Whether you’re fighting off a cold, the flu, or seasonal allergies, a sinus-rinse kit or neti pot — nasal irrigation tools to help clear sinus congestion — can help loosen thick mucus, which can allow sinuses to clear better. I personally use one during allergy season or whenever I get a stuffy nose, and it clears me up almost immediately. And while the sensation of water running through my nasal passages is deeply unpleasant for me, the ability to breathe easier afterward is always worth it.
Even when your nose isn’t stopped up, nasal irrigation tools can help to clean out dirt, irritants, and allergens from the nose, says Dr. Roheen Raithatha, an ENT doctor at ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP. While not all doctors we spoke to think a nasal irrigation system is necessary for everyday use, they all said it can come in handy for symptoms like allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis. Finding the right tool for you, however, can be difficult. To help you find the best sinus rinse or neti pot for combatting congestion, I consulted a panel of experts and tested some recommendations below.
And one note before use: Because all of the sinus rinses and neti pots are making direct contact with the inside of your nose with each use, all of them are meant to be used by only one person and not shared. Also, all of the doctors we spoke to emphasized the importance of cleaning your device after each use. “The tips of the bottles and insides of the bottles can get contaminated or colonized with bacteria, which you do not want to introduce to your nose,” explains Voigt. While always good practice, it’s especially important to clean whatever you use if you’re sick because you don’t want to rinse your nose with contaminated water.
What we’re looking for
“If you’re going to be using these products, start with the most gentle and work your way up to the more pressurized ones depending on how you feel,” says Dr. Erich Voigt, M.D., an associate professor in the department of otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health. Most of the rinses and neti pots listed release a gentle to medium amount of pressure, so they’re safe to start out with. If you know you have thick mucus or have tried gentler methods already, we’ve noted which ones provide more intense pressure.
Nasal irrigation comes in a variety of methods. There are rinses, sprays, mists, neti pots, and even battery-operated devices. Dr. Anne Maitland, a doctor at Clinical Paradigms, LLC, and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is a proponent of daily rinsing and says it comes down to preference. “People have to recognize what they’re willing to do. Some people are diligent enough to mix up a solution into distilled water and some aren’t,” she says.
Some of the rinses listed offer different-size tips, which Dr. Clifford Bassett, the medical director at Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, finds helpful. These tips can offer spray or squirt functions, or they can change the amount of water that flows through the nasal passages.
All of the products mentioned use some type of saline solution, and most come with premixed solution packets or pods that require distilled, filtered, or pre-boiled water. All of the doctors we spoke to emphasized that regular tap water should never be used because “there are cases where people have used tap water or unclean water and have given themselves infections inside of their nose and sinuses,” Voigt explains. We’ve noted which rinses and neti pots don’t require mixing and which do. And we also mention how many packets each product comes with, so you know how many uses you can get before having to order more.
Pressure: Gentle to medium | Method: Pressurized can mist, spray, or rinse | Tips: Three interchangeable tips | Solution: Pre-mixed (no packets necessary)
This mist was the easiest of all the methods I tried because it doesn’t require any prep before use. The pressurized can is ready to go out of the box and comes with three different tip attachments for misting, spraying, and rinsing. The attachments allow for varying pressures, misting being the least amount and rinsing being the most. After trying out all three, it seems that the misting and spraying tips are good for everyday use but less effective for when I was stopped up. On a day I had a stuffy nose, I tried out the rinsing tip, and it helped clear me out almost instantly. Because the tips are detachable, they can be cleaned after every use as recommended.
Maitland, who recommends mists for everyday use, keeps a pressurized can by her toothbrush and uses hers every night after brushing her teeth. She adds that its design is easily portable, too. Raithatha, who recommends NeilMed’s products to patients, says some folks also prefer this to a neti pot because they don’t have to tilt their head to let the saline flow through the nose. Because it’s so versatile and user-friendly and doesn’t require much prep, this convenient NeilMed pressurized can is our best overall pick.
Best sinus rinse
Pressure: Gentle to medium | Method: Squeeze bottle rinse | Tips: One tip | Solution: Two solution packets for multiple uses
When Maitland has a “full-blown sinus infection,” she employs a NeilMed squeeze bottle. Like the aforementioned pressurized can, this doesn’t require any head tilting, but you will have to mix the provided solution yourself. When I tested the Ready Rinse, I boiled filtered water (to be safe), let it cool to a lukewarm temperature, and mixed the solution in the squeeze bottle. All of this took about 30 minutes, mainly because it took a while to wait on the water to cool. Afterward, I employed the rinse to one of my stuffed up nostrils and watched a steady stream of water and mucus out of the other. It was as effective as using the above with its rinse tip, and I appreciated being able to control the pressure since I was squeezing the bottle myself. Strategist contributor Priya Rao, who suffers from “raging sinus infections,” likes this effortless solution, which requires “no contorting or gagging” that can come with neti pots. Since using it twice a day (and even more in the summertime when her air conditioner is on full blast), she “can literally breathe easier.”
