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Bandana vs. Handkerchief: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 13, 2024
A bandana is a large, colorful square of cloth often worn on the head or neck, while a handkerchief is a smaller, plainer cloth used for personal hygiene.

Key Differences

A bandana is typically larger and made from a durable fabric, often used as a fashion accessory or for practical purposes like protecting the head or neck. A handkerchief is smaller, usually made from a soft, absorbent material, primarily intended for personal hygiene, like wiping one's face or nose.
Bandanas often feature colorful patterns and designs, making them a popular choice for expressive fashion statements. Handkerchiefs, conversely, are usually plain or have a simple design and are more discreet in appearance.
The bandana has cultural significance in various communities, often associated with specific groups or identities. Handkerchiefs, while less symbolic, have a long history of use in etiquette and personal grooming.
Bandanas are versatile and can be used in various ways, such as a necktie, headband, or even a makeshift face mask. Handkerchiefs are traditionally used for wiping the hands or face and occasionally as a subtle fashion accessory in a suit pocket.
In terms of functionality, a bandana is more about versatility and style, while a handkerchief focuses on practicality and cleanliness.

Comparison Chart




Durable fabric
Soft, absorbent material

Primary Use

Fashion, protection
Personal hygiene


Colorful and patterned
Plain or simply designed

Cultural Significance

Often symbolic
Used in etiquette

Bandana and Handkerchief Definitions


Worn as a fashion accessory or for protection.
She wore a bandana to shield her neck from the sun.


A small, absorbent piece of cloth.
He pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his brow.


Often made from durable fabric.
The bandana was made of strong cotton.


Made from soft materials like cotton.
Her handkerchief was soft against her skin.


Used in various ways like a headband or necktie.
She styled her bandana as a chic necktie.


Used for personal hygiene.
She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.


A large, colorful square of cloth.
He tied a red bandana around his head.


Usually plain or simply designed.
He chose a white handkerchief with a subtle border.


Features patterns or designs.
His bandana had an intricate paisley pattern.


Often carried for practical use.
He always carried a handkerchief in his pocket for emergencies.


A large handkerchief usually patterned and brightly colored.


A small square of cloth used especially for wiping the nose or mouth.


A large kerchief, usually colourful and used either as headgear or as a handkerchief, neckerchief, bikini, or sweatband.


A large piece of cloth worn as a decorative article; a scarf.


A style of calico printing, in which white or bright spots are produced upon cloth previously dyed a uniform red or dark colour, by discharging portions of the color by chemical means, while the rest of the cloth is under pressure.


A piece of cloth, usually square and often fine and elegant, carried for wiping the face, eyes, nose or hands.


Large and brightly colored handkerchief; often used as a neckerchief


A piece of cloth shaped like a handkerchief to be worn about the neck; a neckerchief or neckcloth.


A piece of cloth, usually square and often fine and elegant, carried for wiping the face or hands.


A piece of cloth shaped like a handkerchief to be worn about the neck; a neckerchief; a neckcloth.


A square piece of cloth used for wiping the eyes or nose or as a costume accessory


Can a bandana be used as a handkerchief?

Yes, though it's larger and thicker than typical handkerchiefs.

How big is a typical bandana?

Bandanas are usually about 22 inches square.

What's the standard size of a handkerchief?

They are commonly about 12 to 16 inches square.

What is a handkerchief?

A small piece of cloth used for personal hygiene.

What is a bandana?

A large, colorful square of cloth, often worn as a fashion accessory.

Is it fashionable to wear a handkerchief?

Handkerchiefs are more for practical use, but can be a subtle fashion statement.

Do bandanas have a symbolic meaning?

In some cultures and groups, they can symbolize identity or affiliation.

Why do people use handkerchiefs?

For wiping the face or nose, or for personal cleanliness.

Can I wash my bandana in a washing machine?

Yes, most bandanas are machine washable.

Are bandanas unisex?

Yes, they are worn by people of all genders.

Is it okay to give a handkerchief as a gift?

Yes, it can be a thoughtful and practical gift.

What materials are bandanas made from?

They're often made from cotton or polyester.

Are handkerchiefs always made of cotton?

Mostly, but they can also be made of linen, silk, or synthetic fibers.

Can handkerchiefs be used as a fashion accessory?

Yes, particularly when worn in a suit pocket.

Are there different patterns for bandanas?

Yes, they come in a variety of patterns and colors.

Do handkerchiefs come in different colors?

Yes, but they are often found in plain or muted colors.

How do I care for a silk handkerchief?

It's best to hand wash or dry clean silk handkerchiefs.

What are common uses for a bandana?

As a headband, necktie, face covering, or fashion accessory.

Is a bandana good for outdoor activities?

Yes, it can protect from sun and dust when outdoors.

Can a handkerchief be used in first aid?

In a pinch, it can be used for minor injuries, like a makeshift bandage or to apply pressure to a small wound.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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