By: Sean [2005-09-21]

Neti Pot

I have problem nostrils.

I have problem nostrils. Ask anyone who's ever shared not just a room but even a house with me and they will tell you about the snoring, which is less like snoring and more like gagging, strangulated gasps and wheezes that I make during the night. It sounds, in all seriousness, as though I am dying. Of murder.

And it's been that way since I was a kid. In an attempt to enable easier breathing, my mother used to put three or even four pillows under my head when I went to sleep at night, propping me up at an angle only a few degrees away from fully sitting up. When I think back on it today, what comes to mind is the Elephant Man, and how he had to sleep sitting up or he would die. It's a good thing I didn't know about the Elephant Man when I was a kid, or else I probably would have gotten the idea that I suffered the same affliction as him, and my mother -- bless her soul -- just didn't want to tell me, ruining my self-esteem and preventing me from reaching my full potential as something that someone with neurofibromatosis can become, such as a freak.

Another favorite was Vicks VapoRub. My mother and sister, for reasons unknown to me, believe that any kind of thick gooey slime rubbed onto the skin can work miracles. See lotion. Hand lotion, they believe, is not only beneficial but also necessary, despite the majority of the population getting on just fine without it. See Aloe. It doesn't even have a discernable intended purpose. See that Royal Jaffra Bee Jelly stuff. See lip balm. See Vicks freaking VapoRub.

So there I was, if you can picture this, wee Seanny, on my back, propped up on four pillows with the first four buttons of my flannel jammies undone like some kind of sleazy lounge singer, chest aslather in menthol goo. Though I don't remember it happening, I'm sure I must have woken up on several occasions with dead bugs stuck to my chest -- bugs who landed there during the night, probably with dubious intentions (I am like mosquito Moët et Chandon), got stuck, and perished. A grisly La Brea Tar Pits-like scene played out in miniature, just inches away from my sleeping, angelic face.

The problem with both of these methods -- the pillows and the VapoRub -- is that they're geared toward someone who sleeps on his back, which I do not. This may be a blessing, though; another one of my many unfortunate characteristics is that I drool in my sleep, a lot, and if I ever did manage to fall asleep in menthol-fresh Elephant Man configuration, there is the very real possibility that I'd have drown.

Other things were tried: humidifiers, allergy remedies, special soap, excessive vacuuming and dusting. None of it ever made a difference. The last possible explanation being that I am simply allergic to air, I was resigned to living with my ever-stuffy nose. Oddly enough, it's only ever one nostril at a time, though whether it's the left or the right varies by the day. And it's not a snotty stuffiness. It's more like what I would call a constricted nostril, as though the diameter of the airway was somehow reduced -- almost shut.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I first read about Neti Pots.

A Neti Pot, for those of you not in the new-age-bullshit-know, is a little teapot-looking majigger with a phallic-looking spout designed to be inserted into your nose. Tilt your head and angle slightly down, and water flows in one nostril and out the other, clearing away long-forgotten mucous and debris.

And this is where I got real interested: long-forgotten mucous and debris. From what I read on several Neti Pot-oriented websites (which -- and this should have been a warning sign -- also often had sections on runes and crystals), mucous can sort of linger way back in your sinuses, drying out and making its permanent home there. Timeless, hardened mucous dating back to dark ages of old, forgotten by all but these fringe-dewllers, in harmony with nature and things that modern man in his journey from the savannas to the cities has long since forgotten. And this simple little pot would help me rehydrate it and flush it into the sewer.

So I ordered my Neti Pot, a simple blue affair for under six euros, and within the week it arrived. And on the day it arrived, it was the right nostril.

I took it into the bathroom and ran some lukewarm water. Now, according to what I read, you're actually supposed to boil the water first, to purify it, and let it cool down before pouring it into your head. But come on, I drink my tap water all the time, surely it must be germ-free, right? Another rule I read is that you're supposed to use a saline solution instead of plain water, but not having any non-iodized salt and being impatient, I skipped that too.

