How to Make a Saline Rinse for Your Nose or Mouth

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Salt Water gargle

Rinsing your nose or mouth with saltwater can be an effective at-home method to improve your allergy symptoms and oral health. Using a nasal saline rinse can flush pollen and other irritants out of your nose, and swishing a saline solution around in the mouth can ease the pain of mouth sores and promote tissue healing.

Saline rinses are easy and inexpensive to make and use, though you should use two different types of saltwater recipes, depending on whether you intend to use the solution in your nose or mouth.

How to Make a Saline Rinse for the Nose

To gently flush your nasal cavity and sinuses using saltwater, follow this recipe:

  • 3 teaspoons of plain salt: Use a pickling or canning salt that does not contain iodine or any preservatives.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda. (Do not substitute baking powder.)

Combine the salt and baking soda, mixing thoroughly. Place these ingredients into an airtight container to store for future use.

To mix the saline nasal rinse, combine 1 teaspoon of the salt and baking soda mixture with one cup of lukewarm distilled water (or tap water that has been boiled and allowed to cool).

To use this saline rinse for sinuses, you will need to obtain a nasal bulb for infants, an ear bulb syringe, or another device, such as a neti pot. Draw up (or pour) half the solution into the bulb or container, then:

  • Bend over a sink or stand in the shower and tilt your head forward.
  • Rotate your head to the left, so that your left ear is toward the floor and your right nostril is above the left one.
  • Gently squeeze or pour the solution into your right nostril while breathing through your mouth.
  • Allow the solution to drain out the left nostril.
  • Draw up the remaining solution into the bulb.
  • Turn your head the other direction, so that your left nostril is above the right one.
  • Repeat the process of squeezing the saline solution into your left nostril until it drains out the right nostril.

When rinsing your nasal passages or sinuses, it’s important that you monitor your head position so that the solution does not go into your ears or down your throat. After rinsing, gently blow your nose while keeping your mouth open to relieve any pressure on the ears.

Unless directed to rinse frequently by your healthcare provider, limit saline sinus rinsing to once a day. You can continue to use other nasal medications, such as allergy sprays, after performing saline rinses.

Saline Rinses for the Mouth

Your dentist may have told you to rinse with saltwater after having a wisdom tooth extracted. That’s because saltwater speeds the healing of oral tissues. Some studies suggest that rinsing the mouth regularly with a saline solution also reduces plaque buildup on teeth and promotes better oral health.

Whenever you develop a sore inside the mouth or on the tongue, you can safely try a saline rinse to see if the lesion clears up. If mouth or tongue sores persist, see a dentist. Chronic mouth sores or wounds can indicate an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

Making a saltwater rinse for the mouth is very simple: Add a half-teaspoon of table salt to 1 cup of warm water and mix until the salt is fully dissolved. Swish the solution around in your mouth for several seconds, then spit out. Repeat until the cup of water is finished. Afterwards, you can rinse with plain, cool water, if desired.

To treat sores or wounds, rinse your mouth with saltwater 2 to 3 times per day. For general oral care, rinse once a day.

If you have high blood pressure or another condition that requires limiting your intake of sodium, consult your healthcare provider before using a saline rinse for your mouth.

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  1. Huynh NC, Everts V, et al. Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro. PLoS One. 2016; 11(7): e0159843.
  2. Saline Nasal Washes. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus.
  3. Saline Sinus Rinse Recipe. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
  4. A Guide to Saltwater Gargles. Medical News Today.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 21
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