The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 15, 2010

Kleenex, Neti Pots, Twitter, and Facebook

anatomy of common coldSo I had another nasty cold this weekend. Sore throat. Moving to stuffed up head. And on to coughing, headache, body aches, and the nose from Hell. Honestly, I was blowing my nose at least once a minute. During the worst part, several times a minute. Literally. And contrary to what that word has become these days, I do mean “literally” literally.

Resorting to Kleenex

By Sunday, I had gone through one and a half rolls of Seventh Generation recycled paper. This stuff is great. It’s got 80% recycled content and comes in a cardboard case with zero plastic packaging. (I get the Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissue from

The thing is? After one and a half rolls? Not so great for noses. Now let me say, I did consider cloth. And in normal circumstances or for seasonal allergies, I always use a cloth handkerchief. Several people on Facebook and Twitter recommended cut up baby diapers or old receiving blankets. But there are several reasons why those options wouldn’t work. 1) I don’t have kids, so I have no diapers or receiving blankets in this house. 2) More importantly, with the amount I was blowing and what was coming out (which I’ll refrain from describing), I doubt I’d have had enough diapers or blankets or bandanas or hankies or any of the other cloth options suggested. Seriously. It’s been very, very gross.

So I broke down and bought Kleenex. Soft, luxurious Kleenex. Kleenex that I haven’t bought in nearly three years. Kleenex from virgin trees. And the thing about all facial tissue is that in addition to the paper, they come with some plastic packaging. All of them. Even the groovy crunchy recycled kind.

Kleenex box with plastic

If you’ve found a plastic-free brand, please let me know. I haven’t.

Neti pot to the rescue

But I have found something else that I think will help me use fewer of those tree-killing Kleenex tissues.  I’m sure I’m the last person on earth to learn the beauty of this simple device: the neti pot. My friend Mark has had one for years. But I have a plastic nasal syringe I got from the doctor years and years ago, and I thought it would work just as well.

But once again, Twitter and Facebook came to the rescue. More people extolled the virtues of the neti pot than thought I should stick with what I already had (because generally the greenest purchase is no new purchase at all.)  Check out the difference.  What would you rather stick in your nose?

neti pot vs. nasal syringe

So I went to my local holistic pharmacy down the street (yeah, I live in an awesome neighborhood) and bought a ceramic neti pot.  Packaging free. The only plastic was a tiny bag holding a sample of special salt you mix into the water so it doesn’t burn your face off when it goes in. (I learned about burning out my sinuses the hard way last time I was sick, shooting plain water up my nose with that plastic syringe. Do. Not. Use. Plain. Water. For the future, I will buy sea salt from the bulk bin at Whole Foods just for this purpose.)

For the last few people in the world who have not tried this device (like me) here are the instructions from

Fill the neti pot just below its lip with warm water. Add heaping ½ teaspoon of sea salt and stir until it is thoroughly dissolved. Bend over the sink and turn your head to one side. Keeping the pot level, place the spout into the top nostril until it has a snug fit. Breathe through your mouth and slowly tip your head downward allowing the warm water to travel up through your sinuses and out the other nostril. You may need to adjust the angle of your head slightly in order to allow the water to flow out the other nostril. Use half the water and repeat on the other side. If you experience an uncomfortable sensation, adjust the level of salt. Sometimes too little salt can be as uncomfortable as too much salt. Once you’ve irrigated your sinuses, it is helpful to bend over at the waist (with the top of your head pointed towards the floor) and exhale out to release any trapped water.

If you’re like me and can’t visualize this procedure, here is a YouTube video demonstrating exactly how to do it. Or just look at this photo of me, red nose and all.  Water goes in one nostril and flows out the other.  You breathe through your mouth only.  That part is important.

how to use a neti pot

I know. I have no dignity whatsoever. But you know what they say a picture is worth. And OMG! The neti pot worked better than I could have imagined. Immediately afterward, I could smell and taste again. Which was lucky because yesterday being Pi Day, Michael had brought home the most delicious chocolate pecan pie ever from the Claremont Diner. And I could taste it!

