It snot quite the right salt...
June 28, 2012 5:55 PM   Subscribe

What happens if I make my own neti pot solution using iodized salt?

I'm currently nursing a monster sinus infection in Argentina. I thought to bring along the neti pot, but not the little salt packets. I found a number of recipes online for making my own, which would be great except that I went through all of the varieties of salt available at my local supermarket and there's not one that doesn't have (at least) potassium iodide added.

So suppose I'm desperate, and I make up a solution using iodized salt. What's likely to be the result? What's the worst that could happen?

I know you're not my doctor.
posted by dr. boludo to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well you need iodine in your diet, which is why salt is iodized, so I vote that no harm will come to you.
posted by dfriedman at 5:57 PM on June 28, 2012

I dunno, dude. There are plenty of things that are fun to eat and no fun to put up your nose. I'd let someone with actual information answer this one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:03 PM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Sure, but evidence suggests that safe to ingest and good to use in the neti pot are not the same thing.

I assume there's a reason all the guides I've seen insist on non-iodized salt. Maybe that's a better way of framing the question: what is that reason?
posted by dr. boludo at 6:04 PM on June 28, 2012

What's the worst that could happen?

I've used iodized salt in a Neti pot before, with no ill effects. "Might cause irritation" is the strongest admonishment Google has to offer. Do use distilled water, though, because death by brain eating amoeba sounds unpleasant.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Hm. A quick google search suggests the iodine can irritate the nasal passages. I don't know what "irritate" means in terms of severity and I suppose different people can tolerate different levels of irritation. Mucous membranes are more sensitive than other tissues...
posted by dfriedman at 6:08 PM on June 28, 2012

A material safety data sheet for potassium iodide says:

May cause irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing and shortness of breath…

Skin Contact:
May cause irritation with redness and pain…

Chronic Exposure:
Chronic ingestion of iodides may produce "iodism," which may be manifested by skin rash, running nose, headache and irritation of mucous membranes. Weakness, anemia, loss of weight, and general depression may also occur.
Oppose the MSDS for sodium chloride:

May cause mild irritation to the respiratory tract…

Skin Contact:
May irritate damaged skin; absorption can occur with effects similar to those via ingestion…

Chronic Exposure:
No information found.
Based on that I probably wouldn't want to stick potassium iodide up my nose, even if sodium chloride is OK.
posted by grouse at 6:08 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: There is nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem with most brands of iodized salt is that they also contain dessicants and anticaking agents do that they don't clump up and still pour when it's humid (this is the real meaning of "when it rains, it pours" -- the thing that poured was Morton's salt that didn't clump up in high humidity conditions). These agents won't hurt you, I imagine, but they won't feel too great in your nose either. Just get some kosher salt, or really any salt that doesn't contain these additives. The iodine part, however,mis nothing to worry about.
posted by slkinsey at 6:09 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Iodized salt is irritating. Can't you spring for artisanal sea salt at a gourmet shop? Or is that totally Buenos Aires-centric?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What Slkinsey said. Iodized (table salt) usually contains anti-caking agents (and Morton's actually has added sugar - dextrose!).

I'm sure it's safe to use, but will probably be somewhat irritating. Or maybe not; everyone is different.

In addition to kosher salt, canning salt also doesn't contain any additives.

You can add some baking soda as a buffering agent to make it less irritating. This works really well for me, but again everyone is different.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:42 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Call a local yoga studio. Ask if they can recommend a place to buy the special neti pot salt.
posted by candyland at 6:58 PM on June 28, 2012

I've usually used it, with baking soda added as Pogo Fuzzybutt suggests. It's never caused me any problems.
posted by dilettante at 7:36 PM on June 28, 2012

I've used it 50/50 with baking soda to no ill effects.
posted by MeiraV at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2012

I, too, have used iodized salt with no problems for me.
posted by coolcoolkitty at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2012

Any salt in a storm, i say, and i've used it for years. Keep it mild tho': if you can just taste it, it's about the strength i would use it at, personally. It's less ideal than the special salts, but it will give you some relief. Nthing the distilled or really boiled water though: Unfamiliar biota up your sinuses does sound like an invitation for bad outcomes to me.
posted by Ys at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2012

I've used iodized and I'm not dead.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:59 PM on June 28, 2012

Have you tried using it with just water, and no salt?

The last time I used mine, I ran out of the little packets and did a few with just distilled water and it provided a lot of the same relief. You could maybe do that while you are waiting for a definitive answer on the salt question?
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2012

I used to use iodized salt before I found the recipe I use now. It just burns more. It gives you that "got water up my nose while swimming" sensation which takes a few minutes to dissipate.
posted by peep at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2012

2nding peep, we find it stings (tolerable, but off-putting).
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:40 PM on June 28, 2012

You probably won't come to any harm but I'm surprised you can't find anything.

Rather than use distilled water (or even if you are using distilled water) I'd recommend boiling everything and allowing to cool in a semi-protected environment (i.e. a pan with the lid left on after it came to a boil). Unless you happen to have a 0.22 ┬Ám sterile filter apparatus laying around. Then I'd use that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:47 PM on June 28, 2012

I've used iodized salt, baking soda and boiled water for years. No harm so far.
posted by Lynsey at 9:54 PM on June 28, 2012

Sounds like you're good, but I'll just pipe in to say I have used kosher or canning/pickling salt with regular tap water for 15 years (people preserve food all over the world, so the latter must be available). Still here to thumb-type.

FWIW, my preferred ratio is 1/4tsp salt per cup of water. I go half and half boiling to cold tap water, fully dissolving the salt before adding the cold. Good luck!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:29 PM on June 28, 2012

WAIT! There's one more ingredient: the water. Make sure that the water you use in Argentina is pure. Either boil the water or use good bottled water.
posted by mbarryf at 6:17 AM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

In GA and I use well water heated in a standard tank water heater. I often use non-iodized or sea salt. Occasionally I end up with iodized salt due to poor planning on my part. It still works for me and I can't tell a difference. I love my neti pot and won't do without it.
posted by Classic Diner at 6:54 AM on June 29, 2012

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