How to Wash Every Type of Hat

Whether your tastes lean toward street-chic knit caps, vacation-ready sunhats, casual baseball caps, or anything in between, all hats have something in common: Wear them often enough, and they’ll get dirty quickly. Not only do those beloved accessories absorb sweat, oil, and hair products, but they also pick up plenty of dirt and grime from the outside world. To help keep your favorite hats looking like new, read on to learn how to wash every type of hat in just a few simple steps.

Baseball Caps

One of our favorite trends of 2019 is the host of new baseball cap styles. To keep your favorite ball cap clean, fill a bucket with warm water, and then add about a teaspoon of gentle laundry detergent.

Soak the hat for about half an hour, and then rinse it under a tap running with cold water. Make sure the soap is completely rinsed out before removing (the hat should be free from slickness or stickiness), and then stuff it with paper towels and allow it to air-dry.

While it may be tempting to machine wash your hat, this method is best avoided since it can damage the shape of the hat.

Sun Hats

Cleaning a sun hat can be a bit tricky, specifically because water can damage straw if used in excess. However, a very small amount of water won’t damage the material of the hat.

Lightly dampen a clean, colorless microfiber cloth, and then gently sweep it over the surface of the hat. If the sun hat has detailing (like a ribbon or beading), remove these elements before cleaning the hat (if possible) and handwash them separately.

Scuff marks on straw are best removed by gentle buffing with an artist gum eraser. For oil-based and water-based stains, your best bet is a specialty straw hat cleaner.

Knit Hats

Most knit caps can be machine washed using a lingerie bag. (Note: Special rules apply to wool, so skip ahead to the next section if that’s what you’re dealing with.)

Start the washing machine on a cold cycle and allow it to fill at least halfway with water before adding your knit hat. Wash with like colors (a full load works best) and allow the load to soak in cold water with mild detergent for at least an hour. Run the washing machine on the “spin only” cycle, and then remove the knit hat. Allow it to air-dry flat on a towel.

Felt and Wool Hats

There are a variety of wool and felt hats on the market right now—fedoras, baker boy hats, and newsboy styles (to name a few). If you own a felt hat, your very next purchase should be a felt-hat brush. Without wetting the hat, use gentle circular motions to brush it, removing any dirt or debris from the surface. This method actually helps to maintain and extend the lifespan of the material. For heavy stains, professional cleaning may be your best bet.

White Hats

The question of how to best wash white hats depends largely on the material, so be sure to refer to instructions for each type of hat listed above.

Add a teaspoon or so of gentle, chemical-free laundry detergent to a large bowl of warm water. If you’re dealing with a basic material like cotton, the hat can be soaked. You can simply use a clean, white microfiber cloth to spot-clean the hat. Avoid bleaching agents, as these can damage the fabric or cause unevenness in color.

Keep in mind that hat makers often know how difficult their hats are to clean, so always check for a small tag listing care instructions. By following these few simple tips, your hat will back to peak condition in no time.