The verdict on homemade cough syrup

The useful thing about this cold is that it gave me an opportunity to try out the homemade cough syrup recipe I posted in December.

homemade cough syrup ingredients

Verdict? Feels good going down, but didn’t really suppress my cough for more than five minutes. I also tried plain honey. Not so effective for me, actually. The good thing about being so congested is that I couldn’t taste the stuff. Michael said it smelled awful. Next time, I think I’ll try some of the other remedies that readers left in comments on the cough syrup post. Slippery elm, for example. I can get herbs packaging-free in various places around here, like Lhasa Karnak herb shop in Berkeley.

Over all, not so much plastic used during this illness. Or crazy chemical-laden over the counter cold medicines. I feel a lot better today. Thanks to everyone on Twitter and Facebook who chimed in with advice. Love you guys!

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4 years ago

Neti Pot never really worked for me. You need to be really careful too about hygiene, being so close to the brain. Boiled water, distilled preferably. I had greater success with an aromatherapy diffuser. use it 10minutes at a time a few times a day and seems to keep the bugs at bay. Also staying away from the peasant masses helps considerably lol

Barbara Gribbon
4 years ago

Probably no use in the States but Softly tissues don’t have that stupid plastic bit under the perforation

6 years ago

I make hankies and cleaning rags out of old flannel night gowns, worn out flannel sheets and worn out cotton shirts. I make them in 6-7 inch squares and use each one only once or twice. I put them into a mesh bag and run them through the washer on the smallest water amount. Once all of the boogers are washed away, I throw the bag in with the things that I wash in hot water to get them extra clean. I hang them to dry and then ( because I like to iron things) I iron them with a hot iron to sterilize them. My mum taught me this method because her dad had TB. This is how they handled handkerchiefs.
This could also work for square cloths used instead of toilet paper, which would be treated the same way one does cloth diapers.

11 years ago

You don’t want to know how many hanky’s we have. Normally a couple on hand, in the handbag, etc is enuf. But during a mega-germ time we pull out the stash.
The inflicted member is given a stack with a washable container (to save getting up too much) and uses them as if they were disposable tissues. The container is then filled with hot water to soak them for a bit before that lot goes in the wash. Cloth is so much softer and gentler on the nose regardless of paper types out there. I’ve even tucked them into my nostrils at times trying to get a break from “the runs”. Neti pots are great for relieving a blockage but most of the family prefer a steamy shower when they’re really blocked (like getting up in the morning) then dealing with hankies. Ours are about 31-33cm squares. They are lovely 70’s prints in 100% cotton and so soft, probably because they’ve been washed so much since they were first sold as table napkins years ago.

11 years ago
Reply to  NutItOut

I also think handkerchiefs are more hygienic. They do not reinfect us as some would like us to believe, and we “single use” ours when we are sick. Also, we kill the germs when we wash them instead of passing them on to the unknown. To top that off, they are far more absorbent than any tissue paper and do not tear easily so no chance of goop fingers.

rich meyer
11 years ago

i use a plastic one, because i use it in the shower, and it just bounce, not break, when i drop it!

urban woodswalker
11 years ago

Add a pinch of baking soda to the salt water! It acts as a buffer against the salt sting in your nose. Its not good to use plain salt. I have had extreme sinus problems my entire life….this works the best! You can also use it for gargling for a sore throat…but I like plain salt water for that. I use a “bulb” type baby ear syringe…its rubber…and I got it years ago. It forces the mixture up into sinus caveties much better then the pouring method. The pouring method is Neti, or using anything kind of spouted pour vessel. Believe me…I have tried them all…

12 years ago

Thank you so much for being brave enough to post a picture of how this works! Yes, I needed the picture to go, ah, this doesn’t looks as….well, whatever I was thinking about those things. Really wasn’t up to watching a video of it… I just wanted to say you sold me on a lovely ceramic neti pot. Really hope it works for me.

I also 3rd? fourth? the idea of the tissue blocks in nose when it’s running like a mad thing. My dad teased me about being a fire-breathing dragon when I had to do this, but it’s so much simpler, and less gross/wasteful. I don’t use tissue though, can’t get those square to work right for that, so I use a thick, soft TP, that doesn’t lint all over.

12 years ago

When I first saw neti pots I thought they would sting horribly or just feel horribly wrong but it wasn’t bad at all for me.

You look the cutest I’ve seen a girl using a neti pot. Which certainly isn’t much but take it as a compliment.

