Whether your favorite lid is a snapback, fedora, or beanie, one thing is for sure: Wear it enough and it’s going to get dirty. Spots and smudges from sweat, oils, and products are inevitable.
But properly cleaning a hat can be a head scratcher. How do you offload stains and smells without ruining the shape or damaging delicate fabrics?
Don’t let a laundry misstep mess up your prized headwear. Here’s how to get stains out of hats the right way, in a few simple steps.
Baseball Caps & Snapbacks
To avoid shrinking your fits-just-right ball cap or snapback, hand-wash it. Follow these steps for cotton twill, acrylic, and polyblend caps. If your hat is a wool blend, skip ahead to the felt and wool section.
- Soak – Fill a bucket with cool or slightly warm water. Add a teaspoon of gentle, no-bleach detergent. Swish the water around to make suds. Soak the cap for 15-30 minutes.
- Rinse – Rinse the cap under cool running water until all the suds are gone. Gently squeeze out excess water without twisting or pulling.
- Reshape and air dry – Stuff the cap with paper towels (or use a small ball or bowl) to get the shape you want, then let it air dry out of direct sunlight.
Pro tip: If your cap is dirty, pretreat stains with a no-bleach stain remover before soaking. Spot-test an inconspicuous area to make sure the cleaning solution won’t cause damage or discoloration.
Straw is an absorbent material, so use water sparingly during the cleaning process. Here’s how to clean a straw hat.
- With a clean, dry cloth, wipe away surface dirt and debris. If your hat is a light color, use a white or light-colored microfiber cloth.
- If the hat needs deeper cleaning, the next step is to use a damp cloth.
- Dampen the cloth and apply a small amount of dish soap or mild, bleach-free detergent.
- Using a circular motion, gently clean the hat, making sure not to damage the weave. Before going full steam ahead, test a small area to make sure it’s safe to continue.
- Set the hat out to air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight.
Straw hats come in lots of variations with different weaves. Some are more water resistant and durable than others. Follow the cleaning instructions on the label, if available.
Pro tip: If regular dish soap or mild detergent isn’t getting the job done, look for a specialty straw hat cleaner.
Beanies & Knit Caps
Most knit caps and beanies today are made of synthetics (like acrylic) or a blend of synthetic and natural fibers. Read the label to see what you’re working with
Synthetics and blends can usually be machine-washed in a delicates bag. If your cap is a wool blend, skip ahead to the felt and wool section.
Here’s how to clean a knit cap:
- Machine wash with a gentle detergent in cold water with like colors. Wash the cap in a full load for best results.
- Lay the cap flat on a towel to air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area.
Pro tip: You can also hand-wash your cap in mild detergent. Allow it to soak for 30-60 minutes, and gently massage the cap to remove oils, stains, and debris. Gently squeeze out excess water, then lay flat on a towel to air dry.
Felt & Wool Hats
Felt and wool blends need a gentle hand. Here’s how to clean a felt hat:
- Wet a microfiber cloth and use gentle, circular motions to brush the surface clean. This method not only removes stains and debris, it can also help extend the lifespan of the material.
- Lay the hat out flat to dry in a well-ventilated area.
If your hat has a removable satin lining, remove it and soak in a bowl of soapy water, massaging the material to remove stains. Lay the lining flat to dry. If the lining isn’t removable, spot clean it with a damp cloth.
Pro tip: For heavy stains or felt hats made with fur, professional cleaning is your best bet.
More Headwear Care Tips
- To prevent fading, store woven, felt, and straw headwear out of direct sunlight.
- Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals, which can damage the material.
- Do not put hats of any kind in the dryer or use high heat to dry them.
- Dry cleaning is not generally recommended for hats, since it can distort interlinings and brims.
- Stuff the crown of your hat with tissue paper to keep the brim supported when storing over a long period of time.
- Hang up or place brimmed hats you wear regularly on a flat surface. This will prevent the brim from becoming bent or warped.
Your Style, Your Way
Valiant gentleman. Lady rebel. Bold iconoclast. Headwear helps you define your style, your way.
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