What’s the best way to clean a hat? It depends on what type of hat it is, the type of hat material, and the level of dirtiness. Once you can account for these details, then you'll be ready to decide which washing method — by hand or spot cleaning — is best for your hat. Before you get started feel the fabric: If you're not sure what material your hat is made out of, take a look at some examples so you have a way to compare. Your hat could be made of straw, wool, cotton or a blend.
Checking for Colorfastness on Wool, Hand-Knit, Cotton and Baseball Caps
Next, if you have a hat that is dyed/colored you need to check your hat for colorfastness. Simply rub the fabric vigorously and forcefully on a white sheet of paper. If no color transfers to the paper, you’re safe to move on to the washing stage.
Wool, Hand-Knit, cotton and Baseball Cap Washing Instructions
Cleaning a hat by hand is generally the most effective way to clean your hat, even if the label says it's safe to put in the washing machine. The types of hats best suited for hand washing include baseball caps, wool hats, cotton hats and hand-knit hats.
Fill a Small Bowl or Your Kitchen Sink With Cold Water
Do not ever use warm or hot water as this could cause the color to run. If you have more than one hat to wash, better to be safe than sorry and wash them one at a time.
Add a Mild Detergent to the Water
If your hat is really dirty, you may be tempted to add a ton of soap. The goal is not have a bowl full of overflowing suds. Instead, stir in a teaspoon of laundry detergent or dish soap until it's dissolved. Make sure you use a mild detergent or soap without bleach. If you have a wool hat, it would be best to use a soap specific for that fabric, such as Woolite. Also, it's wise not to use dishwasher detergent. Even though some say that you can wash your hats in the top rack of a dishwasher, there's no reason to chance it.
Scrub Stained Spots First
Whether it's your favorite baseball cap or a well-worn wool fedora, you'll first want to give added attention to soiled areas of the hat. This most often includes the sweatband of your hat where body oils, makeup, and sweat stains can accumulate over time. You can either apply the same soap from the bowl on the soiled areas with a soft-bristled brush (a toothbrush would work) and allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before hand washing.
Submerge Hat to Soak
Once you've determined your hat is not discoloring or showing any other signs of damage, you can soak the entire hat in the bowl or sink. If your hat just needs to freshen up, a 30-minute soak should do the trick. If there is more serious dirt or grime on the hat, you may need to soak it for a few hours.
Rinse the Hat
Remove the hat from the soapy water and rinse it under a faucet of cold running water to wash off all the detergent. Hold it between your hands and gently squeeze to remove the excess moisture. Place the hat on a clean towel and pat it down until there is no more water dripping. Do not wring or twist your hat, as this could ruin your hat's shape or cause unwanted pilling.
Air Dry the Hat
Lay the hat right side up (in its original shape) on a towel in a well-ventilated area. Do not place the hat outside in direct sunlight as this could fade your hat. Do not use a blow dryer as the heat can cause your hat to shrink.
How To Spot Clean A Straw/Paperbraid Hat
Low Dirt Levels STRAW/PAPERBRAID
· Start with a clean, dry cloth and wipe away any surface dirt, dust, and debris. Since most straw hats are light in color, use a white cloth. If you have a dark straw hat, feel free to use a darker cloth. The main concern is not transferring any dye that will discolor the hat.
· If the hat needs more than a quick superficial cleaning, you can move on to using a clean, damp cloth.
· Wet a soft cloth with a small amount of dish soap and water and test a small area of the hat to make sure you can continue. The cloth should be damp, but not soaking wet as this could cause water damage to the hat.
· Use the damp cloth to wipe in a circular or counter-clockwise direction to avoid damaging the pattern of the weave.
· Let the hat air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.
· For cowboy hats and other styles with curved brims, you can set them upside down to preserve the shape, although it's best to put it on a hat stand or mannequin head.
Medium and High Dirt Level STRAW/PAPERBRAID
· Before you introduce any liquid into the equation, try cleaning the hat dry. Pour a small amount of talcum powder or cornstarch on the stain. Wait for an hour or two to allow the powder to soak up the stain. Wipe away the powder to see if the problem is gone. If not, don't worry. You're not done yet.
· Wipe away makeup, lotion, body oils, sweat stains, food, and other caked-on blotches with a clean, damp white cloth that's been moistened with a little dish soap. Ideally, you should do this as soon as any stain appears to prevent it from settling in and permanently tarnishing the straw.
· To remove sweatband stains, you might need something stronger than just a soapy wet cloth. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush and a mixture of 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1/4 cup of warm water. Dip the brush in the cleaning solution and work on a small area at a time.
· Dab and swipe the sweatband areas you just cleaned with a white cloth or hand towel moistened with plain water.
· Let the hat air dry in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
· For hat scuffs, use a gum eraser to gently rub them away — you can find this handy tool online or at any local art supply store for about a buck.
How to Store Your Straw/Paperbraid Hat
Keep it in a cool, dry place — a hat box is ideal. If the brim is curved, store the hat upside down to protect the brim's shape.
Never leave a straw hat in direct sunlight as this will cause it to become brittle and break.