Last updated: 16/10/2022

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The handkerchief is almost a must for most people in the wintertime. Everyone knows it, the cold months start again and the nose starts to run again. The handkerchief is the easiest solution for most people to empty their nose. However, the handkerchief can also be used for many other purposes. Drying a wet park bench or a wet bicycle seat, cleaning the corner of the mouth, cleaning glasses or folded as decoration. The uses are extremely varied, making the handkerchief an all-purpose item nowadays and a constant companion in everyday life for many people.

With our big handkerchief test 2022 we help you find the best handkerchief for you. We have compared cloth and paper handkerchiefs and listed the advantages and disadvantages of each. This should make your purchase decision easier.


  • Basically, there are two types of tissues: cloth tissues and paper tissues.
  • Cloth handkerchiefs leave a smaller ecological footprint than paper handkerchiefs due to a reusability.
  • Paper tissues should be used when you have a cold and thrown away after use.

The Best Handkerchief: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should deal with before buying a handkerchief

How long have handkerchiefs been around?

Unlike paper handkerchiefs, cloth handkerchiefs have been around for a very long time, even if initially for a different purpose. In ancient times, handkerchiefs were used to wipe the mouth or sweat.

With the advent of snuff, the cloths were then gradually used to clean the nose. In the 18th century, the cloth handkerchief slowly became a commodity for the nose.

The first tissue brand was Tempo, which entered the market on 29 January 1929. Since then, Tempo has grown into a global brand and it is impossible to imagine life without it.

At first, there was little competition for the pioneer, but this quickly changed.

What are the most popular brands for handkerchiefs?

Today, there are many brands that offer handkerchiefs. The pioneer and market leader in this sector is the German brand Tempo. Other well-known and widely used brands are the following:

  • Soft & Safe
  • Kleenex
  • Regina Softies
  • Alouette
  • Mola
  • Private label (e.g. Aldi, Lildl)


Paper handkerchiefs from the pioneer brand Tempo. Tempo handkerchiefs have been synonymous with tissues for years.
(Image source: / Bru-nO)

What are the alternatives to handkerchiefs?

Handkerchiefs are mainly made of cloth or paper. There are some alternatives in the household, such as kitchen roll or toilet paper, that can replace the handkerchief. Furthermore, any other cloth object could also serve the purpose of a handkerchief, such as a tea towel. A handkerchief is defined as a square cloth.

Any square cloth can theoretically be used as a handkerchief.

Decision: What types of handkerchiefs are there and which are right for you?

If you want to use tissues, there are two types you can choose between:

  • Cloth handkerchiefs
  • Paper handkerchiefs

What are the characteristics of a cloth handkerchief and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Cloth handkerchiefs are usually made of cotton and are used more often. However, many people find the idea of blowing their nose into the same handkerchief several times disgusting.

Cloth handkerchiefs are unfortunately not as hygienic as many people think.

It is also not advisable from a hygienic point of view. When you have a cold, the mucus gets the pathogens into the handkerchief, which not only survive in your trouser pocket due to heat and moisture, but may also multiply.

The next time we blow our nose, we rub the pathogens from the previously used handkerchief back into our nose. In the case of a cold with a cold, a handkerchief made of cloth that is used several times should therefore be avoided.

Therefore, when you have a cold, you should use paper handkerchiefs and throw them away after use.

  • Reusable
  • Small ecological footprint
  • Unhygienic

However, if your nose is running even though you don’t have a cold, you can use cloth handkerchiefs. But here, too, it would be advisable to wash and iron the handkerchief regularly. Ironing ensures that the bacteria present die due to the high temperatures.

From an ecological point of view, a cloth handkerchief is more economical in terms of resources in the long run. This aspect is not yet noticeable in the production of cloth and paper handkerchiefs, only through the reusability of the cloth handkerchief.


Cloth handkerchiefs in different designs and colours.
(Image source: / Big_Heart)

What are the characteristics of a paper handkerchief and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Paper handkerchiefs are made from paper, i.e. from wood components. This means that trees have to be felled for paper handkerchiefs and a lot of water and energy is needed for their further production.

