How to Use a Neti Pot Correctly

Saline nasal irrigation is often recommended as an additional, or adjunctive, therapy intended for upper respiratory infections, including allergic rhinitis. The origin of saline nasal irrigation is attributed to Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian medicine system based on a natural and holistic approach to illness.

Saline nasal irrigation can be administered either by a saline spray or liquid. A common device for saline nasal irrigation is a neti pot.

Learn more about how to use a neti pot correctly, how to safely make your own solution, how to care for your neti pot, and more.

Young woman using a neti pot in her living room.

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Saline nasal irrigation is an effective therapy for chronic rhinosinusitis. The exact way saline irrigation works is unknown. However, it is thought that the nasal mucosa (mucous membranes) protects against upper respiratory infections, so when it breaks down, upper respiratory infection symptoms, like a runny nose, occur.

Using a neti pot for saline nasal irrigation is thought to reinforce the nasal mucosa's protective abilities by:

  • Directly cleansing the nasal cavity
  • Removing inflammatory agents
  • Improving the tiny nasal hairs, called cilia, that move or sweep infectious agents out of the nose

How to Use a Neti Pot

A neti pot is a device used for saline nasal irrigation. The neti pot allows you to get a saline solution up one nostril while draining out of the opposite nostril. The steps for proper use of a neti pot are:

Step 1: Prepare the Solution

  • You can purchase a prepackaged saline solution at most drug stores or make your own (see next section).
  • Once the saline solution is ready, place 4 fluid ounces (100 milliliters) in the neti pot.

Step 2: Proper Positioning

  • It is best to do saline nasal irrigation over a sink, a basin, the shower, or a bathtub so the saline solution can be easily disposed of after use.
  • Start with your head downward and tilted to the left. Gently pour 4 fluid ounces of saline solution into the right nostril. The saline solution should come out of the left nostril a few seconds later.
  • Change your head position and repeat the same process in the opposite nostril.
  • It is safe to breathe through your mouth during this process while keeping your head in a position to prevent the solution from going down the back of the throat or into your ears.

Step 3: Clearing Your Nose

  • After you've put the saline solution in each nostril and allowed it to drain, gently exhale through the nose to clear any extra liquid or mucus.
  • Blow the nose into a tissue, using gentle pressure to prevent any remaining solution from flowing back into the ears.

How to Make Your Own Solution

While you can purchase a prepackaged solution, you can also easily make it at home.

Using a safe water source is essential. Safe water sources include:

  • Distilled or sterile water
  • Filtered water: Use a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–approved filter.
  • Boiled and cooled water: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, tap water that has been boiled can be safely used if stored in a clean container and used within 24 hours.

Why You Shouldn't Use Tap Water

The FDA and CDC do not recommend using tap water for saline nasal irrigation, as it is not adequately filtered or treated and could contain low levels of bacteria and protozoa, such as amoebas.

Tap water with low levels of bacteria and protozoa is considered safe to drink because the acid in the stomach kills those organisms. However, the nose cannot kill them; if they remain alive, they could cause serious, even life-threatening, illnesses.

Once a safe water source is available, you can make the saline solution as follows:

  • Using a clean, airtight container, mix 3 teaspoons of iodine-free salt with 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the mixed, dry ingredients to 8 ounces (1 cup) of lukewarm water (from the safe water source).
  • The homemade saline solution is ready to be used in a neti pot.


Neti pots are relatively safe and have few risks. For people who have blocked nasal passages or are immunocompromised, it is strongly recommended to consult your healthcare provider before using a neti pot to ensure it does not cause any health complications.

Some of the minor side effects of using a neti pot include:

  • Nervousness (if using a neti pot for the first time)
  • Ear fullness (usually mitigated if the head is kept in the proper position)
  • Stinging inside the nose (the solution may need to be diluted with additional water from a safe source)
  • Nose bleeds (rarely reported but resolved by adapting a different neti pot technique or diluting the saline solution)

If any of these side effects occur with neti pot use, stop using the neti pot and consult your healthcare provider for further guidance.

Other Tips 

Saline nasal irrigation via a neti pot is generally considered safe. However, you should consult your healthcare provider first if you have the following conditions:

  • Facial fractures that are not entirely healed
  • Neurological or musculoskeletal issues (these may cause problems with accidentally inhaling the neti pot solution, also called aspiration)
  • Blocked nasal passages

If you are immunocompromised or are unable to manage the neti pot correctly, you should also speak with your healthcare provider before saline nasal irrigation.

Caring for Your Neti Pot

Properly caring for your neti pot by doing the following will keep it working properly and protect you from the potential risk of infection:

  • Always wash and dry your hands before touching or using the neti pot.
  • Ensure the neti pot is clean and fully dry.
  • Follow the prepackaged or homemade instructions to prepare the saline solution.
  • Always follow the neti pot manufacturer's instructions for use.
  • When done using the neti pot, wash it and dry the inside with a clean towel or let it air dry between uses.


Saline nasal irrigation is a recommended adjunctive treatment for chronic upper respiratory infections or allergic rhinitis. A neti pot is a common method of performing saline nasal irrigation.

Purchasing a prepackaged solution or properly preparing the saline solution with a safe water source will minimize the risk of infection and maximize sinus relief. It is essential to properly care for and clean your neti pot immediately after using it.

A Word From Verywell

It may take a few tries to get used to using a neti pot, but you'll likely find relief from the long-standing Ayurvedic practice. Speak with your healthcare provider about any concerns, and always use a safe water source with your neti pot.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a neti pot make sinuses worse?

    Neti pots are best used for chronic rhinosinusitis. When used correctly, it has not been shown to make sinuses worse and has been effective in alleviating sinus congestion.

  • What’s the best time of day to use the neti pot?

    No specific time of day is best for neti pot use. A neti pot can be used whenever upper respiratory infection symptoms are present.

  • Can I lie down after using a neti pot?

    Lying down after using a neti pot is not recommended as it might cause any saline solution still in the nasal passages to go down the throat. Instead, gently blowing the nose after the saline irrigation has drained out of the nose will help ensure any remaining saline solution is cleared from the nasal passages.

4 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. Rabago D, Zgierska A. Saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditionsAm Fam Physician. 2009;80(10):1117-1119.

  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Ayurvedic medicine: in depth.

  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Saline sinus rinse recipe.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Is rinsing your sinuses with neti pots safe?

By Pamela Assid, DNP, RN
Pamela Assid, DNP, RN, is a board-certified nursing specialist with over 25 years of expertise in emergency, pediatric, and leadership roles.