Neti Pot (Nasal Rinse) - How Is It Done and Is It Safe?
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Neti Pot (Nasal Rinse) - An Overview

Published on Jul 04, 2022 and last reviewed on Aug 18, 2023   -  5 min read


A nasal rinse is the oldest way of washing the nasal lining using a nasal cup (neti pot). Read the below article to know more about the neti pot or nasal rinse.

Neti Pot (Nasal Rinse) - An Overview


Upper respiratory conditions are common and include mild to severe sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus lining), allergic rhinitis, and viral infections that affect the nasal cavity and the throat. These conditions are nagging and can have an impact on the daily activities of the person when affected. Nasal irrigation refers to washing the nasal linings with sterile liquid or saline which is used as an alternative treatment for mild to moderate upper respiratory discomforts.

What Is a Neti Pot?

Nasal irrigation has been considered an adjuvant therapy that has its origin in the Ayurvedic medicine system and is recognized as an essential component in the management of sinus and nasal conditions. Nasal irrigation is observed to be safe and effective but is underutilized.

Nasal irrigation can be performed using various devices like sprays, syringe bulbs, or nasal cups. The sprays and syringe bulbs use low positive pressure to drain the nasal cavity. The nasal cups work on gravity-based pressure and are often called a neti pot. The term is derived from the Ayurvedic practice of Jala neti. The neti pot has a long spout that delivers the liquid from the pot. It looks similar to a small teapot.

How to Use a Neti Pot?

Handouts are available that narrate the instructions for the usage of neti pots. There are three steps involved in the application of neti pot which are as follows:

Step 1: The pre-packed salt is commercially available and can be added to water according to the instructions mentioned on the label. Even a home-prepared salt solution can be used by following the proper guidelines. Too hot or too cold water should not be used. Lukewarm or water at room temperature should be used.

Step 2: The opening of the spout is placed on one side of the nose and one should ensure that the other side is over a vessel or a basin. One must avoid pressing or inserting the spout inside the nostril beyond the middle region.

Step 3: One must tilt their head towards the free nostril and pour the solution from the other side. The solution will enter the upper nasal cavity and drain to the other side. Throughout the procedure, one can breathe through their mouth. Once all the solution is drained, the nose should be blown to expel the retained solution and the procedure must be repeated.

There may be some saltwater drainage from the nose for a few hours after the procedure, which is considered normal.

What Types of Neti Pots Are Available?

The neti pots are there in various forms and shapes according to the patient's comfort. The neti pots are made of durable plastic, porcelain, or ceramic. Some of the plastic neti pots are squeezable, while some have a flexible spout tip to fit them into the nostril hole without any discomfort. If it is a plastic neti pot, it is advisable to choose a BPA (bisphenol-A) free product.

Battery and electric operated neti pots are available nowadays, in which the water pressure can be adjusted. The solution is gently pumped into the nasal cavities and these can reach further than the manual neti pots.

Are the Neti Pots Safe?

The neti pots are safe if used with caution and one should know the following:

  • The water used in the neti pot should be distilled, sterile, boiled, and cooled.

  • Using direct tap water is not considered safe since even small quantities of microorganisms in the nasal passage may cause infection and could be fatal.

  • The next important message is to strictly adhere to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • The device should be washed each time before and after use. The device should be kept clean and dry when not in use.

  • One can consult their health care provider to know if the neti pots are safe and effective for specific conditions.

  • It is necessary to seek immediate help in case of an emergency or if the symptoms are worsening or if there is an emergence of any new symptoms like headache, vomiting, fever, or bleeding in the nose.

  • One must not overuse the neti pots. It should be used only when necessary for a few days or once a week. In case of bad allergies, nasal rinse or neti pots can be used once or twice a day.

An alternative to neti pots is the use of nasal squeeze bottles.

How Does a Nasal Rinse Work?

A nasal rinse works in the following ways:

  • It is proposed that the nasal rinse completely irrigates the nasal lining removing the irritants, allergens, inflammatory mediators, and other infection-causing agents.

  • The process also removes the mucus, thereby relieving nose blockages. Therefore, the nasal passages are cleared directly and the physiological functions are improved.

  • The continuous ciliary (hairline projections) motion in the upper airways is a biological process that clears the foreign particles from the mucous lining. It is reported that saline nasal irrigation increases the frequency of ciliary beats and hence supplements the natural defense mechanism of the nasociliary lining.

What Are the Indications for Using the Nasal Rinse?

The neti pot nasal irrigation is found to be effective in the following conditions:

  • Sinusitis: Studies have demonstrated a significant (around 65 percent) improvement in chronic sinusitis symptoms with saline nasal irrigation. Therefore, patients have been suggested the usage of saline nasal rinse for 12 weeks as a supplement therapy to reduce the symptoms of chronic sinusitis.

  • Allergic Rhinitis: With saline nasal rinse, the concentration of inflammatory mediators like histamine and leukotrienes is significantly reduced in the nasal lining, thereby reducing allergy progression. As a result, the symptoms of allergy are alleviated over time.

  • Upper Respiratory Tract Viral Infection: Saline nasal rinse has been known to effectively treat and prevent viral infection in the upper respiratory tract. Nasal irrigation has been helpful in post-operative and post-endoscopic care and is also considered safe and effective for rhinitis in pregnancy.

What Are the Contraindications of the Nasal Rinse?

