How To Clean a Hat (Without Damaging It)

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Baseball caps are a style must-have; they’re practical, stylish and just about anyone can pull them off. But if you find yourself wearing your baseball cap every day, whether that’s for sun protection or a string of bad hair days, then your baseball cap might pick up forehead sweat and oil from your hair. And since baseball caps are often worn to the beach or on hikes and then carelessly tossed in the trunk along with sandy towels and muddy shoes, they can get dirty pretty easily. Fortunately, cleaning your baseball cap and getting it back in top shape doesn’t need to be complicated. That said, you do need to be careful, as you’ll want to avoid bending the brim out of shape.

Can You Wash Your Baseball Cap in the Washing Machine?

If you’re wondering how to clean a hat, your first instinct might be to turn to your trusty washing machine. While you can put a baseball cap in the washing machine, it’s generally not the best idea. And you definitely shouldn’t put it in the dryer. Since you’re likely to only wash your baseball cap once in a while, especially if you have a few hats on rotation, it’s worth putting in the extra effort it takes to handwash your baseball caps. The techniques used to wash a baseball cap are similar to the ways you’d wash other delicates, such as wool sweaters (or if you’re denim head, raw selvedge jeans).

Before covering how to clean a hat, it’s worth explaining the materials baseball caps are made from, to ensure proper care. The crown of the hat is most commonly made from cotton, although it can be found in more traditional wool or a mix of synthetic materials. Traditionally, baseball caps had brims that were constructed with cardboard. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bad idea to subject cardboard brims to anything more than spot-cleaning, as water can quickly warp and ruin your baseball cap. These days, most baseball caps have brims that are made out of plastic, which is more durable and less prone to water damage. That said, washing machines can still cause these plastic brims to get damaged.

The basics needed for washing a baseball cap are a bucket of cool water and detergent. If you don’t have a bucket, you can use your sink or simply any container that’s large enough.

how to clean a hat

Fill the basin and add just enough detergent that the water becomes soapy. Avoid using too much, as this can leave a residue. Place the hat in and agitate it for a few seconds, then let it sit. Fifteen to thirty minutes will likely be sufficient.

how to clean a hat

Then, pull the hat out and allow it to air dry. As it dries, it’s best to make sure the hat, especially the brim, keeps its shape. You can use paper towels or a clean washcloth to help the hat keep its shape.

There are some online forums that suggest washing your baseball cap by putting it on the top rack of a dishwasher. But if your dishwasher uses hot water, this can damage the caps. And, let’s face it, it’s a little weird. We’d suggest sticking with the cool water and bucket method.


What About White Hats?

White clothing, whether we’re talking white t-shirts or white sneakers, is popular but notoriously hard to maintain. If your white hat is discolored or stained, you can clean it using hydrogen peroxide, which is an incredibly effective whitening agent that’s not as damaging to clothing as bleach. You can make a formula of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water, and mix it into a paste. Then, apply the paste using a toothbrush. This will help whiten your hat. The hat should be dried quickly, but don’t place it directly in the sun, as this can result in yellowing. And as a reminder, never mix bleach with hydrogen peroxide. And when mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, don’t bottle and store it for an extended period, as the build-up of carbon dioxide can cause the container to rupture.

Besides hydrogen peroxide, you can also use a diluted solution of vinegar and water, which can be helpful for cleaning the inside brims of your hat. Just remember to not mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar or vinegar with bleach.

If you don’t want the chemistry lesson, a good alternative to this DIY approach is to use Oxi-Clean. Oxi-Clean is formulated with hydrogen peroxide. It is handy for all sorts of cleaning and laundry tasks, and it’s inexpensive and widely available. You can use an old toothbrush to scrub your baseball cap using an Oxi-Clean and water solution.

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How To Clean Wool Hats

Wool is the traditional material that baseball caps were made from, and while cotton and synthetics are more popular these days, there are still plenty of wool caps out there. For one thing, they have a throwback charm that a modern New Era cap just can’t capture, which is why brands like Ebbets Field Flannels specialize in producing wool caps. But given the very stern washing instruction labels on most wool clothing, you might be worried about putting wool anywhere near water. But the truth is that water alone doesn’t cause wool garments to shrink, as explained by this hilarious article from Harvard titled, “Why Don’t Sheep Shrink When it Rains.”

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As it so happens, the major enemy of wool isn’t water, but heat + agitation. The movement of the laundry machine combined with hot water can cause wool to shrink. But on its own, wool can withstand getting wet, and quite well, in fact. In addition to being careful with heat and movement, it’s also worth noting that if you wet your wool cap, it may smell like a wet animal. Yes, really. That’s because of the presence of lanolin, a wax naturally created by sheep that gives their coat water resistance. When the hat dries, this odor should dissipate. If it still smells, it probably means the hat isn’t completely dry.

When it comes to washing your wool hat, you can follow the same basic instructions for washing regular cotton caps. The only difference is that you may want to swap out regular detergent for more gentle or wool-specific detergent, such as Woolite. For some hats, like those made by Ebbets Field Flannels, you may want to be more careful. The issue isn’t the wool, but the soft, unstructured brims. Washing these hats results in the risk of misshaping them. In that case, a basic clothing brush will help you remove dirt and stains.

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Best Products for Baseball Caps

Even though baseball caps are durable, go-anywhere garments, it’s a good idea to maintain your hats and keep them looking good. Here are a few optional (but handy) products for your hats.

Yamazaki Home Wall-Mounted Coat Hanger

If you have a habit of crushing your hats at the bottom of your closet, this coat rack from Yamazaki Home is a tasteful option for storing totes, jackets and hats. The hanger will keep dust-free and easy to access.

how to clean a hat Buy: Yamazaki Home Wall-Mounted Coat Hanger $49.00

3Pk. Manta Ray Low Profile Baseball Caps Crown Inserts

These shapers will fit inside the sweatband of your cap and will keep your hat’s shape. This can be either while the hat is being worn to prevent the floppy look the front panels of hats can have, or as a storage option to keep your hat’s shape.

how to clean a hat Buy: Manta Ray Crown Inserts $10.89

LokiEssentials Hat Organizer

If you have a lot of hats, this over-the-door organizer has pockets for up to 24 hats. The pockets are transparent to easily see your hats and reach for the right one, so you won’t accidentally rep the Red Sox in the Bronx (or, so you can intentionally rep the Red Sox in the Bronx. It’s your life).

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