Best neti pot
Pressure: Gentle | Method: Plastic neti pot | Tips: One soft tip | Solution: 30 single-use solution packets
My mom is a firm believer in the neti pot. About 15 years ago, she started running regularly outdoors, and her allergies were so bad that she suffered from sinus infections almost every other month. Her doctor recommended a neti pot, and since then, it’s been her go-to way to prevent sinus infections. She’s also tried sinus rinses, but she swears a neti pot is “much more thorough and effective.” And because she has a deviated septum, the saline solution rinses through her entire nasal passage instead of just flushing out one side. Voigt, who highly advises people to start with a gentler rinse, likes that the “classic neti pot is very gentle. You’re just pouring the water on one side, tilting your head, and letting gravity work its way through.” All of the experts we spoke to emphasized the importance of cleaning the neti pot after each use, with Maitland and Bassett advising to get a dishwasher-safe device for less fuss. This one from SinuCleanse is safe to place on the top rack of a dishwasher, comes with 30 single-use solution packets, and features a no-spill cap and a soft, latex-free nasal tip.
Best porcelain neti pot
Pressure: Gentle | Method: Neti pot | Tips: One tip | Solution: 30 single-use solution packets
When Maitland does use a neti pot, she prefers that it’s made out of clay, noting that the off-gas from plastic neti pots can pose an issue for some people. This NeilMed neti pot is porcelain, so it’s a bit denser and more durable than other ceramic neti pots. Like the plastic neti pot, it’s important to clean this after every use, and this one’s conveniently dishwasher-safe. It also comes with 30 solution packets that you would need to mix with pre-boiled, distilled, or filtered water.
Best battery-powered sinus-rinse kit
Pressure: Intense | Method: Suction irrigation system | Tips: Two tips | Solution: 30 single-use solution pods
The Navage may not be for everyday use — it’s for days you’re really stuffy. It’s a machine that “runs the saline solution through your nose on one side and then vacuums it out on the other,” explains Maitland. She owns one herself and takes it out when she’s “feeling industrious.” It’s more intense than the other methods mentioned in the article, but Maitland promises it “works really well” when she has a sinus infection. The Navage uses single-use solution pods, so there’s no actual mixing necessary, but you’ll still have to fill its water tank with distilled, filtered, or pre-boiled water.
Best battery-powered sinus-rinse kit with different tips
Pressure: Gentle to intense | Method: Pulsating irrigation system | Tips: Four interchangeable tips | Solution: 30 single-use solution packets
This SinuPulse irrigation system comes with four interchangeable tips, which come in handy for “adjusting the actual water flow into your nasal passages,” according to Bassett. Even further, this device has an EZ Touch button that lets you adjust the pressure of the water, so you don’t accidentally cause trauma to your nasal passages. It can also help if you have thicker mucus, according to Voigt. He recommends pressurized devices to patients who have chronic sinusitis, meaning their mucus is “really thick and dense, almost like a flu-like mucus.”
Best less-expensive battery-powered sinus-rinse kit
Pressure: Medium | Method: Pulsating irrigation system | Tips: One tip | Solution: 30 solution packets
This NeilMed device comes at a fraction of the price of the other battery-operated sinus-rinse kits. It’s not as intense as the Navage, but it’s an inexpensive choice if you want a pulsating nasal rinse with more pressure than the non-battery-powered choices. It comes with one detachable tip and doesn’t allow control over the amount of water released. This makes it a simple, straightforward device. Plus fewer attachments means it takes up a lot less counter space.
Best sinus rinse for kids
Pressure: Gentle | Method: Squeeze bottle rinse | Tips: One tip | Solution: 60 premixed solution packets
For kids, Maitland and Voight both say it’s important for adults to administer something that’s very gentle so the child isn’t traumatized by the experience. And while neti pots are gentle, it’s unlikely that a child would tolerate the discomfort and head-tilting that comes with using it. Raithatha recommends NeilMed’s sinus rinse because of how inexpensive, accessible, and effective it is. Also, with the squeeze bottle, the adult administering the solution has more control over the amount of solution getting released, unlike a pressurized can or other methods.
• Marie Avila, supervising physical therapist
• Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director at Allergy & Asthma Care of NY
• Dr. Anne Maitland, M.D. at Clinical Paradigms, LLC, and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
• Dr. Erich Voigt, MD, associate professor in the department of otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health
• Dr. Roheen Raithatha, ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP
• Priya Rao, Strategist contributor
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