Don’t Touch My Neti Pot! The Ancient Practice of Nasal Cleansing

Neti PotA dry heave would probably be the appropriate reaction from a person witnessing for the first time the ancient practice of nasal cleaning. While it’s not a particularly pleasant event for a bystander, a good nasal cleansing session can lead to sighs of relief (out of both nostrils!) for the doer of the deed. Though nasal cleansing has been a technique used by yogis and Ayurvedic practitioners for ages, today it is an often recommended remedy by doctors for treating environmentally induced sinus and allergy problems and other respiratory ailments.

Since mouth breathers are a bit discriminated against in yoga class, the benefit of nasal cleansing for stuffy yogis is clear. With allergy season just around the corner, if you haven’t ever felt the relief that comes from sticking a neti pot in your nose and feeling the salty water drain out the other nostril, you should seriously consider it to the alternative of popping more pills.


So, if you’re interested, you may be wondering what you need to do to get started. There’s really not much. It’s pretty simple actually. You may want to buy a neti pot, but that’s not even necessary. Many ear, nose and throat doctors suggest using a baby bulb syringe for getting the water into the nose. You can’t get much cheaper. If you decide to go the bulb syringe route, the only other thing you will need is a glass jar to put a homemade saline solution in. While you can buy individual pre-measured packets of saline, here’s a homemade recipe that my sister got from her doctor.

The saline recipe:

  • Carefully clean and rinse a 1-quart jar. Fill the clean jar with tap water or bottled water. You do not need to boil the water.
  • Add one level teaspoon of non-iodized (“pickling”) salt. DO NOT use table salt. Table salt has unwanted additives. You can ask for pickling salt at the grocery store.
  • Add one level teaspoon of baking soda (pure bicarbonate).
  • Stir or shake before each use. Store at room temperature. After one week pour out any mixture that is left over and make a new recipe.

Once you have your mixture ready, all you have to do is squirt one to two syringes of solution per nostril and let it drain into the sink or tub. Check out this clip for a demonstration on how to properly perform a nasal cleanse using a neti pot. The same technique can be applied if you use a bulb syringe.

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The Benefits of using this solution:

  • Rinsing your nose with the salt water and baking soda solution washes crusts (gross) and other debris from your nose.
  • Salty water pulls fluid out of swollen membranes. Washing the inside of the nose decongests it and improves airflow. Not only does it make breathing easier, but it helps open the sinus passages.
  • Studies show that this mixture of concentrated salt water and baking soda helps the nose membrane to work better and move mucus out of the nose faster.

While the above recommendations have worked for me, there are a lot of websites with even more information on nasal cleansing that you may find useful. I particularly recommend the Himalayan Institute.

Everyday Ayurveda

Sinusitis Survival

Jala Neti

Neti Pot for Sinus Health

Neti Pot Goes Mainstream (New York Times)

Buy a neti pot at!!

Himalayan Institute Eco Neti Pot Neti Wash

Himalayan Institute Neti Pot Ceramic Starter Kit

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  1. Wow, thanks for this! I’m grateful for your clear explanation and for all the links.

    My husband and I have been doing this nasal cleansing for about three months now, but without a neti pot because I couldn’t find one. We just use a small milkjug. We lean over the bath and pour the solution into one nostril, remain upside down for about a minute, and then blow it clear.

    We’ve both had sinus infections (strongly coloured mucus) for ages, and antibiotics don’t help. The nasal cleansing really does bring relief. It seems to be the only way we can keep the sinusitis under control and avoid pain. However, it hasn’t actually cleared the infection (yet?).

    I mentioned the nasal cleansing to the doctor who gave me the antibiotics and she had never heard of it. She warned me that salt was an irritant. However, when I tried to use just plain water, it was far too hard – lots of burning and tears and spluttering!

    I notice you say that it’s not necessary to boil the water. I usually do, although I let it cool a bit, obviously. I find that it’s much easier to do the cleansing with warm water than with cold. We’ve never put the bicarb in, so I’ll add that now.

