Thursday, 21 February 2013

are handkerchiefs disgusting?

In a recent bedroom clear-out I came across a pile of my Mum and Dad’s old handkerchiefs (yes, I know, weird what we keep!) and they got me thinking.

Some time ago I read a post on a message board decrying what the writer considered the disgusting habit of using a tissue to blow one’s nose and then putting it back in a pocket, or even (horror!) re-using it. There is a current infection control campaign to “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it”, which is encouraging us to carry tissues so that we can catch a sneeze in a tissue and then dispose of it. But where? If you’re on a bus or out in the street, where is the vile object to be deposited? I also find that carrying a number of tissues in a bag results in a horrible papery mess that’s no use for anything. Googling the slogan “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” led to some funny public information films from the 1940s encouraging that generation to catch their sneezes in a handkerchief.

As someone who grew up in a less wasteful and possibly less hygiene-obsessed age, I was taught to use my cotton handkerchief at one corner first, so that it could be used more than once. And (unless I actually had a cold) it was expected to last all day. “Have you got a clean hankie?” was my mother’s invariable farewell call as I left the house. Since those days I have, like most of the rest of the population, taken to using tissues and my mother would be ashamed of me because I often forget to supply myself with one before going out.

I was really interested, therefore, to find a tutorial for hand-hemmed hankies on a craft blog and comments which make it clear that some people do still use them, either for preference or on “green” anti-waste grounds. Since then I’ve been going out with a cotton hankie in my pocket. Whether I’ll be organised enough to keep on top of the laundry is another matter.

What do you think?  Handkerchiefs:  disgusting or green?  (Before someone else suggests it I realise that green and disgusting is also an option!)


  1. One of my earliest memories is setting off to nursery school with a cotton handkerchief pinned to my collar. My mother and yours were obviously of the same mind.

  2. Funny you should post about this, I was only thinking the other day about how we always had proper hankies (ironed into triangles) when I was younger (usually with an initial embroidered in a corner). Maybe I should give them a go again.

  3. Ah yes, hankies. My parents still use them and lament the difficulty of coming by nice ones. I'm a tissue girl I'm afraid, although I blame the endless monograms I was expected to embroider on to aunts and uncles hankies every Christmas as a child for that!