To some, the thought of using a handkerchief seems outdated and even kind of gross. But with the recent rise in eco-consciousness, handkerchiefs seem to be making a comeback. Better for the environment, better for your wallet, and with a wide variety of styling colors and designs, it’s hard to argue against them.
But the whole point of owning a handkerchief is to always have it on you so that you’re not reaching for a disposable option. Which means it’s important that you have one you actually want to use. This guide will help you choose the handkerchief that best fits your needs. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorites to help you get started on your search.
How to Choose a Handkerchief – Buying Guide
The best handkerchief is pretty much an extension of your body. That being said, you’re going to want to pick out the right one.
Pick a Material Based on Your Needs
When picking out a handkerchief, perhaps the most important thing is getting the material right. Be sure to think about what you’ll be using it for when making this choice.
Cotton is Soft and Economical for Everyday Use
Cotton is the standard in handkerchiefs. They’re cheap, hypoallergenic, and easy to clean. However, not all cotton is created equal, and lower quality cotton may not last as long or hold up as well to machine washing. If you’re looking specifically for a high-quality option, go with combed or organic cotton.
Bamboo Fiber is Comfortable and Absorbent for Practical Use
Bamboo fiber has many of the same positive qualities as cotton, though it’s generally higher quality (and more expensive). Compared to cotton, bamboo is softer and more durable. Bamboo fiber also has natural, mild antibacterial properties.
Silk is Flashy and Vivid for Accessorizing
For those who are looking more to accessorize, why not go with something with a little more oomph. Silk is bright, shiny, and holds color well.
However, silk handkerchiefs border on impractical. They’re expensive, unabsorbent, and you’re not going to want to use them to blow your nose or wipe your hands unless you’re really in a pinch.
Microfiber is Tech- and Glasses-Friendly
If you’re looking for a handkerchief that can help you see a little clearer, microfiber is the way to go. Microfiber is great at clearing away smudges without leaving behind any streaks or debris, which makes them perfect for wiping glasses or removing fingerprint smudges from phone screens.
The Thickness of the Handkerchief Determines the Size
Handkerchiefs come in a surprisingly large range of sizes. While the best way to figure out whether it’s the right size is to feel it for yourself, here’s a rough guideline.
For Thin Materials Like Cotton, about 12 Inches is Normal
A whole foot may seem large, but the material is thin and folds down to almost nothing. Plus, larger hankies will present more clean surface area for you to blow your nose on!
For those who want to use it as a pocket square, keep in mind that your handkerchief needs to be a certain size to avoid falling into the pocket completely and disappearing.
For Thicker, More Absorbent Materials, Smaller is Better
Maybe you’re looking for something to use primarily to dry your hands after using the restroom. In that case, it’ll probably be thicker and more absorbent. Since you don’t want your handkerchief to be too bulky when it’s folded, go for a smaller square.
Top 10 Best Handkerchiefs to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for in a handkerchief, here’s a list of our ten favorites to help get you started on your search.
10. GB Collection 100% Cotton Handkerchiefs (Pack of 5)
Pretty Pastels for Everyday Use
These cotton handkerchiefs come in five pastel colors. Not too thick and not too thin, they are great for everyday use, and although they are rather large at 16 inches, they fold down nicely.
Some reviewers have noted that they aren’t as soft or delicate as more premium options; however, they do hold up well to machine washing.
|Size||16″ x 16″|
9. Hankytex Cotton Embroidery Ladies’ Handkerchiefs (Pack of 6)
Light and Delicate for the Ladies
While most handkerchiefs seem to be aimed at men, this one falls squarely in the ladies’ court. With several different embroidery and lace patterns to choose from, using these is sure to add a little Victorian charm to your day.
However, they are on the thinner side and depending on your settings, they may not hold up in the washing machine. So if you do get these, try to hand wash them!
|Size||11″ x 11″|
8. CoCoUSM Striped Border Cotton Handkerchiefs (Pack of 6)
Simple, Thick, and Practical
These dapper handkerchiefs are great for those looking for something that is practical and looks good. They’re fairly thick and are completely machine washable.