Saline nasal rinses are considered safe and effective. Initially, a sense of discomfort may occur while performing nasal rinsing with a neti pot. Sometimes one may experience irritation and burning sensation in the nasal linings, which may be caused by the water's temperature and salt content. The minor discomforts can be alleviated through practice and technique adjustments.

Patients with facial trauma, neurological problem, and musculoskeletal problems are not suitable for nasal irrigation because of the risk of liquid aspiration into the other spaces.


Neti pots have become popular and common in the last decade. These are small devices that resemble a teapot and can help clear any blockage in the sinuses. However, inappropriate use can result in bacterial sinus infections. Neti pot usage can be very successful with proper patient education and training. The neti pot should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water after every use, and fresh saline preparation is used each time to avoid contamination. Instruction sheets or handouts are readily available to get an insight into the use of neti pots. One must discuss with their physician about alternative treatment options if the neti pot is ineffective or if it irritates the nasal passages.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Should the Use of a Neti Pot be Avoided?

The use of neti pots does not actually have to be avoided, but it should be remembered that the improper use of neti pots can lead to serious consequences. A neti pot is a home remedy used to rinse out the sinuses. It is quite effective when used correctly. There are several safety issues associated with the use of neti pots that need to be considered. These include the following:
- The liquid used in neti pots should always be a saline nasal rinse and not tap water or other liquids.
- Ensure that the pot is thoroughly washed and cleaned after each use since salts may build up or remain behind, particularly in the spout of the pot.
- Do not share the neti pot with anyone else to prevent the transfer of bacteria that may have remained in the pot to them.
- Do not use a neti pot consistently. It is not intended for continuous use (the salts may decrease the amount of mucus that forms a protective layer for the nasal membranes).
Improper use of neti pots can cause severe infections and have even been known to result in death. If one is unsure of how to use a neti pot or whether the neti pot is clean, or has been used by someone else, it is best to avoid using it.


Are Neti Pots Useful?

- When used correctly (with sterile water), neti pots can help relieve inflammation and congestion of the nasal sinuses.
- They are also useful in providing relief from allergies.
- They help to rinse mucus or nasal debris present in the nasal passages.
- However, the overuse of neti pots may cause an increased vulnerability to rhinosinusitis, and improper use can cause severe infections and complications.


Can Sinus Infections Be Cured By Neti Pots?

- A neti pot can be quite useful in relieving some of the symptoms of a sinus infection.
- However, they may not be able to completely cure a patient of the infection.
- Saline water should be used so that the water does not irritate the nasal membranes or cause a burning sensation.


What Is a Good Alternative to a Neti Pot?

Two common alternatives to neti pots are squeeze bottles and bulb syringes.
- Squeeze Bottles: These are simply bottles that are squeezed over the nasal sinuses to allow the solution to flow into the nose. The saline is delivered to the nasal passages in a controlled manner and relieves nasal congestion and symptoms of allergies, sinusitis, and infections.
- Bulb Syringes: A bulb syringe can be used to remove mucus through suctioning action. The air from the bulb is squeezed out, so a vacuum is created, and the tip is then placed into the nostril and used to suction out mucus and other secretions.


Are Nasal Rinses Effective for COVID?

While the efficacy has not yet been wholly proven, the use of nasal rinses has been encouraged for COVID-19. This is on the principle that nasal rinses have previously helped reduce the viral load for other common coronaviruses. It has been proposed that saline irrigation could help to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has also been demonstrated in a study that the use of saline rinses in patients with COVID-19 could reduce the risks of hospitalization.


Why Does Mucus Sometimes Get Stuck Between the Nose and Throat?

Postnasal drip is the excess mucus secreted by the glands of the nose and throat that may be felt as an irritation in the throat. Postnasal drip may occur due to the following reasons:
- Seasonal allergies.
- Cold weather.
- Pregnancy.
- Smoke.
- Adenoidal inflammation.
- Certain medications like antihypertensives and birth control pills.
- Reflux.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Deviated nasal septum.


How Frequently Can Nasal Rinses Be Done?

People with symptoms of sinus issues and allergies may start with one sinus irrigation per day and increase that number to two or a maximum of three times a day if they experience relief.
- The occasional sinus flush is acceptable if it is used to relieve allergies and colds.
- However, overuse can cause susceptibility to infections like rhinosinusitis and decrease the mucus that protects the sinus membranes.
- Nasal rinses should only be used when really needed.


What Can Be Used for Nasal Rinses?

- A warm sterile saline solution should be used for nasal rinses.
- It is preferable to buy an over-the-counter premixed saline solution, but saline may also be made at home. However, it should be remembered that the solution needs to be sterile. The water may be boiled and mildly cooled before use.
- Tap water should never be used as it is not sterile.


Can a Sinus Rinse Worsen Sinus Issues?

- A sinus rinse does not technically worsen sinus issues by itself, but improper use or overuse of sinus rinses can lead to worsening of the existing infection or an increased vulnerability to infections, respectively.
- Sterile water should be used since tap water can cause harmful microorganisms to enter the sinuses and cause infections.
- The device used should be thoroughly cleaned immediately after use to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
- Some people may experience mild nasal irritation with the use of nasal rinses.


Can a Neti Pot Be Used With Water Alone?

- A neti pot may be used with just water, but it should be ensured that the water is distilled, sterile, filtered, or boiled. Plain tap water is not to be used as it can introduce harmful microorganisms into the sinuses and cause the worsening of infection.
- However, it is recommended to use saline rather than plain water in order to avoid irritation or a burning sensation in the nasal membranes.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
18 Aug 2023  -  5 min read




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