If used correctly, sinus rinse systems such as the neti pot are great tools for cleansing the nose. Sinus specialist Dr. Benjamin Bleier walks Focus through the steps for proper usage.
Techniques for rinsing the nasal passages and sinuses have been used for thousands of years. They offer a way to get a balanced salt-water solution safely into the nose to flush out mucus, particles, allergens and other irritants.
According to Benjamin S. Bleier, MD, FACS, a sinus surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, such techniques are considered among the safest and most effective treatments for sinus troubles.
There are several ways people can rinse their sinuses. The most known practice is the classic neti pot, which looks like a small teapot and relies on gravity to deliver the salt-water solution through the nose. Another well-known device is the squeeze bottle, which works by applying a small amount of pressure to a bottle filled with the salt-water solution, forcing it into the nose.
Sinus rinse kits are safe for anybody to use, especially for those who have inflammation due to chronic sinus problems, sinus infections, the common cold or allergies.
These devices are universally recommended as part of the healing process for patients who are recovering from a sinus or nasal surgery.
Are Sinus Rinses Safe to Use?
Sinus rinse kits are safe to use so long as they are properly sterilized, according to Dr. Bleier.
A sinus kit typically includes a salt solution and the device (neti pot or squeeze bottle). The salt solution is a mixture of salt and baking soda that matches the pH content in your body. “This allows the water solution to feel easy as it passes through the nasal cavity,” said Dr. Bleier.
The devices themselves are not designed to go deeply into the nostrils, so they do not cause much irritation. However, the bottles can be a breeding ground for bacteria and/or fungus.
Dr. Bleier recommends cleaning the bottle with hot, soapy water or putting it in the dishwasher right before use. Some of the newer bottles are also microwave safe, and for these, one minute on high with a small amount of water in the bottom will do the trick.
The water used can also grow bacteria, fungus or, in very rare cases, amoebas, which are single-celled organisms that can cause life-threatening infections in humans.
“To ensure your water is safe to use, I recommend using either distilled water, which you can buy from a pharmacy, or boiled water that has been cooled,” said Dr. Bleier. All clean water should be used as soon as possible to reduce bacterial exposure.
How Do You Use the Squeeze Bottle?
Watch the video above to see how to properly use a sinus rinse squeeze bottle and follow along with these instructions:
Step One: Prepare the Bottle
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Unscrew the top of the bottle, trying not to put your hands on the part that will go in your nose.
- Pour in 8 ounces of prepared water (boiled or distilled).
- Open and pour in the contents of the salt packet.
- Screw the top back on.
- Cover the top of the bottle.
- Shake/mix the bottle until the solution is well combined.
Step Two: Rinse the Nose
- Go to a sink.
- Lean head over the sink, tilting it a bit downwards.
- Choose a nostril to begin with.
- Put bottle up to that nostril and squeeze gently with your mouth open. Don’t hold your breath.
- Squeeze half of the bottle into the first nostril.
- Please note: The water may come out of the opposite or same nostril, or out of the mouth—all of these are fine and normal!
- Once half of the bottle is gone, repeat on the opposite nostril.
Step Three: Clean Up
- Once the bottle is completely empty, sniff and gently blow your nose.
- It’s important to gently sniff to refrain from building up pressure, because blowing too hard can push fluid into your ears.
- Clean your bottle using one of the sterilization methods mentioned above and put it away.
Sinus rinses are safe when used and cleaned appropriately. If you have allergies or persistent sinus systems, call the Mass. Eye and Ear Sinus Center at 617-573-3030 or request an appointment online.
About our expert
Dr. Benjamin Bleier specializes in complex sinus and endoscopic skull base surgery. He sees patients at the main campus of Mass. Eye and Ear.
Good morning, I had a sphénoïdal sinus surgery last year, and a deviated septa repaired. It happened that I can’t use the squeeze bottle for maintenance or cleaning , since I try it I am bleeding from the nose fresh blood.
Hi Evelyne, thanks for reading. This is a question best addressed by your surgeon. If you’d like to see a specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear, you can call 617-573-3954 or request an appointment online.
Any comments or recommendations regarding lavage devices like Navage?
Hi Katie, thanks for reading. Dr. Bleier says: “Bottle irrigation systems are the only sinus rinse methods with significant evidence demonstrating benefit, so as clinicians, we can not comment on other methods until more data comes out about them.”
I don’t have an ear infection, but do accumulate fluid as a part of my allergic/sinus condition. I’m trying the nasal rinse as part of my therapy to try to clear as much congestion as I can so the ears (nose, sinuses, etc.) can drain. The problem I’m having is that frequently the solution burns the tissue terribly and can cause a nasty headache. Usually, my philosophy is “if it hurts–stop!” but this is not an area where I’m very knowledgeable. What causes the burning? Is it harmful? Should I persevere or stop when it happens? Thank you for your attention.
I use a neti pot and it provides relief–How is this different than squeeze bottle?
Hi Brian, thanks for reading and your comment. The neti pot and squeeze bottle are different irrigation techniques used to rinse sinuses and both are considered to be safe and effective, provided they are cleaned as described in the blog, and that water is distilled or boiled.
Is it safe to irritate my sinuses everyday with either the squeeze bottle or neti pot?
Is it ok to use pure water?