Buffered Hypertonic (3%) Saline Nasal Irrigation


Personal findings

In 2018-2019, I was having a lot of sinus infections (10 over a period of 18 months) despite doing daily sinus washes. I changed two things, and haven't had an infection since.

First, I quit using a nose bulb syringe to draw up my nose water. I have a strong suspicion that its largely unwashable nature may have been the source of the bacteria that was getting into my sinuses. I shifted back to a neti pot, something I'd used years before. This time, though, I got a washable ceramic one which I periodically sterilize using the dishwasher's "sanitize" setting. Here's the one I bought:

washable neti pot, Comfy brand

Second, I started using only distilled water for the sinus mix described below.

The rest of this, below, is largely unchanged from when I put it up in 1996.


The Benefits

When you irrigate, the hypertonic saline (salt water) acts as a solvent and washes the mucous crusts and other debris from your nose.

  1. The higher salt concentration pulls fluid out of the swollen membranes and shrinks them. This decongests and improves the air flow into your nose. The sinus passages begin to open.
  2. Studies have also shown that high concentration salt water and an alkaline (baking soda) improves nasal membrane cell function (mucocilliary flow of mucous debris).


How to create the mix
  1. Choose a one-quart covered glass jar that is thoroughly cleansed. Fill with tap water. You do not need to boil water. You may use bottled water.
  2. Add 2-3* heaping teaspoons of pickling/canning salt (search on Amazon), not table salt, as it contains a large number of additives.
    *NOTE: Tom had an appointment with Dr. Cook January 7, 2002. At that appointment, they talked about the hypertonic saline solution. Something new had come out that every two months it was good to shift the makeup from 2:1 salt:baking soda mix to a 1:1 solution to let the sinus membranes rest for a couple of weeks.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (pure bicarbonate).
  4. Mix ingredients together and store at room temperature. Discard after one week. If you find this solution too strong, you may decrease the amount of salt added to 1- 1/2 teaspoons. With children, it is often best to start with a milder solution and advance slowly.


The Instructions

You should plan to irrigate your nose with buffered hypertonic saline 2-3 times per day. You may use a bulb/ear syringe, large medical syringe (30cc) or Water Pic with irrigation tip.

[Personal note: A later ENT said a Water Pic would be horrible for my post-surgery sinuses. And, as I mention at the top, I think the bulb/ear syringe I was using in 2018-2019 was the source of some infections I was getting. I believe a washable neti pot is a better vehicle for the wash mix. On to the handout...]

Always pour the amount of fluid you plan to use into a clean blow. DO NOT put your used syringe back into the quart because it contaminates your solution. Many people prefer to warm the solution slightly in the microwave -- but be sure the solution is NOT HOT. Stand over the sink (some people do this in the shower) and squirt the solution into each side of your nose aiming the stream toward the back of your head, NOT the top of your head. This allows you to spit the salt water out of your mouth. It will not harm you if you swallow a little.

For younger children you may want to place the solution into a pump spray container such as "Ocean" spray or a nasal steroid container and squirt several times into each side of the nose. DO NOT FORCE your child to lay down. It is much easier to do in a seated or standing position.

If you have been told to use a nasal steroid such as Vancenase, Beconase or Nasacort, you should always use the hypertonic saline solution first and then use your nasal steroid product. The nasal steroid is much more effective when sprayed onto clean nasal membranes and the steroid medicine will reach deeper into the nose.

Most people experience a slight burning sensation the first few times they use the hypertonic saline solution, but this usually goes away in a few days.

This information came from Wes' very thorough allergist, Dr. Robert Cook at Central Texas Allergy & Asthma Center. Standard disclaimers apply.

Want to buy your solution pre-mixed? You might try nasopure.


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