Saturday, September 6, 2014

30 Reasons to Carry a Handkerchief

Did you know all of these uses for a handkerchief? There are many more. Be responsible, be green, be a grownup, carry a hankie!

How is it that what used to be an icon of a gentleman has fallen so far out of favor? I remember my great uncle saying "Just because someone has grown up does not make them a man". That statement is true on so many levels, but one of the requirements my great uncle had before he would deem an adult male a man was they had to carry a Handkerchief. He always had one. Why he would say that just about men, I don't know. My great grandmother always had a hankie. All of the old-timers carried them.


The history of the handkerchief is widely debated (that is proof that weirdos like me are everywhere). There are two dominant histories. One that says hankies originated in China, this is an earlier origin, but it is the origin for the paper handkerchief.

The fabric handkerchief most likely was developed in Rome around 1000 BC. In Rome it was primarily used for sweat and was the domain of the wealthy. In fact there were several cultures where the hankie was a sign of wealth. Many were very ornately decorated and they kept getting larger and larger until according to King Louis XVI declared that no handkerchief could be larger than his, talk about a case of hankie envy. He also declared that they would all be square. 

The handkerchiefs of the average person were white well into the 1920's. If a woman wanted to embellish her or her husband's hankie she would do the embroidery herself. Many considered them a fashion statement and many still do today.

I believe the handkerchief is one of the most useful items you can have in your everyday life. We are going to go over a few ways a good old-fashioned handkerchief can be used to help you out. Some I will expand on others I will not. I like the big ones. 20 X 20 is the smallest I like. 22 X 22 is the most common size I buy, but when I find some that are larger I go after them. You will see why I like the larger sizes as I go through the list.

Be sure to regularly launder your handkerchief. I do not want you to need to use a hankie that you blew your nose on three days ago. Even I will admit that is gross. Take a fresh clean hankie with you everyday. Have several and just throw them in the wash whenever you wash your other clothing. They will help you.

