Written by Lisa Truesdale. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
If you’re like many people, you have a favorite hat (or two, or ten). Maybe your fave is the baseball cap you reach for daily, the fancy fedora you wear on special occasions, or the sun hat you wear when you’re sitting by the pool.
Hats come in all shapes and styles and are made with a variety of materials, so it’s important to know how to clean them when they get dirty -- so you can keep wearing them. Sean Busch, Puracy’s co-founder and resident cleaning expert, shares his important tips and step-by-step instructions for all types of hats.
Can You Wash Hats in the Dishwasher?
To some of you, this might seem like a silly question. However, when we found out that 5,000+ people per month search Google for tips and tricks on how to wash a hat in their dishwasher, we felt a strong obligation to address this.
Sean doesn’t hesitate at all when answering the question about whether caps and hats can go in the dishwasher: “Definitely not. Dishwasher detergent is great for removing food particles. But it’s not meant for garments or fabrics, and the dishwasher gets too hot during the wash cycle, which can cause damage and warping to your favorite hats."
Although you shouldn’t put caps, hats, or any other fabric items in the dishwasher, don’t worry; Sean has plenty of information to share about proper hat-washing procedures. Below, you’ll find specific information for baseball caps, wool or felt hats, and straw hats. (If the hat you wish to clean is a knit stocking cap, check the washing instructions on the tag.)
Things to Keep in Mind When Washing Baseball Caps
Baseball-style hats and visors are fun to wear; they cover bed head and offer shade from the sun. They also give you a place to proudly display the logo or design of your choice, whether it’s your company name, your favorite team, or a beloved vacation spot.
Baseball caps can get pretty grimy, though, so luckily they’re the easiest type of hat to wash. Most are made of cotton or nylon, and they’re fairly durable, with sturdy stitching instead of adhesive.
Here are a few things to know about this type of hat:
- Baseball hats can be washed in the washing machine or by hand.
- If you’re pre-treating stains with Puracy Natural Stain Remover, first test an inconspicuous area inside the cap.
- When laundering a baseball cap in the washing machine, ALWAYS use a protective plastic hat cage to help your hat keep its shape. We like the BallcapBuddy or the Perfect Curve Cap Washer. (Note: Both of these companies suggest using their product in an empty dishwasher with no detergent on the gentle cycle, but Sean believes this is a bad idea.) Sean strongly advises against washing a baseball cap in the machine without a plastic cage. If you don’t have a plastic cage, then follow the hand-washing instructions below.
How to Clean Baseball Caps in the Washing Machine
Step #1 - Pretreat any stains with Puracy Natural Stain Remover. Let the hat sit at least 15 minutes (and ideally longer, if possible) to give the plant-based enzymes enough time to do their important stain-busting work.
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Step #2 - If the stains are particularly stubborn, you can agitate them with a small detailing brush. Sean prefers to use brushes made with boar’s hair, as they’re less likely to damage your hat’s fabric.
Step #3 - Place the cap in the plastic cage.
Step #4 - Wash the caged hat in a normal laundry load with similar colors. Use two pumps of Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent, which contains plant-based enzymes that will eat away all of the stains and odors on your baseball cap. It’s highly concentrated, so you only need a small amount. Use cold or warm water.
Step #5 - Allow your baseball cap to drip dry. Don’t shake it or try to wring it out. To help maintain its shape while drying, Sean suggests stuffing it with balled-up newspaper or paper towels. (Pro tip: paper towels are preferable for white hats, as they’ll help you avoid any risk of ink transfer from wet newspaper.) The newspaper mimics the shape of your head and also helps absorb some of the moisture.
How to Wash Baseball Caps by Hand
Step #2 - Agitate the stains with a detailing brush if necessary.
Step #3 - Fill a large bowl or bucket with cold or warm water, then add a few drops of Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent and swish or stir to combine. Fully submerge your hat in the water for at least 10 minutes.
Step #4 - Thoroughly rinse the hat under cold or warm running water.
Step #5 - Allow your hat to drip dry. Don’t shake it or wring it out. Stuff the inside with balled-up newspaper or paper towels to help hold its shape as it dries. These paper products are also highly absorbent, so they will help the hat dry.
Things to Keep in Mind When Washing Wool or Felt Hats
Wool and felt hats, like fedoras or cowboy hats, must be washed by hand. The method is similar to the hand-washing method for baseball caps, except for one important first step, which we’ll explain in a moment.
But first, here are a few things to know about these types of hats:
- Wool/felt hats cannot be washed in the washing machine.
- Wool/felt hats are not usually stained with the same sorts of things that baseball caps are, like motor oil, so pretreating stains is often not necessary.
- If your hat is decorated with any ribbons, pins, or removable leather straps, Sean advises taking them off before washing the hat. They can be cleaned separately if necessary.
How to Wash Wool or Felt Hats
Step #1 - Vacuum your hat. Yes, really! Wool and felt can really grab onto particles like dust, skin cells, and dandruff. Use your vacuum’s upholstery brush, if it has one, to remove as many particles as you can before hand-washing, or use a small handheld vacuum.
Step #2 - Make a mental note about any particularly dirty areas on the hat, like sweat around the brim.
Step #3 - Find a bucket or large bowl that’s big enough for your hat, then add a few drops of Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent and swish or stir to combine. Submerge your hat completely in the water and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Step #4 - Pull the hat out of the water and check the areas that were especially grimy. Agitate those areas with a boar’s hair detailing brush.
Step #5 - Submerge the hat in the water again, and wait another 5-10 minutes.
Step #6 - Remove the hat from the water and rinse it thoroughly under cold or warm running water.
Step #7 - Air dry or drip dry the hat. Stuff the inside with balled-up newspaper or paper towels. This helps it keep its shape and also absorbs some of the moisture. Don’t shake your hat or try to wring it out.
Things to Keep in Mind When Washing Straw Hats
Is your favorite hat made of straw? If so, the washing process is completely different than it is for baseball caps or wool/felt hats.
Here are a few things to know about this type of hat:
- Straw hats cannot get completely wet. They would lose their shape or could completely fall apart.
- Before you spot-clean a straw hat, first test a small area inside the hat.
How to Clean a Straw Hat
Step #1 - Vacuum your hat inside and out to remove loose particles like dust, skin cells, and dandruff. Use your vacuum’s upholstery brush, if it has one, or use a small handheld vacuum.
Step #2 - Fill a small bowl with cold or warm water, then add a few drops of Puracy Natural Dish Soap and swish or stir to combine.
Step #3 - Dip a microfiber cleaning cloth into the water and use it to clean any spots. Use very delicate overlapping or circular motions with the damp cloth.
Step #4 - Stuff the inside of the hat with pieces of balled-up newspaper or paper towels. These paper products will help it keep its shape as it dries and will absorb any moisture.
Just follow Sean’s handy instructions above, and in 20 minutes or less, plus drying time, your hat will look as good as new!
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