Neti Pot Salt: Options, Types & Warnings

Nasal irrigation fans know you know you need neti pot salt (in addition to neti pot water) to make your solution complete.

But not just any salt will do, especially when it comes to something you're going to put up your nose.

As a quick refresher, neti pot solution is basically a saline solution, otherwise known as salted water. Your water must be pure, and so will your salt. How pure? Let's put it this way, you definitely don't want to use the wrong kind of salt -- not in your neti pot, and not up your nose.

Your neti salt must be pure and non-iodized. It sounds simple. But when neti-salt shopping, you must be careful. To help, let's review your options and choices, along with a few warnings of what you WON'T want to use for neti pot salt.

Why Salt Is Needed. Before discussing salt types, it's important to understand why salt is needed in the first place and why you never, EVER want to use a neti pot without it.

You'll run into lots of options in your search for neti pot salt. There are five types of "salt" in this photo. If you read the labels, you'll see that only two are pure enough for nasal irrigation, (1) the little sinus rinse packet and (2) the kosher pickling salt in the big box. The other three have sneaky additions that aren't good for your sinuses.
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Sure, fresh water sounds nice. It's wonderful for drinking and bathing. If you're stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic, you'll definitely need it, because guzzling salt water won't keep you alive.

However, salt-free water is NOT the thing to use in your neti pot, because it's not nice for your nasal irrigation. Why? Because we humans are salty creatures. Our tears are salty. Our sweat is salty. Our cells are salty, and this includes the cells in our nasal passages.

By adding salt to the neti pot solution, we help ensure that our noses and sinus cavities don't "reject" the water we're pouring in -- a rejection that would cause pain, irritation, and a whole lot of sputtering. (Remember the last time you were in a swimming pool and had water go up your nose? Well, chances are this was fresh water, which definitely didn't help the situation.)

So, now that you're convinced that you need neti pot salt to irrigate your sinuses, (you ARE convinced, aren't you?), let's look at some of the different salts you'll encounter in your neti pot salt-search, and see if they're right for you.

Table Salt – Not the Best Neti Choice

Table salt is cheap, easy to find, and super-convenient. Just grab the shaker from the counter and sprinkle some right into your neti pot. After all, salt is salt, right?

Well, not really. And especially not when it comes to nasal irrigation.

Table salt, even the kind without iodine, can be found in your grocery aisle, but is it pure enough to put up your nose? Read the fine print, keeping a careful watch for those pesky anti-caking agents.
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In truth, very few table salts pass the neti pot salt test. Why? Because table salt is seldom pure enough to be considered an ideal neti pot salt.

The culprits? Yup, you guessed it -- iodine and anti-caking agents. If you're unsure what to look for, wWatch for anti-caking agents under technical sounding names like calcium silicate or yellow prussiate of soda.

Unhappily for nasal irrigation fans, you'll find iodine and anti-caking agents in the vast majority of table salts from your local grocery store or kitchen pantry. And these two elements might be fine for your french fries, but distinctly un-fine for your nasal cavities.

Above all, never use neti pot table salt from an unknown shaker. If you can't read the official salt label, this type of salt is best avoided in your neti pot solution.

For more details on label-checking, see this Caution Against Neti Pot Table Salt

Sea Salt, Maybe – Depending on the Kind

Many neti potters (not to be confused with Harry Potters) make sea salt their first choice for nasal irrigation. Ah, salt from the sea. It sounds nice and pure, doesn't it? Well, maybe it is. And maybe it isn't.

Although sea salt might seem a safer neti pot choice than regular table salt, that's not always the case. Checking the fine-print, these two salts aren't that much different, because they both contain anti-caking agents -- not good for nasal irrigation.
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Like most things, purity is a matter of degree. When buying sea salt for nasal irrigation, you'll need to check the label, or check with the salt manufacturer or distributor if the label is somehow unclear.

In this case, you'll especially want to read the fine print.

Remember, manufacturers don't always scream, "Now with anti-caking agents!" in big, bold letters. But check the ingredient list, and you'll see what's really important.

The main question -- has anything been added? What about iodine? Anti-caking agents? Special flavors or colors? When it comes to nasal irrigation, there's only one thing you want in your box of sea salt. And that's, well, actual sea salt.

After all, just because it's salt from the sea doesn't guarantee it's the kind of salt you want to "see" in your neti pot.

For more details, please see the Neti Pot Sea Salt Guide

Kosher Salt, Also Known as Pickling Salt

Neti newbies are often advised to buy "pickling salt" for use in their neti pot. But what is pickling salt, exactly? Salt from pickles? Kosher salt? Margarita salt?

For thrifty neti pot users, kosher salt, also known as pickling salt, can be a super-convenient, super-affordable neti pot salt option. But see those big, bold grains? They're not exactly the finely ground type generally recommended for your neti pot.
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Ok to use with attribution.

In truth, it can be all of these things – well, except it doesn't come from pickles. Pickling salt gets its name from the good old-fashioned days when people canned their own fruits and vegetables. And happily, this kind of salt has no iodine or anti-caking agents.

Aha! This sounds quite neti-friendly, doesn't it?