And there I was. Standing over the sink, Neti Pot full of lukewarm water, right nostril full of the mucous of an ancient and dark age. I figured that since it was the right nostril that was plugged, it'd be better to pour the water into the left one, forcing the blockage out the nearest exit. Jesus this was going to be easy. I hefted the Neti Pot, tilted my head to the right, and in a maneuver which has given me feelings of confusion which I'm still working my way through, on a personal level, I carefully guided the Neti Pot into my open, waiting nostril.

What came to mind was those plastic, reusable children's curly straws that are so long you can see your beverage actually moving through them, as the water snaked its way to the back of my nose and turned the corner. The wrong corner, apparently, I realized, as water started dribbling out my mouth. But within a moment I'd realized that mouth-breathing was necessary to staunch the flow, and began taking slow, deep breaths, minimizing the time between them when water could (and did) flow on its natural course out my mouth and to the sea. Luckily I'm a natural mouth-breather, so this proved no problem.

And this is where it began to get unpleasant. You know that burning sensation you get in the molten core of your head when you've accidentally snucked up a big noseful of water in the pool? And how it reflexively triggers that intense fear and belief that you're about to die? Imagine a long, sustained version of that, except there's also a blue phallus wedged firmly into your left nostril, and you will have an idea of what I was thinking would be preferable to the discomfort the Neti Pot was causing me at that moment. And also, no water was coming out the right nostril. Why wasn't the Neti Pot melting my prehistoric snot like warm butter and sending it down the drain to hell where it belonged? Maybe it's because I skimped on the salt, I thought. Salt kills slugs, and slugs are made of snot. It sounded reasonable.

I stood. And I waited. Jesus, my bathroom sink needed to be cleaned. I looked at the white calcium buildup encrusting the faucet and thought of my decision not to purify the water. Maybe the Neti Pot could use a little help, I thought, and exhaled gently through my nose in an attempt to join forces with the Neti Pot's mighty water pressure and force the blockage out my right nostril. But all that happened was that the Neti Pot started bubbling, like a child's bubble pipe. It crossed my mind briefly that I should try and find a classy way to do this in public, but decided that unless the Neti Pot got with the goddam program, it would not be coming out with me, in a social context, ever.

It was about now that I got fed up. Fed up with the Neti Pot, fed up with its games. Water which had bubbled out the top of the Neti Pot was now running down my arms. Water that had escaped out my mouth between breaths was running down my chin and onto my shirt. Water seemed to be coming out of everywhere except where I wanted it to. I was wet, and my sinuses were burning. It wasn't working. I pulled the Neti Pot out of my nose, set it down, and yanked a few squares of toilet paper from the dispenser with my wet hand. I put the toilet paper up to my wet face, plugged my left nostril, and blew for all I was worth. When what came out flew right through the flimsy, wet paper and onto my hand, I let out a startled "augh!" and pulled my hand back. The wet paper, however, stuck to my face, fell down and even -- and this makes me uncomfortable just remembering it -- made contact with my tongue. I spit out what I could, making noises like "ppptht, ppptht," and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. The soggy toilet paper clinging to my face below the nose formed a sort of white mustache on one side, and a wet flapping curtain half-covering my mouth on the other. My eyes were red and tearing up from the nasal irritation. Mucous was involved. Visibly.

Wondering why I bothered with the toilet paper formality in the first place, I just started blowing. Blowing blowing blowing, and what came out was plentiful and cascaded down my face and chin, and what I saw in the mirror staring back at me now was not pretty, not pretty at all. When nothing more would come out, I washed my face and threw the Neti Pot into the way-back of the cabinet under my sink, where I keep things that I hate. Despite what was just evacuated from my nose, I still couldn't breathe through my right nostril.

Stupid Neti Pot.