Since a paper handkerchief is usually used once and then immediately thrown away, many resources are wasted.

The ecological footprint of paper handkerchiefs is therefore significantly larger than that of cloth handkerchiefs.

As an alternative, there are recyclable handkerchiefs, which are much better from an ecological point of view. Nevertheless, these handkerchiefs also remain disposable products and thus waste many resources.

  • Hygienic
  • Recyclable
  • Waste of resources
  • Disposable product

From a hygienic point of view, you should still use a paper handkerchief when you have a cold. By using the handkerchief once, you ensure that the bacteria do not return to you.

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate handkerchiefs

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the different handkerchiefs.

The criteria you can use to compare handkerchiefs include:

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in each of these criteria.


As already mentioned, there are two different materials for handkerchiefs. Paper handkerchiefs and cloth handkerchiefs. You can read more about which material is best and which advantages and disadvantages it offers in the decision chapter.

Tissue” is the cellulose used in the production of paper handkerchiefs. This pulp is made from different types of pulp, such as softwoods and hardwoods. Handkerchiefs usually consist of four thin layers of tissue.

As recycling plays an increasingly important role, more and more companies are specialising in making paper handkerchiefs from waste paper.

Cloth handkerchiefs are made from cotton, which is vegan and biodegradable.


Paper handkerchiefs made from the cellulose tissue in a matching colour handkerchief box.
(Image source: / Tabeajaichhalt)

Ecological footprint

As already mentioned, the ecological footprint of cloth handkerchiefs is significantly lower than that of paper handkerchiefs. Paper handkerchiefs are made from the cellulose called “tissue”. During processing, various chemicals are used which are not biodegradable.

Nevertheless, paper handkerchiefs also have advantages if you are ill, for example (see section 4.2). For this reason, there are now some manufacturers who produce handkerchiefs from bamboo. The production of bamboo handkerchiefs is much more nature-friendly.


The size of paper handkerchiefs is not subject to any DIN standard and can be freely chosen by the companies. Most handkerchiefs are 21.0 x 21.0 cm. The paper handkerchiefs from Tempo, for example, are almost square at 21 x 20.5 cm.

Cloth handkerchiefs, on the other hand, come in different sizes and designs. On average, men’s handkerchiefs are 45 x 45 cm to 50 x 50 cm in size. Women’s handkerchiefs are usually much smaller at 25 x 25 cm to 30 x 30 cm. Children’s handkerchiefs are similar in size to paper handkerchiefs at around 20 x 20 cm. The following table shows the sizes again clearly:

Type Size
Paper handkerchiefs 21.0 x 21.0 cm
Men’s handkerchiefs made of cloth 45 x 45 cm to 50 x 50 cm
Women’s handkerchiefs made of cloth 25 x 25 cm to 30 x 30 cm
Children’s handkerchiefs made of cloth 20 x 20 cm

Trivia: Interesting facts about handkerchiefs

How do I dispose of handkerchiefs?

When disposing of handkerchiefs, we are talking exclusively about paper handkerchiefs, as cloth handkerchiefs are reusable.

There are four possible ways to dispose of paper handkerchiefs:

  1. Waste paper
  2. Organic waste bin
  3. Residual waste
  4. Flush down the toilet

The latter is discouraged so that any pathogens are not passed on and there are generally already too many foreign bodies in the wastewater.

Unfortunately, not everything can be recycled, especially when it concerns health

Theoretically, the handkerchiefs could easily be disposed of via waste paper or the organic waste bin. With both recycling routes, people come into contact with the waste and could become infected.

The best way of disposal is the residual waste bin, as the contents are incinerated and the pathogens are definitely destroyed in this method.

Can I reuse handkerchiefs?

Cloth handkerchiefs can be reused. They can be washed and ironed regularly.

Used paper handkerchiefs belong in the waste and are therefore not reusable.

Photo source: Samum/