And it is, with a few disclaimers -- because in most ways, pickling/kosher salt is usually a nice option for nasal irrigation.

But it does have a few potential drawbacks. For starters, you'll want to perform your standard, in-depth label-check, keeping an eagle eye out for the usual non-neti-friendly culprits (iodine and anti-caking agents). If it says "safe for picking," you can be fairly certain it's pure enough, but it never hurts to check.

And if your salt passes the label test? At this point, it all comes down to the grain. Kosher/pickling salt isn't known for its fine grain. In fact, this type of salt is usually quite coarse. Of course, those big, bold granule sizes are what make this type of salt so festive for salting margaritas. Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of the fine grain that's generally recommended for your neti pot solution.

However, if you're the patient type and don't mind working a little harder for your salt to dissolve, this might be a great money saving option.

Update: Watch for the Ol' Switcharoo.Recently, I needed to buy more pickling salt for my neti pot, and guess what? The same exact brand of Kosher salt (Kroger, to be exact, pictured above), with the same picture on the front, now has anti-caking agents. The point? Always, ALWAYS check those labels. You never know when the manufacturer is going to pull a switch-a-roo on you.

For more details, please see the Kosher Neti Pot Salt Guide

Specialty Sinus Rinse or Neti Pot Salts

A terrific option for neti pot salt is a little something called, yup, you guessed it – neti pot salt. But what this sometimes means often has more to do with the packaging than the salt itself.

Pre-packaged neti pot salt (or sinus rinse) packets are more pricey than salt from the grocery aisle, but are super-convenient and often blended especially for nasal irrigation.
Photo Credit:
Ok to use with attribution.
For people new to nasal irrigation, one of the nicest things about these salts (or salt-blends) is that you know they're created especially for your neti pot solution, rather than for your french fries or margarita glasses.

In short, with this option, you don't need to check the label for anti-caking ingredients, iodine, or other non-neti-friendly things.

This specially packaged neti pot salt can run the gamut from extra-pure pharmaceutical-grade salt to packets of sinus rinse blends that contain buffering agents designed to make the nasal irrigation experience more comfy. But for some neti purists, comfort is relative, and purity is paramount, which is why many who practice traditional jala-neti don't add their own baking soda to their homemade neti pot solutions.

This Begs the Question: Are Specialty Neti Salts Worth the Money?

And Now Some Neti Pot Salt Warnings

Avoid Seasoning Salt for Your Neti Pot. There are some things you should never put in your nose, and seasoning salt is one of them. If you're unfamiliar with it, seasoning salt is that orangy-colored salt that makes fried potatoes taste so wonderful. But if you look at the ingredient list, you'll see it's much more than "pure salt," and that neat orange color should be your first clue that this isn't something you want anywhere near your nasal cavities.

Should You Add Your Own Baking Soda? In the professional-grade neti pot salt packets, many manufacturers add some sodium bicarbonate as a buffering agent. Because sodium bicarbonate is the technical name for baking soda, if you're like me, you might think "Hmmm...maybe I'll just create my own blend of salt and baking soda." I did consider this, but ultimately rejected it for two reasons (1) I don't trust myself to get the ingredient mix just right, and (2) I'm not sure I'd want to put baking-style baking soda up my nose. I suspect that the type of sodium bicarbonate used by neti pot salt manufacturers is slightly different (much like the salt is slightly different, purity-wise) than what we use for baking. So for me, I avoid adding my own baking soda for sinus irrigation. And I've never missed it.

More Neti Pot Warnings. Sneaky salt additions aren't the only thing that can derail your nasal irrigation experience. When looking to use a neti pot correctly, don't forget these other neti pot warnings and reminders.

To Learn More About Neti Pot Salt...

Neti Pot Salt FAQs - Iodine & More. Like your sinus cavities, the subject of salt goes much deeper than meets the eye. Why is there iodine in salt? Why is iodine bad for nasal irrigation? Why do some people add baking soda to their neti pot salt solution? Here are some common FAQs about salt for your neti pot.

Back to Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation Home Page

Netti pots and salt, they go great together and TERRIBLE apart. Anyone who's ever tried to use a netti pot without salt knows it's not a good idea. Why? Because if you skip the salt, it hurts like heck, that's why.

Salt Aids Cleansing and Helps Make It Comfy. When you add the right amount of salt to your neti solution, you'll barely feel the water flowing through your nasal passages, and you'll hardly believe that water is going "up" your nose. However, if you forget the salt (or salt/sinus rinse packets), you'll feel like you did when you were a little kid and accidentally got water up your nose in the YMCA swimming pool. Not good. No siree.

But What if the Netti Water Is Extra-Pure? Can I skip the salt then? Nope. I don't care if you boil the water, run it a dozen times from your Brita pitcher, buy it distilled, or ladle it from your own pure mountain stream, it won't matter. You NEED salt in the netti pot water to mimic your body's natural composition. If you skip the salt, water purity alone won't comfort you as you sputter and dab at your watery eyes.

And sadly, I'm talking from experience.


Quick Reference

Neti Pot Solution Recipe

Mix a slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon of fine, non-iodized salt in to 8 ounces of lukewarm water. For more about mixing a solution, please see my netti pot solution page.

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