Cousin Yellowstone
13 years ago

I buy “365” brand facial tissues at Whole Foods. Some boxes have plastic at the top, but others don’t. I’m not certain how Whole Foods decides which boxes get the plastic strip, but I think it might be based on size, because, of the boxes currently in my home, the smaller ones all have plastic and the slightly larger ones (144 count) are all free of plastic. The smaller boxes were purchased a long time ago and the larger ones more recently, so it could also be that Whole Foods has changed its practices and doesn’t use plastic in any tissue boxes any more. Maybe you could contact Whole Foods and find out. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that at least some boxes of “365” facial tissues are plastic free.

Auston Longfield
13 years ago

A hankercheif is a great solution to this problem. You can reuse them and wash them…even manually! Baking soda and water mixed or hot water and hunny are also great ways to relieve your sinus’s.

Art Barnek
13 years ago

I agree with the fact of using a neti pot. Even though i have never used a neti pot, i do have one in my household. I feel it could be better then tissues. I noticed no matter what brand of tissues i use, it always leaves an annoying rash on my nose after a day.
Hankerchiefs seem to have wrked the best for me thus far. Just buy a 3 pack or more and rotate them in the wash. Though if my sinuses ever get really bad I’m looking forward to trying the neti pot.

Art Barnek
13 years ago

I agree with the use of a neti pot even though i have never used one. I do have one in my household which i most likely will refer to if my sinuses are beyond clearing up by using a tissue.
I’ve noticed with tissues no matter what brand or type of tissue i use, it always leaves a rash on my nose after using them. I noticed that hankerchiefs are the way to go. Buy a pack of 3 or more and just rotate them in the wash, its really a good idea.

13 years ago

Beth, I just saw that someone provided you with the link to the Puffs site showing the box without plastic and your response. I so admire your efforts and totally understand your not wanting to buy paper tissues. I am not quite there yet. Maybe it takes longer for us post war baby boomers to wake up. But I am becoming more aware through things I read, such as your blog, and awareness is the first step. My daughter now takes reusable containers for her lunch to school whenever possible. They are plastic, but not disposable. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration.

condo blues
13 years ago

I use cloth hankies for allergy and everyday nose needs. But when I have a cold, the only switch from doing it green, is to use the courtesy box of tissues we keep for guests. My doctor suggested that because you can inadvertently reinfect yourself if you handle a used hankie. That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands so often when you have a cold.

I learned how well salt water cleans out sinuses the hard way. The first time I went snorkeling I was so caught up in watching the fish swim that I’d turn my head to watch them go by. My snorkel dipped in the water and I ended up with a mouth and nose full of salt water I had to keep swimming back to the boat to blow my nose. Tasted nasty, but my sinuses were clearer at the end of the day :)

Karen Hanrahan aka Best Of Mother Earth
13 years ago

This is the most beautiful neti pot I have ever seen! Seriously. AND I had no idea that you were a neti pot virgin! Truly the best photo/visual I’ve ever seen. Well done!! So sorry that you had such a horrific cold

do me a fav – email me at the above, first time using it

Crunchy Chicken
13 years ago

For those of you uncomfy with this picture, all I can say is…. at least the water is running clear.

13 years ago

Ha! Love the neti pot demonstration photo – it’s content like that that keeps us coming back!

Thanks for keeping it real.

13 years ago

I used to be plagued with sinus problems before I moved to a different climate. Now when I swim without a mask my sinuses fill up with seawater. I think its good for me but it’s a bit inconvenient that I have water coming out my nose for a few hours afterward.

There are lots of tissue boxes without plastic in Europe and Africa, but it’s hard to find toilet tissue without plastic packaging.

Eco-Vegan Gal
13 years ago

I love the neti pot! It has changed my life. Used to have to suffer through allergies and yucky meds, not I’m all natural and with very little sneezing/running nose!

The Raven
13 years ago

Hope you are feeling better, Beth! I’m a cloth gal and have been since childhood (because my parents were, not because of some precocious greenness)–and have way way too many cloths floating around the house. I love lightweight linen usually–but for serious colds, thin flannel is the way to go.

And yep–I can’t stand the idea and process of Neti pots, but as soon as I get myself to do it, I feel like some magical genie has healed me. I’m trying to get my 10yo son to try it these days.

