Hankies? Hankies! Or: small low waste efforts

three DIY handkerchiefs not very good sewing
DIY hankies with some ‘rough edges.’ At least that way I always know which are mine 🙂

(deutsche Version)

I got a runny nose. It’s not that I’m sick all the time and I’m also not allergic to anything (except people but it seems there’s hardly a thing you can do about that except autohypnosis or alcohol), so I have no idea why I got a runny nose. Still, throughout the day I will need my fair share of tissues to stay socially acceptable, especially in times like these.

Since I’ve been eager to find more sustainable solutions for various day-today-matters, I also thought about ‘improving’ my tissue wastage. And that’s what I’m here for today 🙂

Oh, ye good ole’ days …

Growing up at my grandparents, I always used hankies until my preteen years. Turning 11 or 12 I grew out of dabbing my nose with little lovebugs and flowers or such. A short time later my grandpa died – the last of our family who truly appreciated carrying hankies the size of bedsheets in his trouser pockets – and after that my gran abandoned all hankies and switched to tissues as well. “Much less trouble” as she would say, which is true for someone who irons sports socks and towels. Long story short: I never minded using hankies years (or rather decades) ago, so why not give it a try again?

A question of hygiene

Ah, well, the hygiene argument. Tissues are more hygienic than handkerchiefs because you dispose of them after. every. use. Don’t you?
Well, this might not be the best argument after all. Let’s be realistic for a moment: Who has never used a tissue repeatedly because it was still in a ‘good’ condition? Like not totally wet and disintegrating? Hands up who ALWAYS throws her tissues away after a single-use. Anyone?

So while tissues are intended for single-use only, many of us use them several times – which makes them less hygienic and more like a hankie. But without the latter’s benefits. No matter if you use hankies or tissues it’s important to change (or toss) them regularly. Handkerchiefs are unhygienic only if you use one and the same for days in a row. Change ’em, wash ’em, and everything’s fine!

a stash of DIY hankies in a drawer
It took me several days but now I’m ready for any cold that may come – 50+ hankies in my drawer will keep my nose nice and fresh!

Sustainable snot management

What bothered me about using tissues was not only the waste I produce, but also the fact that the production of tissues is less than eco-friendly. Tissues are basically made from trees, water, chemicals, and energy (which is a very superficial explanation – find more information at Wikipedia), a lot of resources for a single-use product. Don’t get me wrong, producing cotton handkerchiefs of course also needs a lot of resources and one should also keep in mind that you will have to wash hankies regularly. But over time, this initial energy input pays off since you can use your hankies for years to come, unlike a tissue.

As I stated before and won’t get tired to repeat, you need to change your hankie regularly to keep everything healthy and hygienic. When out and about I put used hankies into a small bag in my backpack or handbag. This way they are stored away and everything’s clean and safe. After returning home, I put them in the hamper like all our other dirty laundry.

At home, I place my hankies where I need them, just as I did with my tissue boxes. That way I enjoy the familiar comfort of knowing ‘relief’ is just around the corner (or behind a flowerpot, next to my pile of books …) exactly like before. I also came to love the smell of fresh laundry whenever using a hanky. No matter where I am or how I feel, using a hankie I always feel better because it smells like home 🙂

Preloved or DIY – keep those hankies comin’

Depending on your runny (or dry) nose you may need quite a few hankies, otherwise, the whole endeavor won’t be sustainable as you will have to turn on the washing machine for just 8 hankies. But before you start bulk buying you may want to do a test run to see how it works for you. Maybe someone in your family or your friends still got some hankies. You could also buy them second-hand online or at a flea market. Buying preloved is always the best choice when it comes to sustainability since things that were already made don’t generate any production effort.

close up of some home made handkerchiefs showing the bad stitching
I may not be a gerat seamstress but this is more about functionality. So far all my hankies survived a few rounds in the washing machine 🙂

Another way to switch to hankies is by sewing them yourself. I cut up an old bedsheet and thanks to totally underestimating its size it took me several days to produce around 50(!) nearly brand new hankies. Thanks to this miscalculation I can even get sick and won’t have to use tissues! Shia from wastelandrebel.com shares thorough advice regarding hankies, where to get them, how to use them, and much more. The same goes for Colleen and her post about switching from tissues to handkerchiefs.

I would recommend using old shirts or bed sheets if you want to sew some hankies yourself. Cut them the size you prefer and just border them with a narrow zigzag stitch (as I did – you can see the result in my pictures … not perfect but fine with me). More proficient seamstresses will know better ways to do it than what I just suggested but if you are an amateur like me let me tell you: don’t make it harder than it needs to be. These will be your hankies, after all, not a ball gown or a good suit. What matters, in the end, is that they will hold up so you can use them for a long time to come … 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, stay safe, and take care! 🙂

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