  2. Thanks for the reminder to use my neti pot! I have one, but need to make a daily habit of using it. I cut the Allegra-D out of my life this year. I don’t miss it so far and I work in a 90-year old, stinky, moldy, crusty middle school filled with adolescent germ machines. I never thought I’d be able to go without my “Daily D.”

    Ahhhh….Sigh….through my nose of course.

    I was told that it is better to do the neti pot a little after getting up, not first thing in the morning. Another yogi told me that in my YTT.

    The light hearted tone to your blog is so great – I totally appreciate it.

    I also want to thank you for inspiring me to try using WordPress for my new blog. I’m in a messy state now making the switch…but I wanted to learn all these added features.

    Well, I think I’ll go for a little nasal cleansing right now.

  3. I realize I’m a bit late, but I just wanted to chime in for anyone reading this in the future. I’ve been using nasal lavage for several years now (I think since I was pregnant four years ago.) I’ve never used a Neti pot- heck, when I am really desperate and don’t have even a cup, I just put saline in my (clean) hand and snort it up my nose. Not pleasant, but it does the trick. I also use a bulb syringe or a medicine syringe, whichever is clean and available.

    What I really wanted to point out is that my doctor (a board certified internist and pediatrician) not only recommends nasal lavage, but her office actually has little kits already made up (a squirt bottle and a recipe similar to above) to hand out to patients with sinus problems. I don’t really get the doctor mentioned in the other comment- your body is saline, your tears are saline…unless you put in tons of salt, it won’t irritate your body……..

  4. I’ll join the chorus (late) on the neti pot. I’ve been using one daily for years now and it’s allowed me to go without any medications for seasonal allergies. Better than that, I breath clearer (out of both nostrils!) than I ever have.

    For convenience and ease of use, I think it’s worth picking up a neti pot. They’re cheap and locally available. I picked up a stainless steel pot, and I use it in the shower each morning. Toss in a tbsp of non-iodized coarse kosher salt, and I use it in the shower.

  5. I used a neti pot to combat a horrific sinus infection many years ago. I was pretty horrified by the chunks of dried blood and other things that came out — I’d been a bad nosebleeder as a kid. It also felt like it irrigated my chronically dry tear ducts and cleaned out all kinds of stuff behind my eyeballs (a weird feeling).

    Anyways, its IMPORTANT to use a real neti pot, distilled water, the best quality salt you can find, and NO baking soda! Commercial baking soda is likely to have trace impurities that you don’t want to be putting directly into your nose, so close to your brain. I always use pure salt sold especially for Neti pots that is extra purified. Why risk exposing yourself to industrial chemicals to save a few bucks? A bag of neti salt will last you at least a year…
    Cheap plastic hoses and bulbs also leach trace amounts of chemicals into the water – again, its never been proven to be significant, but why chance it?

    Do yourself a favor and neti pot today if you haven’t already and suffer from sinus problems or allergies.

  6. Hi, this is a response to what Tia said (in early 2007…) about the technique she uses at home.

    I’m no expert, although I was taught jal neti by a yoga master, but I’m pretty sure the idea of neti is to get the water temperature/salinity and also your standing position and arm position just right so that the water flows through steadily and out in an even thread. You probably shouldn’t be pouring it into your head and then blowing it out — if you are doing that, then make sure to blow ALL the water out (it’s apparently important that none remains) using one of yoga’s breathing techniques with forceful exhalation. But those breathing techniques have implications for people with blood pressure problems, so do check beforehand with someone who knows. Good luck.

  7. Since I first commented, I’ve had quite a few sinus adventures. The cleansing definitely helped me maintain some kind of sanity and stay away from most doctors, but eventually, I was advised not to use the bicarb with the salt because apparently bicarb has the effect of paralysing the cilia in the nose for about three hours after each usage. Instead, this year I started using a product called Flo Sinus Care (from Australia, I think?). The solution it makes is just perfect in terms of comfort, although their little squeezy squirter thing is awful, so we soon gave that up and started using the solution with the neti pot. The Flo had just come to South Africa when I was there in May, so I bought it there. I haven’t managed to track it down in the UK yet. The supposed distributor hasn’t responded to my emails.

