Updated 11 August 2016

How to use a neti pot

Indians have been using the neti pot for millennia to ease nasal and sinus congestion. It is quick, cheap and effective and has no side effects if used correctly.


Every year millions of people are affected by sinus infections. Colds, allergies, pollutants and even dry or cold air can cause mucus build-up in the nasal cavities and sinuses – which can lead to discomfort and infections.

According to Mayo Clinic, medications like antihistamines can cause drowsiness, fatigue and other side effects. Many people therefore turn to age-old, natural remedies like flushing the sinuses. So-called nasal irrigation has the added benefit of removing irritants like dirt, dust and pollen.

Ayurveda, the age-old medical science from India, has traditionally used the neti pot as an alternative approach to ease nasal and sinus congestion. It is quick, cheap and effective and has no side effects if used correctly, the US Food and Drug Administration explains. The procedure is called Jala Neti in Sanskrit and means “water cleansing”.   

What is a neti pot?

A neti pot resembles a small teapot but has a longer spout. (Bulb syringes and squeeze bottles fulfil the same function.) The basic principle is that a saline solution is poured into one nostril by means of the neti pot and ends up flowing out the other nostril. It is also possible to let the salt water flow from the nostril into the mouth, clearing and disinfecting the post-nasal passage.

The process

The FDA recommends the following steps for nasal rinsing:

  • While leaning over a sink, tilt your head to the side with your forehead and chin on the same level.
  • Taking care to breathe through your mouth, insert the spout of the saline-filled container into your upper nostril. Slowly pour the liquid into the nostril and wait for it to drain through the lower nostril.
  • Gently blow your nose, then repeat the procedure through the other nostril.

Other benefits

According to the Chopra Centre, apart from clearing mucus and alleviating sinus infections, using a neti pot can also help reduce:

  • Snoring
  • Allergy symptoms
  • Nasal dryness
  • Sinus headaches
  • The need for medication
  • Problems with smell and taste
  • Breathing problems
  • Colds and flu

Read more:

'Neti pot' better than steam for sinus relief

Bacteria lurk behind sinus infections

Super tasters less prone to sinus woes


Ask the Expert

Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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