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The Complete Hat Care Guide

Proper maintenance and cleaning of your hats can prolong their life so you can enjoy them for as long as possible. Even if you take the most diligent care of your hats, they will get dirty sometimes, and you should know how to clean them.

How you clean your hats will depend on your hat type and material. Cleaning a straw hat will be different from cleaning a felt or leather hat. Read this hat care guide to learn how to look after your beloved hats. 

Before You Start

The first step in maintaining your hat is determining its material. Different hat materials require specific cleaning and maintenance methods. Even the type of hat you own can affect how you clean and maintain it. Before you start cleaning your hat, check if any of the hat's labels tell you what material your hat is made out of and if there are any instructions to follow. 

It is also essential that you know how old your hat is. Older caps are typically more fragile and need more tender care. 

How to Take Care of a Hat By Material

Once you know what fabric your hat is made from, you can focus on following the correct cleaning methods. Some of the most popular materials for hats include straw, felt, canvas and wool. Below are instructions for how to clean different hat fabrics: 

Straw Hats

Straw Hats

The fragile and flexible nature of straw hats might make cleaning seem perilous. However, all you need is a gentle touch and some everyday household items. Use a soft whisk broom to remove dust and debris. A soft cloth and sponge are ideal for regular day-to-day cleaning. Make sure to use a damp cloth rather than one that is soaking wet. If your cloth is too wet, the extra water can cause your hat to shrink. 

Moving your cloth or sponge in a counter-clockwise direction will help you avoid damaging the weave of your hat. Always be as gentle as possible. You can use mild dish soap or a specifically formulated straw hat cleaner if you need soap. You can test a small, discreet spot on your hat to ensure the soap is safe. From there, gently wash the dirty area with a damp sponge. You can dry it by placing it upside down on a flat surface away from the sun. 

Fur, Felt and Wool Hats

Hats made from these fabrics are possibly the most prized parts of your hat collection. You'll want to know how to take care of them correctly. 

Use a soft bristle brush to remove any surface dirt or dust carefully. Move the brush in a counter-clockwise direction. Treat any stains and spills as quickly as possible. Spot clean with a damp felt sponge and a watered-down mix of detergent and water. Ensure the cloth is only damp, as excess water can damage the material. Pat the hat with a cloth to remove moisture and leave it to dry in a clean space without sun. 

For stubborn stains, a powder cleaner and steam drying might be necessary. Always let your fur, felt and wool hats air dry — artificial heat can cause them to lose shape. You can use steam to reshape your hats as needed. 

Pro Tip: Use undyed clothes and sponges when cleaning wool, felt and fur hats. Dyed clothes might transfer color to these materials, especially when the rag is wet or brand new. 

Canvas Hats 

Canvas is sturdy, making it one of the easiest materials to clean. A damp cloth and mild detergent can clean spot stains. You can use a powder cleaner for stubborn stains. For baseball caps, invest in a ball cap buddy that lets you wash them in the dishwasher. 

Cotton and Wool Blends

Like canvas hats, cotton and wool blend caps are easy to clean. There are two types of cloth hats: treated and untreated. Each type can be washed in different ways: 

  • Treated cloth hats: These hats are either oiled or waxed. You can rinse them off with water and clean them with a cloth.
  • Untreated cloth hats: Use a soft bristle brush to clean debris or dust. Use powder cleaner for stubborn stains.

Suede Hats 

Use a soft bristle brush to wipe off dirt and debris. You can also use fine-grit sandpaper. An emery cloth can raise the nap or fluffy surfaces of the suede. Milder stains are easily removed with a suede bar or "eraser." Rub the bar in a circular pattern over the stain before brushing it. 

Cornstarch or talcum powder can help remove oil stains. Leave the powder on the stain for a few hours or overnight before brushing it off. Mix a small amount of baby oil or shampoo in 15 parts warm water to get rid of odors and oil stains. 

You can wipe off excess water and allow your suede hat to dry away from the sun. 

Leather Hats

One of the most tricky materials to clean is leather. A great way to prevent damage and dirt is using a protective treatment or leather conditioner. Protective treatments should be reapplied yearly, depending on how often you use your hat. A leather conditioner can also help restore dry and weathered leather. 

Leather will absorb most oil stains. You can speed the process up by wiping any spots you see with your fingers. A clean, damp cloth can wipe down any dirt or dust. Only use products formulated for leather to clean and protect your leather hats. Avoid saddle soap as it can dry out the leather. 

If your leather hat gets too wet, wipe it down with a dry rag and then let it try. Avoid drying it in the sun or near heat, as this can shrink the leather. The best way to dry a leather hat is in a hat form. 

General Hat Maintenance Tips 

Here are a few general maintenance tips for your hat collection:

  • Store it from a hat hook, peg or on its top to maintain its shape. The best way to store hats is in a hat box. 
  • When putting your hat down, place it upside down on its crow to ensure the brim maintains its shape and doesn't flatten. 
  • Use steam to reshape your hat as needed. 
  • Avoid hair dryers and other artificial heat sources when drying hats. Heat can cause caps to lose their shape. 
  • Wipe it down with a dry, clean cloth and leave it on a flat surface to finish drying.
  • Store your hat in a dry, clean space. 
  • Don't leave your hats in the sun for extended periods, as it will warp and fade your hat. 
  • Pick your hat up from the brim rather than the crown to preserve its shape. 
  • Invest in hat stretchers to keep your hats in shape while storing them. 
  • Be careful what materials you store your hat in. Leaving a hat in a plastic cover for too long can cause it to dry out or rot. 
  • Take care when packing your hats for special occasions, vacations and business trips.
  • Always avoid excess water on your hats, as it can damage their shape and integrity. 
  • Consider a waterproof spray to protect against water damage. 

Find the Perfect Hat at Hats Unlimited

Find the Perfect Hat at Hats Unlimited

Now that you have learned how to take care of your hats, find the perfect hat for you with Hats Unlimited. With over 1,000 hat styles, you will surely find one that suits your style. Our inventory is constantly being expanded as we add new on-trend styles. Browse our extensive range of hats and hat accessories today!

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