  8. I’m thinking about using a neti pot for my 11 year old’s allergies. She currently takes 24 hour claritin which works for her but I really would like to remove as many drugs out of our lives as possible. Does anyone know how long the results of a Neti Pot nose cleanse lasts? For instance could we do it before school and expect the results to last for the entire school day? Many Thanks!

    1. Don’t know if post is too late to get back to you but you may also try eliminating common allergens like wheat and dairy to help with your daughters allergies. I had done allergy shots, claritin etc for years and was having accelerated heart beat on claritin. Finally inadvertantly elimated wheat from my diet when I had gestational diabetes. When finally had a piece of toast one morning and nose started to run I began to realize food was contributing to my allergies. Your decision to minimize drugs especially with kids is to be applauded!! Good luck!

  9. Yes. Each morning before school- prob. after breakfast.

    I just saw a couple of yoga exercises like the downward dog and triangle to help drain the water afterwards.

    I would say never blow water out unless you KNOW what you are doing. It has been known to cause other problems. I only do that very lightly.

  10. Hi

    I have seen people use snuff tobacco for the purpose of cleaning the nose , does it work the same . it has been used for a long time . could it have the same purpose

  11. What if you are diagnosed with a large polyp. Will the liquid be hindered so it won’t go through, or will go down the thoat instead? Will it help shrink the polyp?
    Thank you.

  12. Has anyone tried the Navage Nasal Hygiene System? I love it because it is like a modern version of the neti pot! It has really worked for me.

    1. I’ve never heard of using jala neti for weight loss purposes. Better throw in some vigorous yoga asana if you’re looking for weight loss:).

  13. My allergist recommended the neti pot, after many allergy tests and medications and surgery to remove a polyp / correct a deviated septum (scar tissue from many sinus infections). I’ve used the neti pot (plastic, for travel) almost every morning for over 7 years and eliminated all allergy medications and decongestants. Simple formula: warm, filtered water, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (try without the baking soda, too); stir with finger until dissolved. Tilt forehead downward (back away from the sink to avoid the faucet!) and alternate pouring through each nostril–the solution should flow through the sinuses and out the other nostril. Gently blow each nostril and again a few minutes later. Use whenever allergies/cold/flu/congestion arise. Pay attention to what affects your sinuses–dairy, lack of sleep, stress, maybe even wheat/gluten products (bread, pasta…) and reduce/adjust these. Good health to you!

  14. I’ve never tried the Neti Pot but I have heard great things. As I am a regular sinusitis sufferer, I am always looking for new techniques to relieve the massive sinus pain and pressure I face every winter. I find that nasal saline sprays work very well, but if there is a less expensive option out there, I’ll take it. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I noticed that since I’ve started using the neti pot, I no longer have to take sinus headache pills in the quantities that I used to. I’ve always had major sinus headaches, sinus infections, and severe seasonal allergies, and all of these things have lessened or virtually been eliminated since I started. I don’t take the precaution of using sterilized water, I heat a mug of water in the microwave and then cool it with tap water. I don’t think anyone needs to be alarmed about using a combination of sea salt and baking soda, because you aren’t actually coming in contact with your brain. I’d like that person to look at a diagram online of the inner workings of your head and sinus cavities, because that’s a weird thing to be concerned about. I think if your tap water is safe enough for you to consume, it’s safe enough to rinse your sinuses with. If you don’t have safe water, it certainly would be more dangerous for you to be drinking it.

  16. Tap water should not be used in a neti pot. There are confirmed deaths as a result of using tap water. The tap water had an amoeba in it that infected the users, causing fatal cases of encephalitis. From ABC News, “The brain-eating amoeba, also known as the parasite Naegleria, enters through the nose, travels through the sinuses and infects the brain and cerebrospinal fluid.”

  17. Everything is great except for one detail; do NOT nette with tap water. While extremely rare, there have been deaths due to a tap water amoeba. A thorough boil is all you need. Happy nette-ing!

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