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Eco-Friendly Solutions

Not Your Grampa’s Handkerchief

Whenever I thought about handkerchiefs I imagine my Grandfather and his hankie that he used to blow his nose into and hack into all the time - it grossed me out.

I was 10. A decade later as I started to take a look at how environmentally friendly my decisions were I started to reconsider. After a nasty bout with a cold I had a sore nose - I found some great natural solutions for my dry nose but could the dry nose have been avoided by not using 1,000,000 facial tissues?

Yes. In a recent purchase from Lunapads I ordered a few small Organic cotton handkerchiefs and contacted Lunapads customer support about the use and care of this reusable facial tissue.

One of their support staff, Sandra Allen, was quick with a response to me. I just asked her what was on my mind and after I read her response the first time I needed to blow my nose it felt right in that cotton hankie!

She assured me the following is the case with handkerchiefs:

  • They aren’t going to leak snot everywhere or into your clothes in the wash
  • If you have a cold you will produce more mucus and might want to rinse your hankie in warm water and hydrogen peroxide to keep it naturally fresh and white
  • Just toss it in your pocket - use it - the toss it in your laundry. Then repeat!

Handkerchief Q & A With Sandra Allen of Lunapads

Are there a lot of germs in my snot and boogers (aka mucus)?

Sandra: I did a bit of reading and generally snot is produced to help keep the respiratory system free of germs. The time when it may have germs in it is when you are catching a cold. In that case I would soak them in hot water and add some hydrogen peroxide. But generally a hankie is a personal item that is used only for you so they’re your own germs. Check out Wikipedia’s definition of mucus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasal_mucus#Respiratory_system or do some Google searches to read more about it. I am all fascinated by our wonderful mucus-producing bodies now that I’ve done some reading up on the subject!

What should I do with dirty or used reusable handkerchiefs when I’m not at home?

Sandra: I personally just keep them in my pocket or bag, the snot really doesn’t go anywhere and unless you’ve got a bad cold it’ll be minor what comes out.

What’s a good solution to keep clean handkerchiefs separate from dirty in my pockets, handbag, desk, or home?

Sandra: Again, you don’t need to be so particular about it. I usually only have one hankie on me during the day, but sometimes I’ll keep a folded one in a pocket of my bag/purse. The used hankie can just be kept in your coat or pants pocket, always turn the snot part inwards and it won’t get anywhere. But we do have these cute little pouches – the Luna Pouch (nylon lined!) or the Pochette (pictured below) that you could use to store your hankies in.

Terri (me): I had to let her have that little sales bit 😉 It’s just how I roll!

Should I soak my handkerchief first to make sure the snot doesn’t get all over my clothes?

Sandra: Unless you’ve got a cold (and therefore more snot!) you can just throw them straight in to the wash, no need to pre-rinse but you can if it makes you feel more comfortable.

How can I soak, pre-wash or clean a handkerchief?

Sandra: I’d just soak them in water, but if they seem little dirty then add a bit of hydrogen peroxide or a product like oxy-brite which are both natural bleaching agents. It’ll help keep them a nice cream-white and won’t damage the fabric or the environment.

Are you sure it won’t get on my clothes if I wash them in with my regular laundry?

Sandra: It won’t get on your clothes. I promise you won’t even be able to tell you had snotty hankies in with your laundry if you do combine them. Once you start using hankies you’ll be amazed at how the snot just kind of disappears in the fabric.

Terri (me): And yes, she does mean the “fabric of the handkerchief!”

Additional photo from the Lunapad website (that’s Sandra on the left.)

11 Comments for “Not Your Grampa’s Handkerchief”
  1. I need to know how and where to carry a handkerchief, or even two… Women’s clothes are notoriously pocketless… I guess they feel even the slight bulk of a pocket may make us look fat. So where do women of today carry hankies without looking like Russian peasants? I have heard up the sleeve, but try that with a tee shirt! I want to carry hankies, but have no idea where to put them. Help?

    Posted by meg | February 2, 2009, 7:32 am
  2. Try pushing your handkerchief down the front of your bra, or if you are wearing trousers, you can tuck it inside the waist band of your knickers just in front of your hip.

