Sinus Irrigation

Treating sinus issues without surgery can be logistically difficult due to the sinuses’ interior location and inability to see. Due to this, clearing the sinuses often relies on methods such as breathing in steam and rinsing. These methods reduce discomfort and inflammation. Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors will often recommend these methods before sinus surgery to help manage the condition and symptoms. However, sinus rinsing is also used during sinus surgery recovery. Dr. David Santos often recommends sinus rinsing to his patients, regardless of if they undergo surgery or not. Sinusitis In Seattle can aid you in determining if sinus irrigation will relieve your sinus symptoms and determine the ideal technique.


Sinus irrigation is the process of manually rinsing the sinuses. Nasal irrigation promotes the drainage of mucus and irritants and the reduction of inflammation. Doctors have used sinus irrigation for centuries to relieve sinus symptoms. In some cultures, daily rinsing of the sinuses was considered a vital part of hygiene. 

During nasal irrigation, a saline wash clears contaminants from the cilia. The cilia are small hair-like structures in the sinuses and nasal passages that catch possible pollutants and infections. This protects you from infection and the sensitive mucus membrane tissues of your nose and sinuses from irritation and inflammation. 

When the sinus becomes clogged, the cilia can no longer properly do their job. Also, the cilia can become damaged which can hinder the protection they provide. When this happens, the sinuses have no way to properly protect themselves from infection, and pollutants reach the mucus membranes easier. This leads to inflammation.

Uses Of Sinus Rinsing

Daily sinus irrigation is widely regarded as unnecessary. Typically, doctors only recommend manually rinsing the nasal passages and sinuses when you have congestion, a condition to treat, or are recovering from a procedure. Some people may perform sinus irrigation once or twice a week to manage allergies or similar conditions that may linger year round. However, it should always be performed under the instruction of a doctor and with a proper tool. 

Examples of conditions, illnesses, or situations where Dr. Santos may recommend sinus irrigation include:

  • Treatment of acute, subacute, and chronic sinusitis
  • Allergy management
  • Treatment of other upper respiratory illnesses such as the cold or flu
  • To promote healing and comfort after sinus surgery


Nasal Irrigation Instruments

When instructed to manually rinse the sinuses, it is important to use a proper tool. Various tools are made to make sinus flushing easier and more comfortable. Additionally, most of these tools are available at local drugstores. Generally, the best tools for nasal irrigation include:

  • Neti pot
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Bulb syringes
  • Pre-filled containers

Neti pots, squeeze bottles, and syringes all necessitate that you make your own rinsing solution. However, pre-filled containers come with a pre-made solution. If you are making a solution, you will start with warm filtered or distilled water. The water should be sterile. If you boiled it to make it sterile, let it cool.

Next, you will mix pure salt to make a saline solution. While it is possible to make your own solution, many doctors will recommend using pre-filled containers or packets. Incorrectly made solutions can cause infections or counteract the benefits of flushing the sinuses. At this point, you can fill your container and prepare for rinsing.




Choosing Your Tool

When choosing the right tool for your needs, you will want to consider a few factors. First off, if you have never done nasal irrigation before, you may want to make the process as easy as possible. Therefore, a pre-filled container might best serve your needs. If you suffer from chronic problems and need to perform it more often, investing in a neti pot may be appropriate.

Overall, any of the tools should serve your purposes and are safe to use for sinus irrigation. Dr. Santos and the team at Sinusitis In Seattle can guide you through choosing the right instrument.


Cleaning And Maintenance

Keeping your chosen instrument clean is vital. You should clean your sinus irrigation tool after every use and allow it to completely air dry before using it again. If you are using a neti pot or tool that is dishwasher safe, it is perfectly fine to run it through the dishwasher after each use.

You may also consider replacing your tool occasionally to prevent build up. Otherwise, as long as you clean your instrument following every use, you can continue to use it for every flush.


Nasal Rinsing Technique

Due to the intricate nature of your sinuses and nasal passages, it is important to perform sinus irrigation correctly. If you have never done it before, Sinusitis In Seattle can run you through the proper technique. 