The Uses

  1. To blow your nose. That is what they were actually designed for. Prior to the invention and wide distribution of facial tissues, this was the most common use. Many people today see this as gross, but hey if you want to go green this is worth the effort. Have several on hand and just throw them in the wash after you have used them. Fewer trees used once and thrown away. Just think every time you use a facial tissue that was probably a tree that could have been several decades old. I would rather be green. My wife says that as long as you are using the 100% cotton hankie, her nose doesn't get as raw.
  2. To wipe sweat. I will admit this is the one I use my hankie for most often. It doesn't matter what I am doing, if I am sweating I am going to be using my handkerchief. Hey getting sweat in your eyes stings. 
  3. As a headband or head covering. The headband is back to the sweat thing, but the head covering can be for several reasons. My grandmother has used them to cover her hair. I have used them to keep my head from getting sunburned when I do not have a hat. I have a bald spot on the back of my head. Darn aliens leaving crop circles when I sleep.
  4. A washcloth or towel. Hygiene is important no matter where you are. Sometimes I just feel funky and want to wash off.
  5. A signal device.  Having a contrasting or brightly colored handkerchief to wave or even use as a flag can get attention from others that just waving your hand would not. If you had a white one you could use it to surrender if you are ever in that situation. I hope you never are.
  6. To be chivalrous. Every man should carry a handkerchief. A clean handkerchief. Nothing says I am here and I intend to take care of you than being able to offer a lady a hankie. Funerals, sad movies, even taking care of a child's runny nose. The art of being a man is so much lost that The Art of Manliness even has a post on why real men should carry a hankie. Step up and have a hankie.
  7. As a container. You can tie small items in the corners or tie all the corners together to make a impromptu sack. I have picked berries, gathered eggs, picked a few tomatoes, and several other things into a "clean" handkerchief.
  8. A bandage. Say you or someone else gets a small or even a medium cut. The handkerchief to the rescue. The handkerchief can be used to stop bleeding or just to keep dirt and grime out of an injury.
  9. A tourniquet. If used in conjunction with a stick a handkerchief can be used to stop major bleeding. 
  10. To tie a splint. In a dire situation the handkerchief can be torn into multiple strips and used to tie a splint. I am sure most handkerchiefs would be honored to have such a noble death.
  11. Immobilize a sprained ankle. You will need one of the larger handkerchiefs or bandannas for this, but you can wrap the bandanna around the sprained ankle and make an impromptu ankle brace. 
  12. As a Sling (Medical) You will want some string, rope, or another bandanna, but these can be made into a comfortable sling if you have hurt your arm or shoulder.
  13. To filter water. Even water that you know is biologically safe to drink can have particles in it that need to be filtered out for safe drinking. If you do not know the water is biologically safe to drink, filtering the water is just the first step in making it potable. The lowly hankie is here to help you with that.
  14. To Help With Camouflage. Depending on color selection of your hankie, you could do the old cattle rustler thing. Make a mask out of it. The contrast of most peoples skin on the changing colors of nature is enough to give you away to someone who is halfway paying attention. Just by using the handkerchief as a mask can reduce likelihood of detection.
  15. Dust Mask To use as a dust mask you will have to fold and handle the hankie differently than you would if you are using it to just hide your face.
  16. Clean glasses or other things. I use my handkerchief for this purpose almost daily. With the type of work I do, I can count on my glasses getting at least dusty. I have used my handkerchief to clean my glasses, the windshield of my car, the face of my children (when they were younger), and countless other things. Heck I have even used my hankie to clean the blade of my knife after pealing fruit.
  17. Self Defense. A handful of change, a pocket knife, or even a padlock can be tied onto or in one corner. This will create an effective make shift melee weapon. I wouldn't want to get hit with one of these. 
  18. A Sling (David and Goliath style) Just fold it up, find some smooth stones, practice a ton, and perhaps you too could slay a giant. It works, but it does take a lot of practice to get the stone or rock to go where you want it.
  19. Help keep cool. Soak your bandanna in water then place it on your head or wrap it around your neck. As the water evaporates it will help you stay cool.
  20. Pot Holder Just fold it up and use it to move that hot pot or pan. I have used my bandanna several times when cooking over an open fire with a dutch oven. On a similar note, I have also used it to open the fire screen on our fireplace. Keeps me from burning my hand.
  21. Patching material Using your handkerchief for this will mean its demise, but better that than you having your rear end hanging out of your pants. They can be used as a source of fabric if need be.
  22. Wind break I do not know about you, but if the wind is high, my ears do not like it. You can use your bandanna to protect your ears from the wind. Actually you can also use it to help keep your ears warmer than they would normally be in cold weather. Every little bit helps.
  23. Water collection You can use your handkerchief to collect dew or condensation. I have tied my bandanna around my leg and walked through tall grass in the early morning. It does not take it long for the handkerchief to be soaking wet. That is fresh, safe water. Drink away my friend. 
  24. Blindfold Simply done. Just fold the bandanna and tie it around someone's eyes. Viola! Instant blindfold. 
  25. Restraint Okay, so someone has done something bad and you need to tie them up, but you don't have any rope. Once again your bandanna to the rescue. Be careful to tie it tight enough. 
  26. Fire tender As long as you keep your handkerchief dry it will take a spark really well. For this application I strongly advise one that is 100% cotton. The cotton poly blends will melt instead of catching fire. Linen would probably work okay, but do you really want to burn your money like that? I do not know about silk. The cotton flannel handkerchief might be really good as well, but I have never tried. 
  27. As a drink coaster. There are times you do not want your drink sweating all over something. I use my hankie anytime I am putting a drink on my car. You might ask why. Well, if the glass or can is sweating, the condensation can get between the container and the vehicle and cause it to slide off. Simply placing the hankie under your glass will keep this from ever happening. 
  28. To tether equipment or short cordage. There are times you will find something or even get a hole in your pocket. I would not want to try to pile everything into the remaining pockets. Depending on what I have I may just use my hankie to tie things onto my belt or backpack.
  29. Toilet Paper I will admit this would be an absolute last resort, but hey you can use it for that.
  30. An Emergency Diaper. I no longer have any children that young, but if you do think about it. I wouldn't want my babies hiney bare to the world. 

There you go. Did you know there were that many uses for the lowly handkerchief? Can you think of other uses for the handkerchief or bandanna? If so I would like to hear them. I am sure we could come up with hundreds of uses. 

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