A report out just this month in our leading scientific publication examined the cleanliness of nasal irrigation bottles. Millions of Americans use Neti Pots, or sinus rinse bottles, or other reusable vessels to irrigate their noses and sinuses. The report, published in this month’s Laryngoscope journal, performed an experiment using NeilMed sinus rinse bottles. After six weeks of use, 97% of the bottles were found contaminated with bacteria. Worse yet over half of patients and their bottles actually had simultaneous infection/contamination with Staph aureus. Electron microscopy actually demonstrated bacterial biofilms on 4 of 6 tested bottles, which probably lead to the persistent contamination.
In the lab the researchers tested different cleaning methods. They found that microwaving the bottles for 2 minutes or cleaning the bottles with a chlorine-based cleaner (similar to bleach) were the only ways to completely eradicate the contamination. Using a strong detergent was also helpful, but not to the same degree.
What this means is we have to be very careful about using these reusable containers. And we have to be sure we are keeping them clean to prevent a viscous cycle of self-contamination.