DIY Saline Nasal Washes

Yesterday, I wrote

there’s nothing sexy about respiratory symptoms, breath tests, and body fluids.

Today, I say let’s explore that idea further and talk about saltwater in your nose. Nasal irrigation is all the rage lately. Didn’t you know?

Just this week I’ve participated in an email back-and-forth about saline washes with a regular reader, the New York Times published this article about neti pots on January 3, and apparently Oprah had a show on the little pots last spring, too.

Here’s the skinny on the saline:

Nasal irrigation involves pouring or squirting a saline solution into one nostril and letting it run out the other one

While the process sounds disgusting, it’s a pretty effective and non-medicinal way to clean out excess mucus during colds, allergy attacks, asthma flares, and acute sinusitis.

Nasal washes also keep the inside of your nose moist to prevent dry sinus pain during colds.

The neti pot, featured on both Oprah and in the article above, is a small vessel that holds and pours the solution. It’s originally from India.

Repeat readers know I shy away from offering unsolicited advice, but today I’m making an exception because–and I mean this in the most sincere way–nasal irrigation is like a freaking miracle. I may not have asthma, but when I developed chronic sinusitis 3 or 4 years ago, it helped clear my problem with repeat infections when I was facing sinus surgery as a last resort. Even now, I use saline washes to prevent infection at even the tiniest sign of congestion or that telltale facial pain around my left eye that signals the onset of massive sinus pain and misery.

I’m including some medical links at the end of this post rather than just write about my own experience, but trust me. Nasal washes really work for me. If you decide to try them, too, you’ll probably see what I mean.

Literally. You’ll see in the sink exactly what the saline cleaned out of your nose, and I don’t think I need to go into any more detail here.

In true advocate form, once nasal irrigation helped me I started getting AG to do them, too.

I prefer to mix my own solution and use the squirt/syringe method rather than this neti pot procedure. Bulb syringes force the saline into your nose more powerfully than the gentle stream of the neti pot, but I feel like it works better. Then again, chronic sinusitis and the prospect of those horrible headaches means I’ll do whatever takes to dislodge the stubborn mucus before it infects, but you don’t have to. For overall health and prevention or for kids, the more gentle neti method appears to work just fine.

Here’s how to mix and use your own nasal washes without a neti pot, per my ENT.

First, buy a quart-size plastic container with a watertight lid that pours. Like this:


Then buy some sort of syringe or bulb dropper for the liquid, like this:


Check your drugstore for these. This one is actually a nasal aspirator for babies, and I like it because it comes apart easily for washing.

Next, add the following:

–1 quart of water
–2 teaspoons of uniodized salt (iodized can irritate your nose)
–1 teaspoon of baking soda

Close the lid, and shake everything up. To use, pour a little saline mixture into a bowl, suck it up into the syringe/aspirator/whatever, and then squirt it into one of your nostrils while leaning forward over the sink. Anything you squirt into one nostril will of course pour right out of the other one, and it can get messy. You’ll have to blow your nose a few times afterward, too.

Want to learn more? Read these:

How Nasal Irrigation Can Help Allergies and Asthma

Mayo Clinic Video

Nasal Washes for Children

New Research Suggests Long-Term Nasal Washes May Hurt More Than Help

101 responses to “DIY Saline Nasal Washes”

  1. blessedmomof4 says:

    Hey Amy!
    Loved todays post. I am all about sinus washing now. It’s funny b/c I love talking about this kind of stuff, b/c it is non-medicated, safe and effective! Wish more Dr.’s had their acts together and would share the effective methods instead of just prescribing drugs and more drugs…….Thanks for posting the way to make your own saline :) . I have little packets, but when I run out, I will make my own……now do you make up a new batch each day you use it, correct.? Or you refrigerate the plastic storage container? I guess it would stay clean and bacteria free since you are pouring out into a separate bowl to use. Thanks again for all you do and all your great info! I still havent convinced my 14 yr. old that it’s awesome, but i have my 11 and 7 yr. olds using them :) ……..

