When I was a little girl, I always had a pretty hanky tucked up my sleeve. I had printed hankies and pastel coloured ones but my favourites were always white cotton ones embroidered with flowers. These beauties became translucent and softened with washing. My grandmother always had one on hand to mop up spills and sneezes. Being given one of her rose water scented hankies always felt a bit special and that smell takes me back to her even after all these years.
Once the pocket tissue went into mass production, the handkerchief fell out of favour. Who has time to wash and iron a hanky when a tissue is so much more practical and hygienic? Use it once and then throw it away, it all seemed so sensible at the time. Except now we know better.
Now we are more aware that disposable pieces of tissue are made from trees that take years to grow. To use tissues to wipe our noses is not only wasteful but harmful to the environment. The tissue manufacturing process contributes to deforestation increasing global warming and damaging plants and wildlife. It’s also heavy on water and electricity use.
Bringing back the handkerchief, that charming relic from the past, starts to make sense. A modern washing machine is more than capable of cleaning a hanky with no soaking or pre-washing needed. To make sure it is thoroughly washed; open it up fully before tossing it in the washing machine and washing at 30 degrees or above to remove dirt and stains. Unlike a stray paper tissue that gets into your wash, it’s never going to shred wreak havoc. You don’t even need to iron it. I like to iron mine though and add a dash of rose water to remind me of my grandmother.
You can find beautiful hankies in charity shops and flea markets or even buy them new if you are squeamish about second hand. A newly purchased box of six embroidered cotton hankies should cost no more than £10 to £15 and will last you many years. Your grandmother or mother may also be happy to gift you heirloom hankies from the past. You may wish to keep these treasures for special occasions such as your wedding day or an elegant trip. Alternatively you could buy your own special occasion handkerchief. If so, I would recommend going to The Handkerchief Club at Tamielle.com. The handkerchief club is an initiative that is seeking to revive the use of handkerchiefs whilst simultaneously creating an ethical income for people in developing communities in Bulgaria. Each handkerchief is exquisitely hand-embroidered in the home of a Bulgarian lady and it comes with a little tag telling you the name of the lady who made it. Now that’s not to be sneezed at!
Do you use hankies or tissues? If you use tissues, could you ever be persuaded to return to the hanky?