A Simple Guide to Washing a Hat

June 9, 2016 - By Emily Potter

Let’s be real, hats get nasty pretty quick. There is a lot of contradictory information on the web about how to properly clean and wash a cap, so we’re here to clear up some confusion. Today’s All About Headwear blog will take you step-by-step through how to treat, clean, and dry, everything you need for washing a hat.

First and foremost, (If you hear nothing else, hear this) do NOT under any circumstances put your hat in the dishwasher. Let’s just get that out of the way now. Hats accumulate sweat, body oils, odors, and anything else you may associate with a smelly teenage boy. Personally, I don’t want any of that near the dishes I eat off of; if that’s your thing, more power to you.

If that doesn’t bother you, the shrinkage will. Dishwashers use steaming hot water that is likely to shrink the fabric if used to wash a hat.

Before Washing a Hat


The first thing you need to do is check the fabric care label for any washing instructions beyond this how-to guide. Always refer to that first. There are three main types of fabrics newer hats are typically made of.

  • Cotton Twill
  • Cotton/Polyester Blend
  • Polyester Mesh

It is also pertinent to know whether your visor is made of plastic or cardboard. All caps made from the late 80s on will be plastic, so unless your hat is vintage you don’t have to worry about this. Cardboard visors will lose their shape, and even mold if submerged in water.


 Next, you need to check your hat for colorfastness. Again, most newer hat owners won’t have to worry about this, but it never hurts to double check before everyone’s socks turn pink, right?

There are two ways do this. The first method is to simply rub the fabric vigorously and forcefully on a white sheet of paper. If no color transfers to the paper, you’re all set. The second option is to take a clean white rag, and dip it in a mild detergent, add some water and rub the rag on a colored area of the inside of the cap. If there is no fading once the cap is dry, and no color bled onto the rag then you’re safe to move on to the washing stage.

Washing a Hat


For dirt and grime stains, spray the hat with a pre-treatment spray and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. For blood and grass stains, soak the hat in a mixture of cold water and liquid detergent for 30 minutes. You can use both methods, but be sure you spray and let it sit before soaking.

If your hat is extra dirty you can use a clean toothbrush to gently scrub the stains with the cold water/detergent solution until it creates foam, then repeat the soaking process.

You can also deodorize and kill odor-causing bacteria by spraying the inner panels and sweatband with a 50/50 solution made up of rubbing alcohol and water.


This is the easy part! Just toss your hat in the washing machine either by itself or with like colors and launder in cold water. Make sure you don’t wash it with a full load so as not to crush it; you can use a hat form to ensure the hat holds its shape.

Washing a Hat


Now, listen to me one more time – NEVER put your hat in the dryer. Take it out of the washing machine and let it air dry. You can hang dry it but I recommend you place it on something like a coffee can or a balloon to help keep its form. You can even wear it while it dries to ensure a perfect fit.

That’s it! Washing a hat is much more simple than you might think. Care to weigh in on the dishwasher controversy? Call us out in the comments below. You can also follow us on Instagram using the hashtag #hatswork.

Emily Potter

Emily is the Content Marketer for Outdoor Cap Co. She holds an M.A. in AD & PR from the University of Alabama and a B.B.A in Marketing. Emily is an avid Crimson Tide football fan. She has a golden retriever named Opie Winston, and a cat named Tide.


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