10 years ago
Reply to  Beth Terry

@Beth Terry
Hi Beth, I just read about Hankybooks on TakeOutWithout blog. Looks like a good version of hankies

Beth Terry
10 years ago
Reply to  ap

Yes! I discovered them too a few years ago. Here’s my review:

13 years ago

Hi Beth,

Here’s a link to the puffs Lorrie was talking about:

Looks like you could buy them bulk here, but I haven’t had any trouble finding them individually in my grocery store or at for those times when a cold or my allergies are too out of control for toilet paper or hankies to cut it. I guess it’s possible that the box is coated in plastic, but it’s the least plasticy choice I’ve found.

Thanks for the informative and amusing post!

13 years ago

@Cat C-B

“But you DO have absolutely no dignity whatsoever.”

Wow, that’s harsh! Personally, I believe there’s a lot of dignity in sticking to one’s principles despite what people might think. I know if I listened to what everyone else said I should do I would have no self-respect left. And if I don’t respect myself, then what dignity do I have?

13 years ago

My allergist recommended adding baking soda to the sea salt/water mixture to help with the burning sensation. Filtered water also does way better than tap water, at least here in Texas. I don’t know how much baking soda would help if necessary but I’m going to try it the next time I have an issue. Excellent article. Perfect timing with allergy season.

13 years ago

That’s the prettiest damn neti pot I’ve ever seen. I think if I had one like that I would be much less lazy about using it, and not wait until my face was falling off with a full-blown sinus infection (which, btw, can be dealt with with one drop of grapefruit seed estract added to the neti solution).

13 years ago

LOVE my neti pot. LOVE it. So does my husband, and during the spring, that Neti Pot is not optional: If hub doesn’t neti, I’m up all night listening to him snore.

I knew I lived in the woods and all, but no one around here seems to have heard about them. I’ve suggested a neti pot to various folks, all of whom say, “Neti-Huh?” They think I’m all ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘daring’ to do it. Seems to me it’s more daring to do the ol’ russian roulette with chemical remedies, but what do I know?!

Simple in France
13 years ago

I don’t even have a neti pot, just use a cup and some salty water when I’m sick. It’s just plain better than kleenex. And of course, you don’t have to feel you’re blowing your nose on a tree. . .

Great picture!

13 years ago

I’m with Clif – when the nose is really runny, shoving tissue up there is the only reasonable solution I’ve found.

I hadn’t actually heard of a Neti pot before though so thanks! And thanks for those amazing photos! I’m glad your dignity ranks lower than sharing the Neti pot wisdom with the rest of us!

Hope you’re feeling better soon,

13 years ago

I have heard great things about the neti pot, but I have to say I can’t bring myself to try one. I am a big, big baby. Eek!

EcoLabel Fundraising
13 years ago

Beth! That picture was hysterical! I think it is awesome that you posted it! LOL!!!!

On a more serious note, I’ve always been told to get a neti pot, but never have. I loved the picture because now I know exactly how it is to work. Fasicinating. Abosolutely fascinating.

Thanks for sharing!


13 years ago

I use cotton flannel for my tissues. I made about 50 of them, zig-zag stitched over the edge to prevent fraying, and I love them! My nosey is so pretty now (not dry and sore), the tissues have happy monkey and flower designs, and we used someone’s scrap fabric from etsy, so we were reusing! Tah dah!

My fiancee and I have decided to go without buying any new plastic for a year, have discovery field trips, and blog about it ( – in baby stage of development). I just read an article in the NY Times that was so ridiculous about how great it was to cover apples and potatoes with plastic, and I started feeling down. I came to your site and now feel encouraged again. Thank you so much!

13 years ago

Puffs carries a box that has no plastic. It’s also nice because you can easily grab a bunch for your purse. By the way, your blog is inspiring me to try to use less plastic, but I have a long, long way to go. I admire what you are doing.

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green
13 years ago

I can’t live without my neti pot! I can’t take decongestants because of my heart so it saves me during colds! I also use it for allergies.

Feel better!

Lara S.
13 years ago

I’ve never been able to find neti pots here in Argentina. So once I tried using a tiny squeeze bottle to do this. It worked great, since I blew my nose and massive amounts of goo emerged which had been clogging my sinus! BUT, when the saline solution I was using started to run out, I had to tilt my head a lot, and a small fraction of liquid got to my ear, which started to ache immediately. So I didn’t ever try again. When I went to the doctor (because my cold had worsened a lot) and told him why my ear hurt he kind of told me I was crazy to have done that. But he was wrong, I just have to get the right container!
I have allergies all the time so I really need to find a neti pot soon!

