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How to Wash a Hat - Not Ruined

Nov. 22, 2019

Hats can accumulate a lot of dirt and grime. Unfortunately, they're often tricky to wash, especially if they are made of hand-knit wool. So how to wash a hat? This is a big problem. The hats may come out misshapen, seemingly discolored, and only partially cleaned. Now let me show you a far better, and gentler, methodology for cleaning the caps!

The Best Way to Wash a Cap

I did some digging, and discovered a far better, and gentler, methodology for cleaning the cap that will refresh it, brighten it, and add years to its life. And best of all, it's largely hands-off.

Step1. Fill a clean sink or bucket with warm water. And add a tablespoon of laundry detergent.

Step2. If there are areas that are especially problematic, spot-clean them with a dab of cleaning product right on the hat. After first dipping the hat in the water of your bucket or sink, use a toothbrush or other small scrubber to rub the cleaner into the fabric.

Step3. Let the hat soak for up to a couple hours. After you've spot-washed, let the hat soak in the soapy water-filled bucket or sink you've filled for up to a couple hours, though I found that even just 20-30 minutes will get the job done. About halfway through soaking, take a look at the cap and see how the stains are looking. Although the wetted fabric will hide some staining, they'll still show through if they're bad. Using your small scrubber, again spot wash those persistent problem areas, and again, be careful around stitched patterns and logos.

Step 4. Rinse all the soap off with warm water. Give the hat a good rinse before letting it dry.

Step 5. Pat down with a towel to get rid of excess moisture. The hat will obviously be very wet when you remove it from the water; let some of the excess drip off, then pat dry with a towel as much as you can while retaining the shape of the hat, and being gentle with logos. Your goal here is simply to remove the excess so that it can dry on a counter without dripping water all over.

Step6. Always air dry on some sort of container. You want to find a way to dry the hat so it’s not just crumpled on the counter. Find a coffee jar, a canister, a balled-up towel, or perhaps any mannequin heads you have lying around to set it on. This will ensure the hat’s shape stays true and doesn’t crinkle up. Throw a towel under the container too; no matter how much patting you do, I’ve found there will always be some drippage. If you want to speed things up, use a small fan to blow air over it, or a hair dryer on the low setting.

How to wash a hat in the washing machine

Can you wash a hat in the washing machine?

First of all, you have to figure out the answer.Can you wash a hat or a baseball cap in the washing machine? The answer is yes.

Place the hat into the washer (alone or with a smaller load of laundry so it doesn't lose its shape) with a mild detergent and wash with warm water on a gentle cycle. You can even place your hat in a hat form to prevent it from losing form in the washer.

How to wash?

Step1. Pre-treat the liner or headband. 

The liner is likely to be the dirtiest part of your cap, as it soaks up sweat and skin oils while wearing. Pick an enzyme-based laundry pre-spray and spritz some on to break down this type of grime.

Step2. Toss your cap in with your normal laundry.

At this phase, treat your cap like any other type of laundry. Pair your cap with similarly-colored clothing and use whichever laundry detergent you prefer.

Step3. Leave your cap to air dry.

Once the wash cycle has finished, remove your cap and place it on a flat surface in a well-ventilated area. You may choose to position an electric fan nearby to speed up the drying process. Do not put your cap in the clothes dryer; it would likely shrink or lose its shape.

Some tips

Most modern baseball caps made in the last 10 years or so can be easily machine washed without issue.
It's better to hand wash wool baseball caps.
Older baseball caps tend to have cardboard brims. These caps should never be soaked completely in water. Instead, it's best to clean them with a spray bottle and washcloth.
Wash with cold water for the best results. However, warm water should be fine, too. Do not use hot water when washing your cap.
Do not use bleach.

How to wash a hat in the dishwasher

When you toss a baseball cap in the washing machine to clean it, it can get damaged and lose its shape. Fortunately, a dishwasher offers an alternative. The mild cleaning cycle of a dishwasher can clean your soiled caps without harming them in the process.

Step1. Pour your normal dishwasher detergent into the dishwasher.

Step2. Place a cap frame around the baseball hat. These frames are typically plastic and in the shape of a hat, allowing you to lock the hat inside of the frame.

Step3. Place the hat and frame into the dishwasher. You can wash the hat with or without dishes in the dishwasher, but avoid washing heavily soiled dishes so food residue doesn't stain the hat. Glasses or rinsed dishes will be fine in the dishwasher.

Step4. Turn on the dishwasher and run a normal wash cycle.

Step5. Allow the hat to air dry inside or out of the cap frame.