Babies and Mexican Police [2005-09-21 00:20:28] König Prüße, GfbAEV
I have found that vigorous exercise makes my nose run, so that works for me. There were always babies in my house, and we had a tool called an aspirator that would literally suck the snot out of their little heads. The Mexican police have a method of extracting confessions that involves Tabasco Sauce, mineral water, and sticking that mix up a suspect's nose that will have them confessing to stuff that never happened.
Wikipedia [2005-09-21 00:49:52] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Looks like Aladin's lamp!
Neti Pot
are u kidding me? [2005-09-21 02:15:23] posthumous
anything that makes huge amounts of snot flow out of a nostril that was once stuffed has GOT to be good for you!
You should try Nose Candling. [2005-09-21 04:36:55] Hatless Jack
You get to stick one end of a special candle in your plugged-up nostril and you set the other end of the candle ON FIRE! Through a mysterious holistic process known as convection the snot is drawn right out your nose. It's just like ear candling except in your nose and also I didn't make up ear candling (sadly).
Yeah! [2005-09-21 04:44:50] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Or stick a firecracker up yer butt!
Bah... [2005-09-21 06:56:38] Hatless Jack
That's your answer to everything!
posthumous, snot [2005-09-21 07:02:17] Sean
Lots of snot may have been forthwithcoming, but I _still_ couldn't breathe through the right side afterward.
pot-pot-oh! [2005-09-21 10:41:52] Vicarious
I lub my nose. It never gets blocked or angry.
Oil [2005-09-21 13:31:43] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Moss, the Yoga woman, puts a drop of oil on the tip of her little finger and sticks it up her nose. She says you got to oil your nose. Glycerin, or sesame oil if you don't have that. My crazy yoga mom uses some mix that's glycerine, saline, and a little baking soda for preservative and sprays it, but I don't like the idea of baking soda up my nose. There's an African nose-cleaning method where you take a mouthful of water and somehow blow it out your nose, I've never tried that because I'm sure that I'd drown.
rwake? [2005-09-21 16:25:52] Vicarious
König, I can do that. It does actually induce mild drowning panic, but you do have a rather clean hooter afterwards. And, if my Guide To Gentlemanly Conduct is still relevant, I should be a real wizard with the ladies down at the local gin bar!
sinuses [2005-09-21 16:47:16] Jim
I think what prevents breathing through a nostril is actually sinus pressure on that side of the head, which closes the nasal passage somewhat farther back. See, it's not actual snot in the way, it's that your sinuses, blown up like snot-filled balloons, happen to be right next to the part you need for breathing.

