Snot rags… I mean, handkerchiefs

Maggie’s noseI have been a long-time fan of the handkerchief as opposed to Kleenex but I realize there are lots of folks like Student Doctor Green who are a little grossed out by the concept of blowing your nose into a piece of cloth and sticking said piece of cloth back into your pocket. Yes, I admit, it’s a little gross but it’s not *that* gross. (Oh, and by the way, when I say “Kleenex” what I really mean is “Seventh Generation Recycled Facial Tissues.”)

I have never been a dainty nose-blower. I am much more of the honking type. I also learned early on that my nose will inevitably run when I am as far as possible from a Kleenex box. This led originally to the habit of stuffing my pockets with Kleenex in the morning and then holding onto them (fresh or used) during the day so I would always have at least some corner of dry tissue to use. Well, I also held onto my used Kleenex because there never seemed to be a good place to throw them away. It got to be a bit of a problem when I would invariably wash a pair of pants with three tissues in the pockets and discover that my clothes had been coated in a fine layer of white Kleenex dust.  This was well-covered in the recent Ode to the Humble Handkerchief.

I’m not sure when I actually switched over to handkerchiefs. I have a collection of about twenty now and have developed strong opinions about what kind are most effective. I really like the men’s thin white handkerchiefs that are still available in some department stores. They’re small enough to fit comfortably even in the pocket of my jeans but they have enough surface area to hold up well. Bandanas are bigger and sturdier but also bulkier and I also have some hesitation about blowing my nose on a piece of cloth I might also use to tie back my hair. It’s best not to mix the two. I also have a few dainty handkerchiefs I inherited from my grandmother. They remind me of her, which is nice, but they’re really designed for gentle nose dabbing, which never seems to accomplish much. In the end, whatever kind they may be, handkerchiefs are cheaper than Kleenex (in the long run) and easy to use.

So here’s my routine. It’s early in the day and my nose is just starting to run. I pull the fresh handkerchief out of my pocket and unfold it until there are about two layers. I find a good corner, blow my nose, and then fold the handkerchief to keep the moist part in the very middle, and stick it back in my pocket. Later, I can unfold it and find a different clean spot for the next nose blow. Usually I can find a clean spot and refold carefully to keep my hands and my pocket unsullied. If I have a cold and am producing a lot of snot, it’s time to switch to Kleenex although I often keep a handerchief as backup in case I run through my Kleenex supply. At the end of the day (or maybe a couple of days, I confess) I throw the used hankie in the laundry. Easy as pie!

Will thinks the whole process is kinda gross (especially if I try to take one to bed) but he mostly just looks the other way. And he’s good at reminding me that it’s probably best to wash my hands frequently, hankie or not.

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7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Alder said,

    February 20, 2008 @ 7:02 am

    My mom calls them “boogie rags” (not much more appetizing than “snot rags,” is it?). My mom and my brother use bandanas for nose blowing– my mom has an extensive collection of many colors, my brother has an extensive collection of red ones to mask his nose-bleeds. My dad. . . I don’t think I’ve ever seen him blow his nose! I tend to use squares of toilet paper, but I think I might switch to the cloth version if I had something a little smaller than a bandana. Bandanas are great for extreme situations, but they are so big (and I think they are kind of rough and scratchy before you’ve washed them a 2 or 3 or 10 times).

    In any case, I completely agree that handkerchiefs aren’t really that gross. Actually, I think they are probably *less* gross than wads of used tissue. Ew!

  2. 2

    Solar Fountain said,

    April 16, 2009 @ 11:09 am

    I am big fan of bandanas, the colored patterns hide things well! lol. Keep the planet blue by staying green!

  3. 3

    Lena said,

    November 2, 2009 @ 1:06 am

    One of the fun things about handkerchiefs, I found, is that because they are so thin they dry very quickly. I have been known to occasionally stop into bathrooms that have hand blow dryers so that I can quickly handwash my hankie with soap and water and then dry them with the hand dryer. It tends to take two hand blow dry cycles to dry them, but it simultaneously drys my hands which get washed in the process of washing the hankies.

    Good post
    - Lena

  4. 4

    Robt Mann said,

    March 2, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    I’m very glad to find this site’s support for the noble handkerchief.
    I sent this letter last winter to the biggest New Zealand daily – which suppressed it.

    To: letters@nzherald.co.nz
    Subject: minimising virus transmission

    Sir
    The novel mutated swine flu virus may serve to prompt people to desist from the filthy habit (popularised as a deliberate trendy gesture on TV by all too many ‘celebrities’) of wiping the nose with a finger or two. It is unspeakably decadent to imitate the gesture first demonstrated in a well-known film clip of H. Himmler walking past some concentration-camp victims. Those contaminated fingers commonly soon touch doorknobs, computer keyboards, or other people’s hands.
    What’s the last time you saw anyone use a handkerchief? That honorable implement, if frequently washed, is the best place for any liquid that threatens to emerge from the nostrils. Your fingers are about the worst place to put liquids which contain pathogens.
    Let us revive the teaching of children to use handkerchiefs and to intone the good old slogan ‘the only part of your body that should be used to wipe your nose is your elbow’. Let celebrities who aspire to public respect use handkerchiefs in public, rather than wiping their noses with their fingers.

    yrs etc

  5. 5

    Maggie said,

    March 2, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    Oh, newspaper editors are no fun at all! That letter is WAY more interesting than 90% of the letters that get published in our local paper… Thanks for your support of the hankie!

  6. 6

    Casper the friendly ghost said,

    September 9, 2011 @ 3:21 am

    When i have a cold i use a cotton handkerchief.

  7. 7

    casper the friendly ghost said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 9:52 am

    I love to blow my snotty nose into a kids cotton and scalloped handkerchief;it is far more better than tissues,it can be used after a thorough washing again,and it is very soft and comfortable,exactly what’s needed for a good blowing.

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