Saline solution serves many purposes, including rinsing contact lenses and clearing out your sinuses. Want to know how to make saline solution at home? Learning how to DIY saline can save you money and a trip to the pharmacy.

Saline solution (also called physiological or isotonic saline if you’re fancy) is essentially a mixture of salt and water. Most variations contain 0.9 percent salt (aka sodium chloride).

The mixture has the same sodium concentration as your blood and tears, so it mimics what’s found in your body (woo-hoo, science!).

Saline is a gentle, effective option whether you’re trying to rinse a part of your body or hydrate it.

In the medical field, saline is used to:

Saline can be applied directly to your skin or inserted into your veins (with the help of a doc, of course). When it comes to making saline solution at home, we’re strictly talking external use.

Making saline solution at home is generally safe as long as you wash your hands before you start and wash the container you’ll store your saline in. An easy way to make sure your container is sterilized is to run it through the dishwasher.

To get started, gather the following saline solution ingredients and tools.

What you need to make saline:

  • a microwave-safe container or a pot with a lid
  • tap water or distilled water
  • non-iodized table salt
  • baking soda (optional, but it helps make saline less irritating)
  • a utensil for mixing
  • an airtight container with a lid (a bottle or jar works great!)

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From there, you have a few different methods to make your saline.

Stovetop method

  1. Add 2 cups tap water to a pot, cover, and boil for 15 minutes.
  2. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. Optional: Add a pinch of baking soda.
  5. Stir mixture until everything is dissolved and transfer to a clean airtight container.
  6. Refrigerate saline for up to 24 hours (throw it out after that to avoid bacteria).

Pro tip: This is the most sterile tap water method because the water is boiled.

Microwave method

  1. Pour 2 cups tap water into a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Cover and microwave for 1–2 minutes.
  4. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour your saline into a clean airtight container.
  6. Refrigerate saline for up to 24 hours (throw it out after that to avoid bacteria).

Distilled water method

You can also use distilled water for the ultimate sterile (and longer-lasting) saline solution. You can find distilled water at most drug or grocery stores. This method is the easiest by far.

  1. Grab a 1-gallon jug of distilled water and add 8 teaspoons of salt.
  2. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

DIY saline prep tips

  • To prevent bacteria from contaminating your solution, wash your storage container and lid thoroughly with hot water and soap or run it through the dishwasher. Let it air-dry completely.
  • If you use tap water, don’t skip the boiling step. This sterilizes the water and removes any bacteria and chemicals. Let it cool before using it.
  • You can make a smaller batch of saline with 1 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • Don’t dig into your spice rack for sea salt — it contains additional minerals that will mess up your saline.

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What’s the point of making saline solution if you can’t put it to good use? Here are a few ways to take your saline for a spin:

Got the sniffles, nose feeling dry, or you just like playing with a neti pot? Squirting some saline up there can be very useful to keep your nasal membranes lubed up and clear out congestion.

To make a nasal saline solution rinse:

  1. Combine 3 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 1 cup water (that has been boiled for 15–20 minutes)
  3. Stir until the solids have dissolved.

To use a nasal saline solution, grab a neti pot, ear bulb, or other bottle to blast the solution up your nostrils one at a time. (Just make sure it’s clean!) It’s easier and less messy to do this in the shower or lean over the sink.

When using the saline, try to tilt your head to the right or left, depending on the nostril you’re clearing.

What about saline for your eyes?

Sorry, folks — using DIY saline solution for your peepers or contact lenses is a big no-no. Using a homemade saline solution in your eyes could lead to corneal infections. Just don’t do it!

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Want to keep a new piercing infection-free? Rinse it regularly with saline solution. This can help flush away dead skin cells and other junk that can lead to infections and the dreaded crustiness.

Soak the piercing site or apply saline to it directly. Do this for about 5 minutes once or twice a day (once in the morning and once at night is an easy way to remember).

You can rinse wounds with saline to ensure they don’t dry out and to remove bacteria and debris. For simple wounds, it can be a handy — excuse the pun — solution. But research suggests that just regular ol’ tap water also works for this purpose.

Yes, you can use your saline for slime

Slime is making a comeback (and we’re not even talking about the OG green Nickelodeon slime we all know and love). Kids are loving gross, gooey slime, and one of the ingredients just happens to be saline solution.

Don’t have spawn of your own? There’s no rule saying adults can’t play with slime. Slime can be fun AF, and if you just need to chill the eff out, why not slime it up with a little craft?

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Ready to awaken your inner chemist by making saline solution at home? Make sure you minimize the risk of contaminated water that can lead to infections (yikes!) and talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about a wound or illness.

Keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Don’t touch the solution with your bare hands — no matter how “clean” they are.
  • Never use homemade saline on your eyes or contacts.
  • Don’t drink your saline solution.
  • Use a new container for each batch (and make sure you clean it with warm water and soap or run it through the dishwasher).
  • Stick that sucker in the fridge. It only takes 24 hours for bacteria to grow in homemade saline solution, but they’re less likely to grow in a chilled environment.
  • Chuck your solution if it looks dirty or cloudy.
  • Throw away DIY saline made with tap water after 24 hours. If you use distilled water, it can last up to a month.

Making saline solution at home is fairly easy, and there are a lot of uses for it. You may want to buy saline in a store if you use it regularly (that’s a must if you use it on your eyes or contacts), but knowing you can whip up a batch with ingredients you probably have on hand can be helpful in a pinch.