13 years ago

In preparation for your next cold: We LOVE them!

Sense of Home
13 years ago

My husband swears by the Neti Pot and I swear by cloth handkerchiefs, gross or not they are much softer.

I haven’t tried the Neti Pot, working up my nerve I guess.

13 years ago

Hi Beth
I just got done with a respiratory thingy all last week- Finally cleared it up drinking hot water with lemon and honey- yay for natural remedies- robitussin did nothing

And yes- I loves me some neti pot- good for the clogs. thanks for reminding folks to use salt- chlorinated tap burns.

feel better, baby!

13 years ago

A neti pot is a wonderful thing that I only learned about in the last couple of years. As for the hankies etc. I simply make up two wads of tissue paper and jam one in each nostril with plenty sticking out. No more runny nose so no more wiping. After an hour or so the wads will get soaked so you pop in two more. Why run through boxes of tissue when one tissue will supply enough paper for many pairs of wads.

Of course, you’ll look crazy with the wads hanging out of your nostrils but since you say you have no dignity, not a problem, eh?

Additionally, when you take out the wads, you can run after your significant other with them in your hand yelling, “I’m the boogie-man and I’m gonna GET you!”. This alone is therapeutic but unless you enjoy making females squeal, it’s optional.

Oh and can’t go without saying that you took the most impressive photo I have ever seen of a box of tissue. It looks like silk!

13 years ago

I’ve always been curious about the neti pot…..thank you, thank you….and did I say, THANK YOU for your perfect photo demonstrating how to use it…….next time a cold comes my way, I’ll be a bit more bold to give it a try!

13 years ago

I suffer from sinus troubles and have never had the guts to try a neti pot.
Thanks to your instructions, your photo and encouraging post, I may. Maybe. Still scared.

Blessings, Tracey

Raylene P
13 years ago

Theres nothing softer than your own clothes in the dirty laundry hamper. They will go in the wash anyway. Clean tee shirts also serve the same purpose and u could also wash them. I’ve done that through nasty colds and the skin around my nose doesn’t dry out like it does with disposables.

Michele Langston
13 years ago

I make handkerchiefs out of old teeshirts. Just cut in squares, put 2 together, and serge the edges. Nice and soft, plus 2 ply makes them almost leakproof. And everyone has stained teeshirts! :D

Mommy C
13 years ago

I love my netti pot! It saved my life while I was pregnant and couldn’t take anything with the 3-4 colds that I had. Hope you feel better soon!

A Green Spell
13 years ago

Glad you found the neti pot. I absolutely love mine.

As for colds, I use a big stack of bandanas, as you know from Twitter (I’m @5seed), and as they get used up fast (sometimes every 20 minutes) I wash them in the sink, and hang dry them over the shower rod. They dry surprisingly fast.

That said, sometimes you just have to succumb to Kleenex!!

I also found that putting one of those heated rice packs on my sinuses helps, as well as a facial steam with eucalyptus oil. My last cold was one of the worst I’ve ever had, but it was over in 1 1/2 days, and I believe it was because of the neti pot, steaming, and hot packs. Plus massive herbal tea ingestion! :)

Totally love the pic of you using the neti – yay!

13 years ago

Awesome artical. I’ve wanted to do nasal irrigation, and have been afraid of the burn. Even thought I laughed, I really did need the picture, I couldn’t visualize the instruction. THANK YOU! You’re the best!

Cat C-B
13 years ago

Beth, I love you; I love your blog. But you DO have absolutely no dignity whatsoever.

Whatever. This is the closest I’ve ever come to even considering using a Neti Pot.

(I’m thinking of using cut up worn-out tee shirts for hankies in future, BTW. As we absolutely run out of bandannas when a truly serious cold strikes.)

13 years ago

Last time I had a really bad cold, I resorted to cutting up an old T shirt. Still pretty gross but if you find one that is way too big, you can cut it up into smallish pieces and throw them in the laundry when you’re done. Way softer than even the soft tissue!

13 years ago

I love my neti pot!

Be sure when buying salt to make sure it is additive free. A lot of salt has iodide added or anti-caking agents. Kosher salt is often additive free so look for that, but double check the ingredients.