Neti Pot Water - What Type Is Best for Your Neti Pot Solution?
What IS neti pot water, anyway? Well, that depends on who you ask, because opinions vary so widely. But first, let's review the basics.
To mix your neti pot solution, you'll need two basic things: (1) salt or sinus-rinse/salt packets, and (2) pure water.
But what exactly does "pure" mean? This is an important question. Choose the ideal kind of water, and your sinuses will thank you. But choose the wrong kind, and your body will be anything but thankful.
Neti newbies often face conflicting information on neti pot water. Some people swear the water has to be boiled. Others say boiling is a waste of time. A few swear the water must distilled, while others say that buying distilled water is a big waste of money. And still others claim you can get your neti pot water straight from the tap, while others say this is risking nasal trouble or worse.
Confusing? Yup. So let's first review the basics.
When it comes to nasal irrigation, not all neti pot water is created equal. It must be pure, but what exactly does that mean? And how pure must it be?
Photo Credit: www.neti-netti-pot.com. Ok to use with attribution.
But overall, neti experts seem to favor these three options for nasal irrigation:
1. Boiled (and cooled) tap water.
2. Filtered water. (I'd still boil it though.)
3. Distilled water.
Well, being the experimental type, I've tried all of these, and this is what I found.
Option 1: Boiled (and Cooled) Tap Water
This was my first approach, and it worked just fine. Basically, what I did was get a little saucepan, fill it with tap-water, boil it for a few minutes on the stove, and let it cool for an hour or two before using it in the neti pot.
Remember, when using boiled water for nasal irrigation, you'll want to let the water boil for at least five minutes, not just to purify it from contaminants, but because that's how long it takes for the boiling process to release chlorine from the water. (We have decent tap water where I live, but I do smell the chlorine in my bathtub, which tells me this could be a potential problem. )
Boiled Tap Water: The Bottom Line
ADVANTAGES: Super cheap, easily accessible for most people.
DISADVANTAGES: Need decent tap water to begin with, doesn't allow for immediate gratification, because the water must cool first.
QUICK HINTS: Boil at least five minutes, and let it cool before using it for nasal irrigation.
Option 2: Filtered Neti Pot Water
One day, feeling impatient to use the neti pot, and not wanting to go through the boil-and-wait cycle, I simply used water from the Brita Pitcher
that I keep in our fridge. If you're unfamiliar with a Brita pitcher, it's basically a water pitcher with a little filter separating the top and bottom sections. You fill up the top section with water, watch it filter down to the bottom section, and put it in your fridge, so you have handy-dandy filtered water for drinking, and as it turns out, nasal irrigation. (Don't worry dinner guests, the Brita pitcher has never gotten within arm's reach of my neti pot, honest.)
What I did was use the pitcher to pour 8 ounces of the filtered water into a glass measuring cup, microwave the water to the right temperature, and then use the filtered, slightly warm water to create the neti pot solution. For me, this worked fine. It was quick, easy, and pretty darn cheap. And, according to the packaging on my Brita, this process DOES reduce chlorine.
However, this isn't the process I'd recommend, at least not completely. These days, I use a two-step process when not using distilled water. Basically, I start with filtered water from my Brita pitcher, and STILL pour it into a little saucepan and boil it. This might be overkill, but given the serious dangers that can result from using neti pot tap water, my mantra is better safe than sorry.
Filtered Water: The Bottom Line
ADVANTAGES: Relatively cheap and convenient, especially if you keep a Brita pitcher in your fridge anyway.
DISADVANTAGES: Although filtered water is more pure than straight tap-water, it's still not as pure as boiled or distilled water. Even if you do filter your water, I'd still recommend boiling it just to be extra-safe.
QUICK HINTS: Remember to change your Brita filter every two months or 40 gallons, or it will hurt your neti water purity.
Option 3: Distilled Neti Pot Water
Distilled water is some of the purest water you can get, which makes it a great choice for neti pots. Basically, distilled water is made by boiling water to remove impurities, and then condensing the steam into a clean container and selling it to folks who want to use it for their neti pots or to clean their contact lenses.
Since I don’t wear contacts, I stick with the neti pot option, and here's when. Sometimes, I put special mixes in my neti pot, like a dash of hydrogen peroxide or Alkalol. (As a quick reference, Alkalol is a nasal rinse made of herbal extracts. It is not to be confused with alcohol, which is tastier with tortilla chips, but useless for nasal irrigation.)
But I digress...
For some reason, when I'm using these more exotic neti pot recipes, my nasal passages seem more sensitive during the sinus irrigation process.
For example, I found that my Brita water didn't feel quite as comfy the first time I tried adding Alkalol to my neti pot water. However, when I used the Alkalol mixture with distilled water, it felt perfectly fine. No discomfort. (Looking back, I wonder, however, if the Brita discomfort was caused by the fact that my filter was due for a change.)
But anyway, I now buy distilled water for these special neti occasions. And, if I have a jug of distilled water on-hand already, I'll generally use it as my neti pot water for regular neti recipes.
But remember, distilled water is stored in plastic containers. As with anything stored in plastic, be wary of overheating, listen to your body if anything seems off, whether in taste, smell, or feel. We now know that plastic can break down if it becomes overheated, which can cause those plastic-substance chemicals to leech into your previously pure water. This doesn't happen often, especially when care is taken, but it's worth noting.
Distilled Water: The Bottom Line
ADVANTAGES: Relatively cheap, but not quite as cheap as the other options, ounce per ounce. Guaranteed pure. Easy to get at most grocery stores.
DISADVANTAGES: Not always convenient if you don't have it on-hand.
MORE INFO: Distilled water in your neti pot
What About Water Straight from the Tap?
Water straight out of the tap is supposed to be pure, but is it pure enough to irrigate your sinuses?
Maybe. But neti pot water straight from the tap can also be deadly. Water-quality can vary widely from city to city. And that alone should make you hesitate before filling your neti pot straight from the tap.
Besides, safety is a matter of degrees, and when city engineers and officials announce that a city's tap water is "safe for use," they generally mean safe for drinking and bathing, not necessarily for irrigating your sinuses.
In summary, straight tap water can be a VERY bad choice.
A Few More Notes About Neti Pot Water
So, what do I use in my neti pot these days?
If I have distilled water in the cupboard, I'll use it. But usually, I do the filtered-boiled combo. This means I filter the water first through my Brita pitcher, and then boil/cool it afterwards. This may be overkill, but I've been taking the "better safe than sorry" approach. This is especially true when I'm preparing a neti pot for my grade-schooler. You can't be too careful when kids are involved.
A Note About Neti Pot Water Quality
Obviously, the water quality in your area will play a huge role in which option you choose. I used to live in a city with water that turned my hair orange and tasted vaguely of rotten eggs. If I still lived there, and needed neti pot water, I'd probably skip the boiled or even filtered tap water, and go straight for distilled water. But since I'm fairly happy with the water quality of my current city, I feel safe starting with tap water, even if I do feel compelled to filter and boil it before putting it in my neti pot.
A Reminder About Neti Pot Water Temperature
Remember, you want the water to be comfy. Lukewarm is nice for clearing up congestion. And every once in a while, I'll neti with cool water when I feel like my sinuses need cool soothing. For neti pot water, moderation is key. It shouldn't be too hot or too cold. But just right. Like Goldilock's favorite porridge.
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Netti Pot: The Neti Pot Newbie's Guide to Nasal Irrigation