How to clean a handkerchief

George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

The thought of cleaning a handkerchief may seem unappealing. After all, what you blow out of your nose is usually something you don't want to see again. Though disposable tissues make life a little easier, the fossil fuels burnt during production and the toxic gases released from rubbish dumps are polluting the environment. The British public might be more willing to reinstate the hanky if there were only a way to know for sure that it could be kept clean. Thankfully, effective handkerchief care is simple and easy.

Buy at least 10 handkerchiefs. You'll need to throw your hanky in the laundry every time it's reasonably soiled. A good rule of thumb is that your handkerchief should never feel damp when you put your hand in your pocket to grab it.

Buy white handkerchiefs. One way to know that your handkerchief is clean is to look down and see that it's spotless and white. Buying white handkerchiefs will also allow you to use bleach when you wash them.

Throw handkerchiefs in the laundry. The most effective way to eliminate germs is to physically dislodge them with soap and then rinse them away with water. For that reason, putting your handkerchief in the wash with a normal load of laundry will not transfer unpleasant surprises to your favourite cardigan.

Bleach your handkerchief to eliminate stains, bacteria or viruses. You can add 178 to 237 ml (3/4 to 1 cup) of bleach to a full load of laundry that includes handkerchiefs. If you want to presoak the handkerchiefs, use 59 ml (1/4 cup) of bleach to 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water.

Boil your handkerchiefs. If you don't want to bleach your handkerchiefs, you can kill bacteria and viruses by putting the handkerchiefs in a pot of boiling water, then immediately taking the pot off the burner and allowing it to cool. When the water cools, throw the handkerchiefs in with a load of laundry.

Most recent