How (and Why) to Use a Sinus Rinse

A way to clear your sinuses naturally and ease congestion

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A sinus rinse is a drug-free means of flushing mucus, pollen, and other irritants that have collected in the nose and sinuses. Also known as nasal irrigation or a saline rinse, this effective remedy for congestion also helps keep mucous membranes moist.

A sinus rinse can help relieve stuffiness due to issues such as the common cold, the flu, allergies, sinus infections, and COVID-19. It can be used on its own or along with cold or allergy medications.

This article discusses sinus rinses, how they are used, how to do it, and the different saline nasal rinses available.

sinus rinse pot
 Koldunov / Getty Images

What Sinus Rinses Can Help With

Sinus rinse products and systems perform the same action as a neti pot, but many find these choices easier and less intimidating to use.

Using a sinus rinse can help improve symptoms such as:

  • Nasal dryness
  • Sinus pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal irritation from dust, fumes, animal dander, grass, pollen, smoke, and environmental pollutants
  • Post-nasal drip

After using a sinus rinse, your sinuses should be cleared out, making it easier for you to breathe (especially at night) and reducing the extent to which mucus has caused you discomfort.

Saline Rinse Options

There are various different brands of sinus rinses on the market. Which you should use largely comes down to personal preference.

These products contain a sterile squeeze bottle and sinus rinse solution packets, which you mix with previously boiled or distilled water to create saline (basically mild salt water).

Here are just a few that you may find at your local drugstore include:

  • NeilMed Sinus Rinse: This squeeze-bottle system allows you to control the pressure of the rinse while providing a therapeutic and soothing experience.
  • SinuCleanse Soft Tip Squeeze Bottle: The soft tip of the dispenser helps make rinsing more comfortable.
  • SinuCleanse Micro-Filtered Nasal Wash System: This comes with a built-in micro-water filter to provide natural soothing relief for nasal congestion and sinus symptoms.
  • Dr. Hana's Nasopure Nasal Wash: This angled bottle doesn't require you to bend over the sink or title your head to use it as many other squeeze bottle sinus rinses do.

You will likely also see pre-filled saline nasal sprays/mists on the shelf right alongside these and products like them. One popular example is Arm and Hammer Simply Saline. These are convenient in that you do not need to mix the rinse solution prior to use, but they do not dispense as much fluid as squeeze-bottle options. As such, some may find them more beneficial for nasal irritation.

Rinse Devices

If chronic sinus congestion is a concern for you, and particularly if options like the above are not providing adequate relief, you might consider a sinus rinse device.

One top seller is the Naväge Nasal Care Retail Starter Kit. This battery-operated, handheld device flushes your sinuses with saline solution (which you mix with provided packets). It is more forceful than a squeeze bottle solution, which may be helpful for some.

Other sinus rinse systems function similarly but resemble dental water picks when it comes to their design. One example is Health Solutions SinuPulse Elite, which plugs into an electrical outlet and has two modes: a light spray and a stream for more substantial irrigation.

These systems are pricer and larger than squeeze bottles, which may make them inconvenient or impractical for some.

How to Use a Sinus Rinse

Sinus rinse devices/systems differ depending on their design, so be sure to read and follow provided instructions.

In general, most saline rinse products contain a squeezable plastic bottle containing 8 ounces of water, saline solution packets, and a tube extending from the cap into the bottle.

Typical instructions for preparing a sinus rinse include:

  1. Wash your hands before handling the sinus rinse supplies.
  2. Unless pre-filled, you will need to fill the provided bottle with lukewarm distilled or previously boiled water. (Most bottles hold about 8 ounces.) Never use plain tap water, as it's not sufficiently filtered for this use.
  3. Pour the rinse packet into the bottle, put the cap back on, then shake to dissolve.

To use the sinus rinse:

  1. Stand in front of a sink, lean forward over the sink, and tilt your head down.
  2. Open your mouth and place the bottle opening singly against the opening of your nostril. 
  3. Continue breathing through your mouth and gently squeeze the bottle until the solution starts draining from the opposite nostril. It is OK if water drains through your mouth or touches your throat, but do not swallow it. 
  4. Continue squeezing the bottle until you have used 1/4 to 1/2 of the bottle. 
  5. After rinsing, tilt your head forward and lean toward the opposite nostril. Gently blow your nose to clear your sinuses. Avoid pinching your nostrils completely to keep from putting pressure on the ear drums. You may need to shake your head a bit to shift any trapped liquid and help get it all out. 
  6. Repeat using the other nostril. 

Sinus rinses are commonly recommended for use two to four times a day. Sinus rinse bottles should not be shared among family members and should be washed and dried thoroughly between uses.

When Not to Use a Saline Rinse

With proper use, sinus rinses are safe for most people. Saline solution is not a medication and does not pose any risk of drug interactions.

The product is also safe for use in children, but a child should be old enough to understand what will happen when they use it and perform the rinse themselves.

That said, you should not use a nasal rinse if:

  • Your nasal passages are completely blocked.
  • You have an ear infection.
  • Your ears are completely blocked with mucus.
  • You are unable to position yourself to allow the solution to run out of your nostrils.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a sinus rinse cause infection?

    Yes, but only if done incorrectly. A sinus rinse can cause an infection if you use non-sterile water, which can introduce bacteria into the sinus cavity. To avoid this, use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. Also, clean your sinus rinse bottle/device between uses.

  • Can water get stuck in your sinuses from a sinus rinse?

    Yes, it is possible to get water stuck in your sinuses from a sinus rinse. This can happen if your sinuses are swollen or if your head is not tilted properly. If you feel like water is stuck, keep your head upright for a while and try blowing your nose. The water should work its way out.

  • Can a sinus rinse make you feel worse?

    If done properly, a sinus rinse should not have any side effects. However, some people may experience a burning or stinging sensation in the nasal passages after a sinus rinse.

  • How can I clean my sinuses naturally?

    In addition to sinus rinse, you can promote sinus draining by keeping your nasal passages hydrated. To do this, drink plenty of water and other fluids, use a humidifier or nasal steamer, take a hot shower, or apply a warm compress to your forehead, cheeks, and nose. When you sleep, use extra pillows or a sleep wedge to keep your head elevated, which helps to drain the sinuses.

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

  3. UCLA Health. Ask the Doctors: Nasal irrigation may help, won't hurt COVID-19.

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.