How to Rinse Your Sinuses

Rinsing or "flushing" your sinuses may not be the most comfortable thing, but neither are nasal congestion and stuffiness. The practice can help clear out debris that may be causing symptoms like sniffling and sneezing, thin mucus so it can be more easily expelled, and moisturize your nasal passages.

Rinsing your sinuses is also inexpensive, easy to do, and can provide relief without medication and associated side effects. (It's a good option for children who are too young to take cold medications.)

You have a few options when it comes to how you can flush your sinuses, all of which involve a saline solution (salt water). Some sinus rinses come with pre-made saline solutions, while other choices may require you to make saline solution using provided or replacement salt packets (available at drugstores). You can also make homemade saline solution.

Neti Pot

Woman flushing her sinuses using a neti pot in the bathroom
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A neti pot is a great way to flush out your sinuses when you are congested or have a lot of mucus in them. It looks like a little teapot, and you fill it with a saline solution that is either store-bought (provided with the pot or sold separately) or homemade.

To use a neti pot:

  1. Fill it with room-temperature saline solution for optimal comfort.
  2. Lean forward over the sink and tilt your head.
  3. Put the spout against your higher nostril and angle the neti pot slightly to pour in the solution, which will then come out through the other nostril.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Never Use Tap Water

Using tap water to irrigate your sinuses can introduce dangerous organisms to your nasal passages that can cause serious infections. If you're making your own solution or using a saline mix, be sure you use distilled water or sterilize water yourself by boiling it, then letting it cool to room temperature before use.

Saline Spray or Rinse

Man using nasal spray
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Saline sprays and rinses are other very popular options for breaking up mucus in the nasal passages and helping you breathe easier when you're stuffed up.

A number of sinus rinses work similarly to a neti pot, but you may find them easier to use: they look like (and essentially are) squeeze bottles.

To use a sinus rinse product:

  1. Mix a saline solution (if not pre-mixed).
  2. Lean over the sink.
  3. Squeeze the solution into one nostril; it will run out through the other.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

This product is very effective when used for congestion from a cold or allergies.

The quick-dispensing nature of a saline spray may be more appealing to children (or, perhaps more so, their caretakers). Boogie Mist is one example of a saline spray geared toward kids.

It can be a bit more difficult to actually rinse your sinuses with a spray, but it is possible.

  1. Place the spray nozzle in the nostril.
  2. Lean over the sink.
  3. Discharge the solution: rather than just a quick squirt in each nostril, keep pressure on the bottle to allow more of the saline to run into the nose. (That will allow it to get deeper into the sinuses and rinse out more mucus).

The effects of this are generally short-lived, so you may need to repeat this daily or several times a day.

Young Kids: Saline Drops and Suction

Woman cleaning a baby's nose with a bulb syringe
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For very young children and babies, the above options aren't really feasible. Using saline drops when congestioin strikes is a better option. They will help thin out mucus, allowing it to drain and making it easier for you to have success with the second part of this approach: suctioning the discharge out using a bulb syringe or other pediatrician-approved product.

Actually getting the drops into your child's nose and then suctioning them out can be somewhat of a feat. Enlisting the aid of a second adult (and some distraction techniques) may help, but it's not impossible to do on your own once you get the hang of it.

To apply saline drops to your baby's nose:

  1. Hold them upright or slightly reclined in your lap, with their head resting back on one of your arms.
  2. Place two or three drops in each nostril.
  3. Wait a few seconds.
  4. Pointing the bulb syringe away from your baby, squeeze the bulb to push the air out.
  5. Keeping the bulb squeezed, place the tip into the nostril with the drops.
  6. Release the bulb to create suction and pull liquids out of the nose.
  7. Squeeze the bulb syringe into a sink or other receptacle to empty it.
  8. Repeat as necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Other nasal-rinse products are on the market as well, including battery-powered devices that use suction. Whatever method you choose, be sure that:

  • Any products you use are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • You follow the directions for both use and cleaning
  • You use a sterile saline solution to avoid potentially dangerous infections
2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Is rinsing your sinuses with neti pots safe?

  2. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Saltwater washes (nasal saline lavage or irrigation) for sinusitis.

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.