What are handkerchiefs made of?

Find the best fabric for your handkerchief.

Ready to sport a hanky but unsure what it should be made of? Whether you’re shopping for a handkerchief or you’re skilled enough to make your own, you’ll want to tackle the project by learning more about fabric first. Luckily, we’ve gathered everything you need to know right here for you so you can decide what the best fabric is for your handkerchief. You’re welcome.

Cotton handkerchiefs

In truth, there are several fabrics you can use to make a handkerchief, but in our opinion, cotton is the most adapted.

Why? Well, because it’s:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Most functional/absorbent
  • Easy to care for

That being said, there are different weaves and different qualities of cotton. Watch out for lower quality cotton as it won’t be as durable. Here are the different types of cotton you’ll find out there and some info on each so you can better understand why one type might suit you better.

Hankies Made Out of Organic Cotton Sateen

Made from quality fibres, organic cotton sateen is most durable and boasts a shiny finish. Soft to the touch, it is very lightweight in single ply and agreeably thick in a two-ply hanky. Organic cotton sateen can be found in most countries in a limited number of hues, and very few cool patterns (unless custom printed). On the bright side, if you like to keep things simple, you can usually find decent unbleached, undyed cotton sateen at a reasonable rate—although it will always set you back more than cheaper cotton sateen of a lesser quality.

Cotton Sateen hankies

“Standard” cotton sateen is fairly thick, but loosely woven. It’s not as durable as organic sateen but oh-so soft to the touch. With uncertified cotton, it’s harder to get some info on provenance and weave and hence, harder to predict if the fabric will stand the test of time.

Cotton Lawn Handkerchiefs

Combed cotton lawn sounds precious—and it kinda is! This super finely woven cotton is ultra-durable, thanks to its tight, sturdy weave. On the downside, it’s so incredibly light that it’s almost translucent—so one ply of the fabric wouldn’t give you enough absorption power. Double it up to form a great handkerchief and remember: cotton lawn gets more absorbent with time and use, so blow, wash, reuse as much as you can!

Cotton Poplin Hanky

Poplin is quite sturdy and very finely woven. A little more resistant than most sateens, it’s a little rougher on the skin. The awesome thing about organic cotton poplin is that it exists in a variety of hues—even if organic—and is quite easy to find. Indeed, it’s a popular fabric to make clothing and is used fairly commonly for sewing projects as the straight weave prevents it from skewing as you sew.

Handkerchiefs Made With Cotton Jersey

Cotton Jersey is a little like blowing your nose in your hoody—odd & stretchy—and a little strange because of the different feel between both faces of the fabric—but not unpleasant. Knitted rather than woven, it can be stretched easily. Watch out for cotton blends—jersey isn’t always 100% cotton. We recommend this type of fabric for a comforting hanky—but not necessarily one you’d like to show off… Not unlike your lounging wear!

Flannel Handkerchiefs

Again—not the most instinctive fabric for your handkerchief because of its fluffy feel, but we give it extra points for softness. If you’re wondering what a flannel handkerchief feels like—think Christmas pyjamas or movie blanket. Flannel is definitely a cool fabric to try out if you’ve got a mean cold or debilitating allergies. Your irritated nose just might enjoy the extra comfort!

Best fabric for handkerchief

Bamboo Handkerchiefs

Bamboo is the most absorbent fabric out there. On the downside, it’s also much thicker and some say it’s a little more fragile although in our experience, that hasn’t been the case. Another perk is that bamboo doesn’t retain odours… Although snot doesn’t really tend to smell bad (!). Good to know about bamboo:

  • It’s practical
  • It boasts the same qualities as cotton
  • It’s durable
  • It has natural antibacterial properties
  • It’s great for kids and can be used wet or dry (especially with a terry knit)
  • It’s low maintenance in terms of caring
  • It can be found unbleached and undyed, 100% natural and organic.

Linen hankies

The cool thing about linen is that it’s a little bit like good wine: it gets better with time. In fact, it becomes more and more absorbent—and softer with time! Unfortunately, when it’s brand new, it’s just not so absorbent and can even be a little coarse. Another challenge with linen is dealing with wrinkles. If you master the iron, you won’t be daunted (and frankly, linen looks damn smart when it’s not crinkled!)—but, if your goal is to reduce housework as much as possible (like us), this isn’t the ideal fabric for you.

Handkerchiefs Made Out of Microfibre

Forget microfibre—truly. While it’s a better option than cotton or other fabrics to wipe a smudge or a fingerprint off your screen or your glasses (indeed, it doesn’t scratch the surface!)—it’s definitely less adapted for blowing your nose. Seriously, it’s super shiny and frankly, inadequate in terms of moisture absorption.

Silk Handkerchiefs

Generally speaking, silk handkerchiefs are purely decorative… Unless they’re doubled up with absorbent fabric, such as cotton. Silk is very thin—almost translucent—and often quite silky, for lack of a better word, which isn’t optimal for fluid absorption. Our tip? Stick to silk pocket squares and opt for cotton if you want a functional handkerchief.

Lace Handkerchiefs

Again—usually more of a decorative item—although vintage handkerchiefs often had a lace contour. Not our modern aesthetic, but can certainly work as a decorative element on a cotton hanky if you like that style.

Cotton handkerchiefs

Insider Tip on Choosing Your Fabric

Watch out for synthetic blends—natural fibres are much better suited for personal hygiene. Even if it dries fast (which is a perk!), avoid polyester, which is made from coal and petroleum—two elements you won’t necessarily want to expose your skin to!

Handkerchief Size

As per size, if you’re going with cotton, optimal dimensions are 11 x 11 or 12 x 12 inches. And if you’re looking for extra absorption, you can always opt for a two-ply hanky so you don’t look like Linus, carrying around extra large sheeting. If you’re considering bamboo or a thicker fabric, you can opt for a smaller sized handkerchief, since bamboo is thicker and more absorbent. Our mini-TSHU washcloth/handkerchiefs boast a fantastic absorption power even if it’s only some 8 inches x 8 inches.

How to care for your handkerchiefs?

Simple: when it comes to housework, here at TSHU, we believe in less effort. Simply wash your handkerchief with the rest of your laundry in cold water (20-30 degrees will ensure the snot melts) and dry out on the clothesline, for extra antibacterial sun action. If your hanky’s stained, let it soak a bit with some eco-friendly stain remover, then rinse and machine wash like usual.

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