"Are handkerchiefs more hygienic than tissues?" and other questions

#1: Are handkerchiefs more hygienic/sanitary than tissues?


It comes down to how you use it and what you use it for: Do you dispose of used, snotty tissues straightaway? Do you carry more than one hankie (as you would a packet of tissues)? Or do you change your cloth hankies frequently?  


For obvious reasons, my household is an all-hankie household. Despite a member being immunosuppressant, we have used hankies, and even right through the Covid pandemic. We have not been worse off than those who only used paper tissues.


The advisory had been to "sneeze into your sleeve" or something else that catches whatever you are sneezing. A cloth hankie is just the "something else" that would work.


Either you scrunch up the bit that has been sneezed on, or you refold it with a dry surface ready to catch your next sneeze. To that end, the snot is not, and has never been, the issue (pardon the puns); it is what we do with it.


  • To start off, carry a spare hankieOn a day when I anticipate a higher mucus flow, I carry a few more. 
  • Like I said, roll or fold up those bits of the hankie which are mucky.
  • Remove used hankies to wash basket or special hankie bag at the end of the day. Husband has a "hankie bag" because he likes washing his hankies at 60 degrees. Mine go into the normal wash.
  • Iron your hankies if you can, but this is optional. Most bugs, known or unknown, will be killed under a hot iron, I imagine. I iron mine because I like to look neat and tidy. When was the last time you ironed paper tissue??



Or you can use a pocket pouch with clean hankies, just like a paper tissue packet.


Elsewhere on the internet you will find scientists claiming that paper tissues are definitely more hygienic. I have no evidence to argue with them apart from knowing full well that hankies even during the pandemic had not been a setback for us.


Maybe this is because I have grown up using hankies, and I loved to receive hankies as a gift when I was young. I'm also steeped in the philosophy 病从口入( bìng cóng kǒu rù), that is "illness/disease enters through the mouth". Conversely, what comes out of us does not harm us. 


It may harm others, though, and that is why we keep the hankies to ourselves, instead of throwing them (like used tissues) into places where we cannot control their disposal. Who knows which animal (or even human being) might come rummaging through the bins? Or what about the municipal workers who have to come empty these? It's a bit like wearing a cloth mask -- remember those times? -- to reduce spreading possible infection to others, rather than to prevent our own infection.) 


Note: There was a time when I used paper tissues exclusively, when I suffered severe sinusitis. I went through a box of tissues in two days, I kid you not. Now I wonder if there was something in the tissue that aggravated my condition. I will never know.


Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief



#2: How many hankies do you need? 

[click here]


#3: Why I’m not using a cloth hankie again [click here]


#4: How should I wash cloth hankies?

[click here]


#5: How do I use cloth hankies?

[click here]


#6: Hankies in the creative sector

[click here]



(More questions and answers to follow soon. Please be patient.)



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© Siew-Peng Lee