So if this is right, you just need to really neti pot your head like crazy until it reaches back to the actual sinuses and starts to draw out their snot, not just the snot that's immediately in the way in your nose. Of course, that would probably be an even worse experience.
common sense [2005-09-21 19:17:02] posthumous
Everybody knows, if something doesn't work, that means you just didn't do it ENOUGH.
Red Hot Chili Peppers [2005-09-21 21:30:06] König Prüße, GfbAEV
or some of that Düsseldorf mustard that makes your scalp sweat. Hot stuff makes my nose run. If your feet smell and your nose runs, you're upside-down.
Things I hate. [2005-09-21 22:11:11] Antwan
I like how you worked the phrase "Things I hate" into your article. Very topical.
wrong again [2005-09-22 01:52:22] posthumous
Actually, more intranasal than topical.
Oh you [2005-09-22 03:59:48] Antwan
That sounds more like the butt end of a Zirealism joke than an actual term.
candle [2005-09-22 04:18:37] Brynn
I think you should try the nose candle. I've heard those ear candles work wonders. A pinky-sized plug of snot could ooze out, like your ear.
Turtle [2005-09-22 05:55:58] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Breathe like a turtle!
Turtle [2005-09-22 06:00:18] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Turtle Breathing
Drugs Work [2005-09-22 08:53:44] Andrew
I'm pretty sure that anything that sounds like it would suck something evil out of you is a scam like colon hydro therapy or something its just too simple to actually this pot of yours.....also I think you'll probably now get a wicked sinus infection from putting crap up your nose
Highly refined pirates! [2005-09-22 10:46:05] Vicarious
Now the anatomy of my dearest enemy "Turtle" has been revealed, I can strike with impunity! Lung hit!
Splort. [2005-09-22 14:24:54] GCG
Goddamn, that article was funny.
Nose Issues [2005-09-22 14:28:32] GCG
I don't snore, but I do have sinus problems related to snot, mostly that my nose won't ever stop getting backed up. I find that pushing the skin on the bridge of my nose towards my forehead increases my ability to breathe normally. Same principle as a breathe-right strip.
Schnupf! [2005-09-22 21:17:58] König Prüße, GfbAEV
Even the communications attache from the German embassy who was in my international development management class knows about schnupf! If you got rid of the snot and your schnabel still won't co-operate, try some schnupf! There's the tobacco kind, flavoured and not, and lots of non-tobacco schnupf like mint and strawberry that you can honk out of the container, or lay-out a couple of lines just like the good old days. But that stuff will have your sinus membranes in full retreat for a good couple of hours. I've seen Germans have schnupf contests to see who can get the most into their nose the fastest, they even have schnupf hammers!!!
Schnupf [2005-09-23 17:04:34] Sean
You are right, a little hit of McChrystal's and a few minutes later all is runny. Blow the nose, and then I'm breathin' free and easy... for about five minutes. Then it's back to stuffy as usual.
I had a Neti pot [2005-10-02 10:32:18] Annna
It broke during my last move. I didn't use it more than a couple of times a month, though, so I'm not getting a new one.

Using a saline solution makes it feel less like the chlorine death fizz you get from a poorly-executed cannonball, but it never feels quite right. I would rinse my nose out whenever I thought I might be getting a cold, or on days that I woke up with my nose stuffed, on the theory that I was doing something to cause above-average buildup.
Tilt your head [2006-01-30 01:08:17] CTJ
Part of the original author's discomfort was due to the position of his head. When the Neti Pot is used properly, water will not flow out the mouth (and there will be NO burning sensation). Tilting the head slightly forward while aligning one nostril over the other will result in perfect use of the apparatus.
Uhhhh you only tried it once? [2006-02-01 07:37:40] sergio
You're supposed to use salt water, not infested tap water. And since you drink tap water thats probably why you're all f#&$* anyway.
Duuuuuude [2007-01-11 08:05:21] specules
My life is ruled by my awful sinuses which sound much like yours. On doctor's orders, two days ago I got a sinus rinse/nasal irrigation/nasal douche/whatever you wanna call it thingy from the Walgreens. It's a squeeze bottle with high volume flow and salt-and-other-stuff packets. So easy to use. And with the right amount of salt, you can't even feel it in there, and trust me, I had made the same mistake last year that you did by using tap water with no salt. Of COURSE it burns when you do it wrong...

So far, it's improved my sinuses considerably - not completely cured them yet but we'll see. And it's okay if it comes out your mouth. My stuff comes out both my mouth and the other nostril. It was weird at first but it's so worth it.
What a funny story! [2007-05-28 06:30:05] George
Thanks for sharing your story. That was hilarious. I used a neti-pot for the 1st time today and wow, I'm converted. I can breath freely the whole day even during this allergy season.

I looked up neti-pot on the web for more info and found your site. Your story made me laugh so hard.
Same experience [2007-05-31 05:29:44] Ihsa
I have managed to achieve the same effect as you, except I now feel the newly nettied snot sliding down the back of my throat as well and I can't stop burping.

Thanks for sharing, now I don't feel like a complete neti-pot imbicil.