  2. Asthma Mom says:

    Exactly why I love this stuff, too (in addition to AG’s regular meds, of course). So few non-medical measures actually work, but this one works SO consistently.

    I make up a new batch every few days when I’m using it regularly, and never keep it more than a week. As far as I know, you don’t have to refrigerate it b/c it only contains salt, water, and baking soda but I do throw it out after a week and make up a new batch just to be safe.

    (btw–AG, like your 14-yo, finds nasal irrigation in no way awesome, but she likes sinus infections even less so she’s stopped complaining about it, at least. Not that I can blame her.)

  3. AndieBeck says:

    AWESOME post Amy, thank you soooo much! I am a huge fan of using saline sprays – I buy them from the drugstore and they are costly. (my favourite is Hydrasense – it has a dolphin on the bottle). They are a bit different – you spray in and let the guck get washed down the back of your throat. But it is really, amazingly fantastic. The homemade version will be a lot less costly so I’ll give it a try when my dolphins run out. I now consider it part of good personal hygiene … I spray myself & my 3.5 yo son (my darling w/ allergies etc.) and I give saline drops (Salinex) to my 18 mo daughter. My dh is a bit of a harder sell but he uses it when he is sick.


  4. Asthma Mom says:

    Sure thing, Andie. Let me know how it works for you–AG would definitely rather do the saline spray than an actual wash, too, but the washes just help so much better. (And I completely agree w/you about personal hygiene.)

  5. Judy says:

    I’ve dealt with painful sinus every winter for years. My nose is dry and stuffy and I can hardly breathe. Three weeks ago I began nasal washes twice daily and it’s miraculous! No drug could work this well for me! I prefer a ceramic neti pot instead of the store plastic bottle. And mix my own solution using distilled water, iodine-free salt and baking soda. I am suspicious that the little syringe/bulb method might introduce infection??? How could you keep the bulb meticulously clean? Surely it would suck up your own germs even ever so slightly? I resist using plastic anyway, simply because I can taste and smell the plastic. Hence much prefer the ceramic neti pot.

  6. Amy says:

    Hi there, and I’m so glad they’re helping you, too. I swear, nasal washes are a godsend for me.

    Salt kills bacteria, so there’s no way to really reinfect yourself while using it. My ENT does recommend washing the bulb after each use, however, and mine comes apart easily so I can throw it in my very hot dishwasher.

    I do like the neti pots–I’m just so prone to sinusitis that I need the stronger force of the bulb, unfortunately. :)

  7. lpnmon says:

    I’ve just started using these, and find that for about a half hour after I use it, every time I lean over, more saline comes out of my nose. Is that normal? Those of you using them on little kids, how do you get them to do it?

  8. Amy says:

    Hi LPN Mom,
    Good to “see” you again. The same thing happens to me after 1/2 hour or so—one thing that helps: after I finish the washes, I’ll bend my head over (upside down, basically) to kind of shake free anything that’s left in there.

    AG was around 6 (I think) when I started using them on her while she was sick, so I don’t have experience with really little kids. If you don’t get an answer here in the comments, I’ll repost your question this week, if that’s okay.

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  10. Mrs.Pass says:

    I know this is a really old post, but curious if anyone can tell me a way to also clear the mucous from the back of my throat. The above worked wonders for my nose but my upper/back part of my throat stays congested as well and am finding it hard to eat without anything getting stuck. Any thoughts?

  11. Brandie says:

    Mrs. Pass gargle with salt water. It works for both symptoms I suffer from when my sinuses are a mess, the drainage down my throat and dryness because I can’t breathe through my nose all the time. Same concept with the nasal irrigation but for your throat :D . Hope that helps.

  12. Linda Henry Terry says:

    I use this solution all the time and it is AMAZING!!! Had been looking for a recipe for this, since it gets expensive to buy the bottles of spray, plus it’s more effective and thorough….thanks for this post!!!

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