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Swimming Nose Clips – Advantages and Disadvantages

Swimming nose clips are little devices made of bent wire padded with rubber. They are designed to keep the water out of your nose.

To do so, you stick the device on your nose and it pinches your nostrils together.

A simple nose clip with a wire-bound frame and latex padding.
A simple nose clip with a wire-bound frame and latex padding.

Why Use a Nose Clip?

If you are a beginner, there are so many things to think about and get right.

Breathing is yet another component of swimming technique you have to master, especially in the front crawl.

So the temptation is great to buy a nose clip to at least keep water out of your nose.

But is using a nose clip a good idea?

Nose Clip Advantages

I took up swimming again as an adult in my thirties.

A nose clip was one of the first swimming accessories I bought besides the mandatory swimsuit, swimming goggles and a swim cap.

I used it extensively before I weaned myself off of it after about a year of swimming.

So let’s have a look at the advantages which using a nose clip brings:

1) When you learn front crawl, it avoids that water enters your nose when you turn your head to breathe.

So you only have to focus on your mouth while breathing.

2) When you learn backstroke, it prevents the water from entering the nose if you lack balance (and the head submerges), or if water is projected in your face by the recovering arm.

3) To learn or improve your butterfly stroke, you may have to do body undulations and dolphin kicks on the back.

In that case, it may nearly be impossible to keep water out of your nose without using a clip.

4) When you learn the flip turn, it allows you to learn the correct flip motion first without worrying about breathing.

Later on, you can remove the clip and practice correct exhalation during the flip.

5) If your nose is allergic to pool chemicals (e.g. chlorine), a clip might be the solution to keep those chemicals out.

6) There exists a killer amoeba that lives in certain warm bodies of water and enters the human body through the nose.

From the nose, it migrates to the brain and literally eats it alive!

As you might guess, this is a dangerous medical condition. Luckily infections by this amoeba are rare.

Nevertheless, you might wear a nose clip as a precaution when you swim in bodies of water that might be infected.

Nose Clip Disadvantages

You will rarely see an experienced swimmer use a nose clip, except for specific exercises that demand it or in the case of an allergy.

That’s because using it also has its drawbacks:

1) Breathing is less efficient because the nose is shut down and the overall physical efficiency in the water decreases.

2) You are more inclined to hold your breath if you wear a nose plug.

Holding your breath should be avoided as it is better to exhale continuously in the water because it keeps the body more relaxed and the stroke more fluid.

3) Water might become trapped in the nose and generate snot that can’t be evacuated.

That certainly was the case for me, and additionally, my nose was regularly obstructed after a training if I had used a nose clip.

4) When I started to wean myself off the nose clip after about a year of swim practice, I had the problem that water entered my nose when I turned the head to breathe.

It seems that wearing the nose clip all the time, I had gotten into the habit of swimming with a too low head position.

This in turn caused the breathing problem mentioned above. So this was a bad habit I acquired which took some time to shed.


A nose clip is an excellent piece of gear for beginners, as it makes breathing easier while learning how to swim.

It makes especially sense when learning front crawl or backstroke.

However, once you become more proficient in your swimming abilities, you should try to wean yourself off the nose clip, and only use it under special circumstances.

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Monday 6th of September 2021

Plenty of professional and elite swimmers wear nose clips. Triathlon and open water swimmers wear them as well. You can see them all over Olymipa 2021. ;-)

Lori Jacobs

Friday 3rd of July 2020

I use them for another reason. I’m not allergic to pool chemicals. But I’m allergic to varying degrees to just about anything that’s airborne, year round because there’s always something out there I’m allergic to. Since infancy. And as a child in the 60s, my symptoms were far worse than now because there weren’t effective meds.

The result is that the act of sniffing gently is completely subconscious. I don’t realize I’m going to do it, and if I’m not underwater I don’t realize that I have. If I am, it’s pretty unpleasant! I also breathe thru my mouth as often as not because of those allergies, so I don’t really have much control of my nose breathing in general.

I don’t swim in any serious way, just recreationally in my backyard pool.


Tuesday 21st of January 2020

At what age did you learn this ability?


Wednesday 15th of January 2020

Dear Christophe,

You said you could control the level of water in your nose with your breath easily. That means that you can create an air-lock in your nose while you are on your back underwater, so that no water goes in, and no air comes out? If so, how the hell it is easy for you and how did you learn it? I want to learn that. I have practiced it for 8 months, but after failing 10.000 times I got extremely frustrated and it led me to stop swimming... How to trigger that ability? Do you just relax and let it happen, or do you concentrate? I need that ability.


Thursday 16th of January 2020

Hi, Andrew,

It's a little difficult to say exactly how I do it, because I don't have to think about it, I'd have to check at the pool.

But I think it's about tucking my chin in a bit and breathing out a bit while I'm on my back.

Now, as I have alluded to before, it can be easier for some people than others, depending on the particular anatomy of their nose.


Friday 5th of July 2019

“If you lack balance”

I’ve always loved being underwater and despite this fact I lack balance. Learnt to swim at the age of 5, was always diving down in the pool. So no, it cannot be “because you learnt to swim as an adult”. However, I do not remember whether I had this ability as a kid or not, as I stopped swimming during my teenage years and returned to swimming in the beginning of my twenties. When I started swimming again the closure of the soft palate came as a reflex when swimming underwater, but it does not generate enough pressure in my nose to avoid flooding my sinuses face-up underwater.

How is balance triggered? I’ve been practicing to find balance for 6 months and I managed to find balance only once in my life, motionless face-up underwater, after two weeks of practice and never again after that. I also had a deviated septum and nasal polyps, and had a surgery for both of them JUST FOR this ability. I went to a mind control course where I learnt to meditate, visualize and make positive self-suggestions for this ability to evolve, and went to a breathing course in which I learnt to exhale through my nose super slightly by learning to control the intercostals and the lower diaphragm… Yet I still have no balance. Whenever I try to find balance, I fail. No matter how I try. Submerge face-up and stopping the bubble stream or go underwater and turn on my back and trying to push just enough air, or submerging my face backwards underwater without bubbling or doing somersaults underwater in super slow motion…

Can somebody tell me what is going on, because everyone who practices balance, finds it in an hour or a week and after finding it, he has the control of it forever. I’m not speaking about professional swimmers, I’m speaking about completely regular people who hit the water 10 times a year during summer, when they are on holiday and they can’t even swim all styles…

I’m an exception for both being unsuccessful despite a lot of practice and being unable to find balance again despite finding it once.

Some help would be greatly appreciated here. I read a comment here about being a clumsy breather for this, which hurt me very much as I feel like I’ve done everything for this ability. Everything.


Sunday 7th of July 2019

Hi Andrew,

I can't comment on the medical issues you have encountered, but I know that some people can't keep water out of their sinuses because of their morphology.

It also seems you try to obtain balance by trying to just float in the water without moving your limbs. Again, this is a capacity that certain people have, based on their morphology, while other people don't have this capacity.

In my case, I can easily control the amount of /level of the water in my nose with my breath, but on the other hand, I can't keep my horizontal balance without some flutter kicking.

So what I want to say is that achieving balance without moving your limbs is not a prerequisite to being able to swim well, and using a nose clip is an acceptable way of keeping water out of your nose/sinuses, if you can't achieve this without a clip.

I hope this helps.

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