Too Too Funny!! [2008-02-05 18:01:53] Angie
Thanks for the laugh. I have used the neti-pot a few times and have felt what you felt.
I was cracking up from your article!! You have a wonderful way of wording things!! You need to be a comic or something.
cynical IMO [2008-03-31 13:35:21] Factfinder
This is the perfect example of why so many of you are so cynical. You didn’t follow the directions, you admit to actually seeing that it calls for a saline solution and you ignored it and then blame the burning on the device itself? Lol – what a joke. The whole point of the saline is to avoid the burning – it doesn’t burn when you mix it correctly. Also, like was mentioned if you hold your head correctly (again, read the directions) it won't go in your mouth and wouldn't burn anyway.

Then you talk about how much junk it got out your nose like that’s something bad. Didn't that seem like it COULD be the point?

I don’t know where you read this takes out ancient mucous, but do you think just because some jokers say it does something silly then the whole thing must be silly. If I tell you Toyota Corollas will allow you to communicate with dead relatives will you decide cars are like snake oil scams?

The truth - “The goal of nasal irrigation is to clear out excess mucus and particulates and moisturize the nasal cavity.� (from
The wiki found on the link above is an actual good recourse for information on the subject, for those actually interested in facts.
Neti Pots are older than dirt... which is in your sinuses. [2008-06-09 16:06:56] Breathin' Clear
Yep, funny story, but misleading to those who never tried Neti. It's as common as brushing your teeth out in India to use one of these and they've been doing it for hundreds of years. The burning is caused by the wrong water and salt... and could be the temp, the type or the mixture.

It's not a new age bs as you lead to believe. Try looking it up on reputable sites and stop frequenting sites with magic spells and "as seen on tv" ads, k? Cheers.
Me too [2008-06-29 05:39:30] Jo
I have used both the Neti and the squeeze bottle. Both sanitized, both with boiled and cooled water; both with medical saline packets in the exact amount recommended. IT DOES NOT HELP! I have used them weeks at a time with the proper head tilt, mouth open, breathing, etc. I have the that "stuffy" feeling, also-one nostril at a time; not much actual snot. Too many sinus infections in my lifetime to count. I have general allergies- to cig. smoke, dust, etc. Treated those with many different things to no avail.One ENT physician investigated a GI reflux connection. Lots of Prilosec and still no help. I've also had 2 CT scans of the sinuses at different times.The NETI pot just puts water in my head that won't drain out!!!!!! I get terrible sinus pressure and pain. No amount of forward bending or down dog helps, either. I'm just screwed up inside the sinuses, I guess. I can tell you when the weather is getting bad, though.
Potty [2008-07-19 18:54:14] Helana
I just got my Neti Pot today in a desperate, and I do mean desperate bid to clear my sinuses and transform my life. Despite visiting an ENT (who said that something was slightly inflammed) and taking various medication, I have lived for the past few years with this problem which always seems to materialise during the summer months. I followed the instructions for the Neti Pot correctly, filled it with half the saline solution, which was provided with the kit, stuck it up my nose, breathed through my mouth...tipped my head forwards, sideways, forwards again, angled it, stretched it and pulled a muscle in my neck, waiting in anticipation for the water works to coming pouring through the other nostril. Nothing. Not even a drip. However, water was starting to pour out of my right eye along with an intense burning sensation that I haven't experienced since I was 9 years old and fighting for my life in the deep end of a friends swimming pool. Three times I pulled the spout out of my snout and three times nothing happened. Well, I say "nothing" happened, this is not strictly true. I did blow out a fair amount of debris and I did find that my right nostril seemed to be clearer and burning. I also found that I had a sqeaky voice for the next hour and tons of post nasal drip pouring down the back of my throat.

Amused by my efforts, my husband tried it next and had the same result, with one important difference. He appeared to have saline solution coming out of his right ear-hole although I'm sure this was just hysteria/molton ear wax.

As I am not one easily defeated, I am going to have another go with this pot tomorrow and see if I can actually get the water through the nasal barrier - wish me luck!
I had the exact same experience! [2008-08-05 05:12:36] Emilie
However, one side did drain and it feels wonderful. Everything else you described happened to my other nostril and it still feels terrible.
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