While they are a little stiff straight out of the package, they get softer with every wash, which is great incentive to use them often! If you’re unhappy with them, they also come with a 100% money back guarantee.
|Size||16″ x 16″|
7. Landisun 100% Cotton Classic Hankies (Pack of 12)
Thick Enough for Your Wettest Sneeze
These handkerchiefs are meant to be used. Like really used. They’re large, thick, and fully machine washable. Plus this pack comes with enough to use one a day for two weeks (Sundays don’t count).
Some reviewers have noted that they do end up pretty wrinkly after a round in the washer, so unless you actually want to iron them after every wash, it’s probably best not to use them as an accessory.
|Size||16″ x 16″|
6. Imperial Cotton Handkerchiefs (Pack of 6)
Soft and Lightweight
These handkerchiefs are lightweight without being overly thin. Some handkerchiefs require washing to soften up the first time, but these are soft straight out of the box!
Because they’re on the thinner side, these handkerchiefs should be hand washed. While you could put them through the washing machine, some reviewers have noted that doing so leaves them impossibly wrinkled.
|Size||15″ x 15″|
5. Leevo Assorted Woven Cotton Handkerchiefs (Pack of 4)
Combed Cotton for Super Softness
These handkerchiefs are made from combed cotton, which makes them extra soft and extra durable. They’re good looking and come in a huge variety of subdued yet stylish designs.
While they are meant to be hand washed, they still hold up very well to machine washing with zero shrinkage and no loose threads.
|Size||17.5″ x 17.5″|
4. John William Clothing 100% Silk Handkerchiefs
High Value, High Quality Silk
For those looking for silk but don’t want to dole out $30 at a department store, this might be the handkerchief for you. 100% silk and with 10 different color options, you’re sure to find something for even your most formal occasions.
It is fairly thick, folds nicely, and arrives laid flat so that it isn’t wrinkled. However, if you’re unhappy with it, this handkerchief comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
|Size||12″ x 12″|
3. Brooklyn Bamboo Ladies Handkerchief (Pack of 6)
Hypoallergenic and Great for Allergies
Made from bamboo fiber, this handkerchief is super soft, durable, and hypoallergenic. In short, they’re great for those with allergies or sensitivities!
They’re machine washable, but because of the lace detailing, it might be a good idea to use a lingerie bag to prevent any accidental tearing.
|Size||11″ x 11″|
2. Jacob Alexander Solid Color Handkerchief
For Decorative and Practical Use
This microfiber handkerchief is silky yet sturdy. It might not be the best for nose blowing, but it would work well for hand- or spill-wiping.
It’s shinier than cotton, yet more matte than silk and could work as a pocket square for all but the most formal occasions. It comes in more than 30 different colors, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs.
|Size||12″ x 12″|
1. The Organic Handkerchiefs Company Cotton Handkerchief (Pack of 3)
Organic, Eco-Friendly, and Long-Lasting
These handkerchiefs are made from organic, unbleached cotton and are made in the USA. They’re thick, soft, and super absorbent. Plus, their off-white color means you don’t have to worry so much about sweat or snot stains!
Their reinforced edges don’t curl in the dryer, and they come out of the washing process relatively unwrinkled. They’re also incredibly durable–some reviewers claim to have been using the same ones for years!
|Size||11″ x 11″|
How to Ensure Your Handkerchief Stays Clean
You might find the idea of using the same piece of cloth to blow your nose again and again gross—but there’s a proper way to fold your handkerchief to ensure you have as many clean surfaces as possible. In fact, you can fold it so that you have up to eight different blowing surfaces without worrying about messy hands or pockets. Just give it a google!
As for washing, while you can just toss them into your hamper and wash them with your laundry at the end of the week, there are better ways to clean your hankies. If they’re stained, you don’t want it to set. Treat it with stain remover and let it soak before washing. If it’s white, be sure to separate it (and the rest of your light colored garments) so that it stays white for as long as possible.
A Quick Note on Antibacterial Handkerchiefs–You Want to Avoid Them
Antibacterial treatment involves chemicals that can irritate your skin. If you’re blowing your nose, then you’re already kind of irritated and don’t want to have to deal with even more. Plus, you’ll be washing your handkerchief fairly often anyway, so it’s best to steer clear of treated fabrics.
So there you have it! A quick guide to finding the best handkerchief for you. Whether you want the hankey for purely utilitarian purposes, decoration, or somewhere in between, as long as it’s something you’ll use and carry, then you’ve got it right!