How to Use a Neti Pot to Treat Congestion, Allergies, and Snoring

Some sleep disturbances, such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, may be worsened by nasal congestion. A simple device known as a neti pot can be helpful in relieving congestion. What is a neti pot? How do you use a neti pot to treat nasal congestion, allergies, sinus infections, and snoring? Explore the answers and discover whether a neti pot might help difficulty breathing at night.

adult woman using neti pot
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What Is a Neti Pot?

A neti pot is a fluid-filled vessel that is used to flush or rinse the sinuses and nasal passages with warm water. It is a specially designed small container often made of ceramic or plastic that is shaped like a flattened tea pot. It typically is lidded and has a spout on one end and a handle on the other. The size may vary, but most can hold about one cup or eight ounces of fluid. They are typically filled with sterile water and a mixture of salt or baking soda. This saline water matches the body's salinity. Neti pots are often sold over the counter in pharmacies or online and usually cost between $8 and $20.

When to Use a Neti Pot

The use of neti pots can be traced back several centuries, and they are most often used in modern times to treat difficulties breathing related to the nose. Environmental allergies or infection may lead to inflammation of the nasal passage and associated sinuses. This may lead to nasal congestion and difficulties breathing as well as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Sinus problems may also cause headaches and facial pain. Some people prefer to use a neti pot rather than medications to alleviate these symptoms.

The neti pot is a method of nasal irrigation. In other words, it is used to rinse out your nose and the connected sinuses. The rationale for this is that the process clears out any debris, such as mucus, that may be obstructing your ability to breathe.

You may consider using a neti pot if you have difficulty breathing through your nose, especially if you have a history of environmental allergies or sinusitis or sinus infections. It may be helpful for people who have colds or are exposed to large amounts of dust as part of their jobs (i.e. construction work, mining, farming).

Studies have shown saline irrigation methods like the neti pot to be more effective than steam inhalation for sinus symptoms. Specifically, researchers found that among nearly 900 people, 77% saw improvement within three months and even greater improvement in symptoms by six months, with fewer headaches, less use of over-the-counter medications, and decreased intentions to see a doctor for future sinus episodes.

If one side of your nose is completely blocked, you should not try to force water into it. People with a deviated septum or prior ear surgeries may wish to speak to their doctors prior to using a neti pot.

How to Use a Neti Pot

The neti pot is filled with sterile water and, often, a mixture of salt (sodium chloride) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Salt alone may also be used. There are recipes available to make your own solution at home. For example, you can take equal parts of non-iodized salt and baking soda, mix them thoroughly, and store them in a dry place. Then 1 teaspoon of the mixture can be added to 2 cups of warm water. If you prefer, you can also buy professional-grade ingredients that are pre-mixed. It is very important that you use sterile (distilled or boiled) water in any neti pot rinse, because there is a risk of serious, life-threatening infection if you use plain tap water.

When you are ready to irrigate your nose, you should start by washing your hands with soap and water. You can then fill your neti pot with warm sterile water. Add the salt or mixture of salt and baking soda. Put the lid on the neti pot and cover the spout with your finger before agitating the solution to dissolve the mixture.

Next, stand over a sink with your head tilted slightly to the side. You may wish to tip your head forward and tuck your chin to prevent water from getting into your mouth or throat. Put the spout of the neti pot to your nostril and begin slowly pouring the fluid into your nose. The water should pour into one nostril and gradually flow into your nose and out of the other nostril (the nostrils are connected at the top). You can breathe through your mouth during the irrigation. After you have finished pouring in the solution, you can blow your nose very gently to clear out the residual solution. A small amount of water remaining in your nose is not harmful. You may perform these rinses several times per day as needed.

How to Clean a Neti Pot

It is important to keep your neti pot clean to prevent infections or contamination by mold. Once you are finished using it, empty out any remaining solution. Take off the lid and clean the neti pot thoroughly with soap and water. You may even wish to let it soak in hot water. The dishwasher may not completely clean out the spout, since the dishwasher water will not penetrate into it. You may want to microwave your neti pot to help get it really clean. It is recommended that you thoroughly clean and dry it after each use. It should then be stored in a clean and dry place.

Side Effects

Most people tolerate the use of a neti pot quite well without suffering any adverse side effects. The first time you irrigate your nose, you may experience some mild burning or stinging sensations. This may due to too much or too little salt in the saline solution. It is also possible that the irrigation may actually cause nasal congestion, but this will typically resolve on its own. Nosebleeds may occur rarely. It is very common for the irrigation solution to drain down the back of your throat, but this is not harmful. You may also find you need to blow your nose for several minutes after the irrigation.

If you do not adequately clean your neti pot, or if you use water that is not sterile, you may be at risk for serious infections. Mold or other contaminants may lurk in an unclean neti pot and could be harmful. In addition, there is a risk for an extremely rare but deadly infection.

There have been several infections affecting neti pot users in the southern United States. These infections have been caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri that might contaminate tap water. The amoeba is also found in lakes and ponds in the South during the summertime. It causes an infection of the brain and surrounding layer (meninges) called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. Symptoms of this infection may include headache, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and coma. It is almost always fatal, and 95% of people infected with N. fowleri die within two weeks. Though scary, the infection is extremely rare, with only 133 cases reported between 1962 and 2014. You can avoid it by using sterile water for nasal irrigation.

A Word From Verywell

Although using a neti pot is not advocated as a cure for snoring or sleep apnea, it may help to improve symptoms of nasal congestion. In theory, this might have a mild impact on alleviating or reducing snoring. It is unlikely to have any significant effect on sleep apnea, since this condition often involves other tissues of the upper airway, such as the tonsils, adenoids, and soft tissues of your mouth and throat.

However, neti pots may be beneficial in making other therapies, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), more tolerable. If your nose is stuffed up, pressurized air delivered by CPAP may not be as effective. Some people may be helped by the use of decongestants and nasal steroids. And, by the same measure, the use of a neti pot may help you to breathe and sleep better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much salt do you put in a neti pot?

    The recommended ratio is one-fourth to one-half a teaspoon of salt for every eight ounces of water. Be sure to use non-iodized salt.

  • Can you use a neti pot every day?

    Yes. Some people suggest using a neti pot several times a day, but once daily should be sufficient to get any benefits from the process. Studies show that nasal irrigation once a day does offer some help for sinus symptoms.

  • What kind of solution goes into a neti pot?

    You can purchase prepared nasal irrigation solutions or make your own. Use only distilled water or water that has been boiled (to purify it) and cooled. Add non-iodized salt, which will not irritate nasal passages like ionized salt would.

9 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.
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  2. The Medical Center of Plano. Relieve sinus pressure with a neti pot. What’s a neti pot?.

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

  4. Little P, Stuart B, Mullee M, et al. Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2016;188(13):940-949. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160362

  5. Meera S, Vandana rani M, Sreedhar C, Robin DT. A review on the therapeutic effects of NetiKriya with special reference to JalaNeti. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2019. doi:10.1016/j.jaim.2018.06.006

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sinus rinsing for health or religious practice.

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  8. Northwell Health. Your Nose Knows—It Needs A Neti Pot.

  9. Little P, Stuart B, Mullee M, et al. Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2016;188(13):940-949. doi:10.1503%2Fcmaj.160362

Additional Reading

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.