the past several years, Neti Pots and other saline irrigation systems have become increasingly popular items in bathroom cabinets. When nasal congestion makes sleep and daily life uncomfortable, Neti Pots can be a safe and effective way to relieve discomfort quickly from home.

The Neti Pot is a nasal irrigation system that uses a saline, or saltwater, solution to moisten nasal passages and flush out allergens, mucus, and bacteria. Even if you have never used a Neti Pot before, you have probably seen one at a drugstore or grocery store. The device looks like a miniature watering can and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

As odd as a Neti Pot looks, it can feel even stranger to use. The first step is to fill it with room temperature or lukewarm water (hot water can damage your nasal passages and cause discomfort). However, don't just fill it with water from the kitchen or bathroom sink. Tap water is not adequately filtered, so it should not be used for nasal irrigation. Instead, use:

  • Distilled or sterile water (available in stores)
  • Tap water that has been boiled and cooled
  • Filtered tap water

After filling, empty the salt packet into the bottle and gently shake.

Leaning over a sink or bowl, tilt your head sideways and place the spout of the Neti Pot into your upper nostril. Keep your chin level, and your mouth open so you are able to breathe through your mouth. Gently pour the saltwater solution into your upper nostril, allowing it to drain through the lower nostril. Be sure to clear your nostril completely, taking breaks to blow your nose if necessary. Repeat on the other nostril.

In between uses, it is best to thoroughly clean the Neti Pot with lukewarm distilled water, or boiled or filtered tap water. To avoid leaving any bacteria behind, be sure to let the Neti Pot air dry completely before storing it.

In most cases, a Neti Pot is effective in relieving nasal congestion. Nonetheless, if your symptoms persist or use of the Neti Pot is accompanied by nosebleeds, headache, and/or other side effects, stop use and speak with a health care provider. 

If sinus infections or nasal congestion are a frequent problem for you, make an appointment to talk to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in treating ear, nose and throat issues.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654).