After making the proper preparations, lean your head over the sink or bathtub. Be sure not to lean your head back and keep it parallel with the bottom of the sink. Bring your instrument to the uppermost nostril. If you are using a syringe, bulb, or pre-filled container you will need to squeeze the mechanism to run the solution through your sinuses. If using a neti pot, you can let it flow through. 

Keep your mouth open so you can breathe properly during irrigation. After you finish, clear the remaining solution and repeat the procedure on the other side. If irrigating after sinus surgery, you may notice some bloody discharge. This should only last a few days or so. If you get a bloody nose or discharge and have not had sinus surgery, you should discontinue nasal irrigation.



When performing sinus irrigation, patients often find many benefits, including the reduction of symptoms. Other benefits of sinus flushing include:

  • Remove allergens and pollutants from the sinuses
  • Reduce inflammation of the sinuses
  • Treat sinuses swelling
  • Improve breathing
  • Ease discomfort and swelling after sinus surgery
  • Clear mucus
  • Keep sinuses clean following surgery


Can You Use Tap Water For Sinus Irrigation?

No, unless properly boiled. Tap water can contain organisms that can cause infection. When you drink tap water, your stomach acid kills these organisms and prevents them from causing illness. However, when used to flush the sinuses they can cause dangerous infections. 

It is better to use distilled or pre-boiled water. You can also use special filters designed to catch and remove the organisms and materials that may harm the sinuses. If the tap water is properly filtered or boiled, it is safe to use for sinus irrigation.

Does It Help Sinus Infections?

Yes, if you have a current sinus infection, sinus flushing can ease symptoms. For people with chronic sinusitis, irrigating can help manage symptoms and relieve inflammation. Dr. Santos may recommend sinus flushing for all types of sinusitis. While it may not cure your sinus issues, it can contribute to long term management. 

Most people do not need to perform sinus irrigation regularly. However, those that do, generally do not flush their sinuses more than three times a week.

Should It Hurt?

In most cases, sinus flushing should not hurt. If done improperly, too often, or with too hot or cold water, this can cause pain. Additionally, if you just had sinus surgery, you may feel more pain than sinus flushing for symptoms. That said, sinus flushing for any reason can sometimes cause a slight stinging sensation. Overall, sinus irrigation is not painful.

Can Nasal Irrigation Prevent Sinus Infections?

In people who suffer from allergies or chronic congestion not caused by an infection, occasional sinus irrigation may help prevent infection by removing fungi, allergens, and pollutants. However, nasal rinsing is meant only to be temporary or intermittent. Usually, daily sinus irrigation only occurs as a treatment for certain sinus conditions or after sinus surgery.

Daily sinus rinsing can cause more harm by further irritating the sinuses. This can leave them more prone to infection. It can also cause or worsen inflammation when performed too much. Therefore, you should only irrigate the sinuses when instructed by a doctor.

How Many Rinses Should I Do Per Day?

The number of rinses you perform each day depends on the reason you are irrigating the sinuses. Generally, when treating sinusitis, you can start with one rinse per day. If the rinses are alleviating your symptoms, you may increase them to two or three rinses. This should only continue until the sinusitis resolves. 

If you are flushing the sinuses after sinus surgery, usually you will begin rinsing one to two days after surgery. In most cases, you will perform sinus irrigation twice a day during your recovery. Sometimes, Dr. Santos may recommend more than two per day depending on your healing.


Sinus surgery is one of the most intricate forms of surgery. Operating in such a small area requires skill and precision that takes years to develop. Dr. David Santos of Sinusitis In Seattle has been performing sinus surgery for over two decades. As a board certified otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgery, Dr. Santos focuses on the most innovative and effective techniques. 

Sinusitis In Seattle offers an outpatient surgery center for your sinus surgery in Seattle. Along with an advanced surgical suite, Sinusitis In Seattle is fully equipped to treat and evaluate all of your sinus problems. Located just south of Seattle, Sinusitis In Seattle offers a convenient location for your sinus surgery.

To learn more and schedule a consultation, call us at 206-242-3696. You can also connect with us online via our online contact form.

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