You've probably heard of the Neti-Pot, and maybe you've heard of nasal washing. At one time I was completely ignorant of both. Starting in my early teens, I had breath cancer. In my early twenties I went to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor to try and figure out why. He was a rare doctor, he actually understood that hydration was an important part of health, and noted that my sinuses were dry. He prescribed a salt water solution. I was to squirt this solution up my nose to wash out and hydrate my sinuses. After a few weeks and even more after a few months, I lost that bad taste in my mouth. What a miracle.
Post nasal drip is normal. It's a wet filter for the air we breath. The moisture traps foreign particles and the fluid (mucous) makes its way down your throat as you swallow. You don't notice it, but there's a lot of fluid being made in the sinuses (about a litre a day!) and you swallow it all the time. Your stomach acids destroy the pollutants that we breath in. Some people have too much post nasal drip, some people like me have too little. Dry sinuses don't wash themselves so bacteria builds up and can cause bad breath. It can also prevent you from killing other germs and even viruses that would normally be swallowed and die. Nasal washing can clear a stuffed nose, and help with allergies by cleaning out allergic dust and pollens that cling to your nasal passages. Some people will obviously benefit more from nasal washing than others, some people do have properly functioning nasal passsages. I know that nasal washing can help flush more fluid through your nasal passages when you have a cold, sometimes making breathing easier. Lots of nasal related problems can be solved or made better by washing your nasal passages. It can also solve a morning cough, as post nasal drip is one of the biggest causes of coughing. It's worth looking into.
The Neti-Pot is a teapot that allows you to pour a solution (usually salt water) into one nostril and have it flow out the other. It's very messy. I found a method that is just as effective for me without the mess. The solution goes in, and gets absorbed and the excess is swallowed. Over the years I've refined the tools and the method a bit, and I'm gonna share my idea.
Tools of the Trade...
I use a solution of water and salt with a touch of glycerin. The glycerin was originally prescribed by my ENT doctor as part of his recommended wash. Glycerin is an emollient and a humectant that attracts moisture and helps to keep the sinuses wet, if they should suffer from dryness. It also gives a pleasant sweet flavour as the solution moves down to your mouth. Just washing alone is good, but the dryness will come back if your sinuses tend to be dry. I like to use a Monoject 412 syringe, with its small outlet which helps aspirate the fluid as you squirt, a sort of venturi effect. This helps to spread the solution around. I close one nostril and breath in as I squeeze the Monojet. The fluid goes in and leaves no mess, except sometimes you may need to blow your nose. Make sure you blow very gently, because the fluid in your sinuses can be forced to your ears and cause problems. The Monoject holds 12cc, and I use 6cc in each nostril everyday. One syringe full of solution per day keeps the bad breath away.
So you could use regular salt, but it may be dirty. There are suggestions out there that iodized table salt may cause an allergic reaction, but I never had a problem. The solution can be mildly improved with other electrolytes added, possibly to balance the ph of the solution. Sodium wise, the solution should be isotonic, which means that the salinity of the solution approximates certain other bodily fluids. The proper amount is 0.9% by weight with water, if it is sodium chloride. There is a product I like available called HydraSense, available at a Walmart pharmacy. This is a powder that contains salt and other electrolytes that are probably cleaner than your average food salt product. Remember, just because something is safe to eat, doesn't mean that it is safe to breath. Your nasal passages are more sensitive in some ways. You can get a complete kit, with a Neti-bottle, called Neti-Rinse. You can try the bottle it comes with as well, but it is messy!
So I mix my own solution. I buy distilled water from the supermarket, and I buy the HydraSense packets and mix them with the water and glycerin. One packet makes 240ml, and I double that up to about 480ml, or half a litre. I add 25ml of glycerin, or about 1 1/2 teaspoons. I shake well, and load up a capped container to fill the needle. I never pour any excess solution back into the bottle, to keep the solution clean. Your local pharmacist may help you by giving you the needle, or even a free incremented plastic bottle for the solution. I use the wash at night before sleeping to clear my nose and help me to maintain nasal breathing and avoid dry mouth and possible apneas. Nasal breathing at night is very important. I used to snore before I discovered this. Your sinuses may swell at first and then settle down, so it's probably best to do it a half hour before you sleep. The "kit" is portable, and the cost of a half litre of steve's solution is less than two bucks ;)