How to Wash Your Nose: Comparing Tools for Sinus Flushing

Aug 16, 2022

Sinus flushing, nasal washing, neti potting - whatever you call it or tool you use, if you have hayfever, nasal or sinus congestion, or chronic sinus troubles, you’ve probably been advised to do it. Developed thousands of years ago by Ayurvedic medical practitioners in India, nasal washing is a part of daily health and hygiene for millions of people. Studies have shown it can improve symptoms of seasonal allergies and colds and help resolve and prevent sinus infections. Here in California, it can reduce inflammation from pollution including wildfire smoke.

When I recommend nasal washing to patients, I often hear the same things - “I don’t know how to do it right,” “it makes me feel like I’m drowning,”  “it’s too much hassle,” “I’m not sure how to do it safely.” 

Let’s start with that last one first and get it out of the way. Here’s the good news: using boiled or distilled water with salt added - which you should always do for nasal rinsing - will protect you from bacteria and other microorganisms you don’t want to put up your nose. So whichever tool you choose, always use sterile water (previously boiled and cooled or purchased) and you can flush your sinuses with peace of mind.

Nasal Sprays
Nasal sprays don’t offer quite the benefits of sinus flushing, but they can still be very helpful in flushing pollution and allergens out of the nose and helping you breathe easier. For those who can’t or won’t use neti pot or other methods, definitely give nose spray a try! At Energy Matters, we carry Xlear (“clear”) Xylitol and Saline nasal spray, which can be used daily, but there are other brands on the market that contain similar ingredients.
Pros: ready to use, inexpensive
Cons: not as thorough or effective, have to keep buying new ones

Neti Pot
The original and still great! Neti pots look like a small teapot, and use gravity to push sterile saline solution up one nostril, through the sinus cavity, and out the other nostril. They’re reusable, washable, portable, and once you get the hang of them, easy to use. At Energy Matters, we carry ceramic neti pots from Baraka, which are handcrafted in the US. I recommend choosing ceramic or stainless steel rather than plastic, for longevity and durability. Check out this video from Baraka for some how-to-use tips, or ask your practitioner for help if you’d like to learn how to use a neti pot.  How to Use a Baraka Neti Pot
Pros: Effective, sustainable, free after initial purchase
Cons: can be tricky, requires preparing solution and cleaning

Disposable Sinus Irrigators
There’s a growing number of these available as awareness of the benefits of sinus flushing has grown, and you can probably find them at your local drugstore. Completely disposable single use cans can be a good choice if you’re traveling, don’t have access to clean water, or can't prepare saline solution and clean equipment. I especially recommend these if you’re sick and need the easiest possible choice. Some brands include NeilMed and Ocean.
Pros: Effective, with no preparation or cleanup needed
Cons: creates lots of trash, have to keep buying

There are also repeat use disposable irrigators, like the NeilMed Sinus Rinse, which should be replaced every three months or so. They still need you to prepare a sterile saline solution and keep your equipment clean. The water is sent up your nostril by squeezing the plastic bottle, rather than tilting your head and using gravity, which some folks find easier. This is the tool I recommend for people who can’t get the hang of a neti pot or feel like they’re choking or drowning when they try. NeilMed Sinus Rinse
Pros: Effective, easy to use
Cons: requires preparation and cleanup, must be replaced regularly

Electric Sinus Irrigators
The new kids on the block are electric sinus irrigators, which use a variety of mechanisms to flush the sinuses. The Navage Nose Cleaner is inserted into both nostrils and uses suction.The Sinupulse is inserted into one nostril and sends a spray of water through the sinuses. We’ve had patients rave about both these devices, and there are other brands available that use similar technology. 
Pros: machine moves the water, no tilting or squeezing required, machines should last for years.
Cons: one-time expense to purchase, bulky, requires preparation and cleanup

In the end, what works is what works for you! Please let us know if you have a favorite device or questions about how to care for your nasal health.

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