    Posted by Pamela Charnley Nickols | February 9, 2009, 6:48 am
  3. […] Some interesting facts about paper waste and how to cut down on your paper footprint. How to cut your paper footprint - Green Living, Environment - The Independent Some people are opting for recycled facial tissue these days to be more environmentally friendly. “If every household in the United States replaced just one box of virgin fiber facial tissues (175 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 163,000 trees.” The source of this quote is on this website and it has some other interesting information on it as well. NRDC: A Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products Made with Recycled Paper I might take some of my old cotton shirts and make them into handkerchiefs. I think I could save about $40.00 in a year (give or take) from not buying them. I know it might sound kind of gross, but I could put them to soak in a bucket if I wanted to. This will be one less thing I have to be dependent upon the store for too. Not Your Grampa’s Handkerchief | Green Behavior […]

    Posted by Thrift - the latest "buzz" word for saving the Planet? - Page 6 | February 14, 2009, 11:21 am
  4. Most women carry a purse of some kind, so stick it in an outside pocket! I like to carry them mostly to open doors or push buttons if I need to without getting germy. 😉 Obviously I use a different hankie for that than I blow into though….LOL

    Posted by cindyloo | September 16, 2010, 1:59 pm
  5. i wash my partners hankies and they do get snot on the clothes, and unless i handwash them first, they come out of the wash with slime on them. i am wondering if anyone knows of a product that will dissolve the snot because even when i soak them i actually have to rub the snot off to dislodge it…

    Posted by anna | September 30, 2010, 11:37 pm
  6. Anna - you said you soak them but have you tried soaking in vinegar or soappy water? Maybe boiling them - you could pick up a cheap pot or pan at a dollar store or Walmart/Target and use it only for hankie boiling. I’ve never had a problem with my hankies personally.

    Please do update us if you find something that works!

    Posted by Terri Ann | October 1, 2010, 9:09 am
  7. I assure snot DOES transfer to clothes, particularly some black and dark coloured clothes in the washing machine. I soak the handkies in diluted vinegar and hand wash first. I wish my husband would use tissues.

    Posted by Di | June 7, 2014, 8:05 pm
  8. Allergies! I want to use cloth hankies. From what I have seen on this forum, maybe it would be best if I washed my cloth hankies separately from other items so as to avoid slime. That’s fine. I suppose I should cut up a few hundred squares, so it might be reasonable to make a separate load from clothes and towels. I don’t want to boil them separately as that would go against my non-domestic scruples. So would a bit of vinegar in the wash do the trick?

    Posted by Carrie Ann Clewell | January 21, 2017, 7:38 am
  9. I have used nappy soaking powder to clean and sterilise hankies. If you have around 12 soiled hankies put in a plastic bowl or bucket, a tablespoon of the nappy soaking powder and then boiling water to cover. Stir around, leave for a few hours then put in normal wash after a quick rinse and squeeze out.

    Posted by Catherine Campbell | March 3, 2017, 6:35 am
  10. I take mine in the shower with me to rinse out, hang to dry then re-use. When washing my towels/ menstrual pads (which are rinsed the same way as they’re used) I’ll throw them in too. Naturally if I have a cold, they go into a bucket of boiling water with a dash of vinegar/ 1/2 cup of oxy, then again in with the towels.

    I don’t trust that there won’t be snot/ mucus/ slime on my clothes which is why I pre clean. I have a pouch I keep the in if I’m out and about with a bag, if not I improvise: Waste band of leggings, under bra strap if wearing a sleeved dress, up a long sleeve, actually short sleeve too of the t-shirt is tight enough to do so!

    I love my hankies, I am the sort who used to have a box of tissues in every room! This is a big step for me on my less waste journey.

    Posted by Sam | July 30, 2018, 11:44 am
  11. I love cloth handkerchiefs and have used them for years. Many trees saved! And softer on the nose.

    When I don’t have access to a washing machine, I soak them and use a scrub brush with the soapy water. It gets them clean.

    That husband mentioned above may not be drinking enough water.. though it seems some people tend to have dry, sticky mucus.

    Posted by Grace | December 20, 2018, 5:13 am
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