How to Reshape a Hat Using Steam
Hats make a fun addition to any wardrobe. They're functional, and they also make a classy addition to any ensemble. A hat makes a great statement piece, but a crumpled hat probably won't make the statement you're hoping for.
Just like clothes, hats need some TLC to stay in shape. Whether it's a baseball hat, a leather hat or something in between, hats tend to get crushed. Sometimes, hats become smashed in a suitcase, or someone sits on them. Other times, they may get smooshed in a box in the back of a closet. Whatever the cause, most hats will eventually become misshapen and need some adjustments to regain their original shape.
If you've got a hat that has become wrinkled or crushed, don't get rid of it! Most hats can easily be reshaped and returned to their former glory with just a little bit of water and some elbow grease. If you're looking to protect your favorite hat and extend its lifespan, we've got you covered with our tips and tricks for how to fix a wrinkled hat!
Steps to Reshape a Hat Using Steam
The process of reshaping a hat is similar to the process of ironing the wrinkles out of clothes. That means you'll need plenty of steam and heat to get the job done. At Hats Unlimited, we use a steamer to shape our inventory and keep it looking great. But if you're shaping a hat at home, you may not have a steamer available. A tea kettle full of water is our favorite way to use the steam method at home. Simply allow the steamer to heat up or bring the water in the kettle to boil to generate the steam you'll need to work just about any hat back into shape. Don't have a tea kettle? The steam function on an iron works too — just be careful when you're working with a hot iron. The metal plates can burn or damage the fabric of your hat — or your own skin.
Have a hat that needs some help? Follow these steps for how to steam a hat.
Step 1: Generate Lots of Steam
A tea kettle is ideal, but if you don't have one on hand, then heat up your iron, making sure there's plenty of water inside so you can use the iron's steam feature. We prefer a kettle because we find it's trickier to guide the steam from an iron to the right places on a hat, decreasing its effectiveness. In other words, if you use an iron to steam a hat, it will take more time and more effort to get results.
Remember, whether you're using a kettle or an iron, that steam is going to be really hot. Always keep your hands and face 6-8 inches away from the spout to prevent burns. It's also a good idea to hold the hat the same distance away from the steam. Just like ironing clothes, if you get the hat too close to the heat and steam, you risk damaging the material and ruining a perfectly good hat.
Step 2: Bathe the Hat in Steam
Once you've got a hot kettle or iron ready, hold the hat 6-8 inches away and allow it to start soaking up the steam. Gently rotate the hat until all areas of the material are warm and soft. Depending on the hat's size and the material it's made from, this may take several minutes. Don't rush this part of the process. All areas of the fabric need to be warm and soft before you can begin reshaping the hat. Instead, rotate the hat slowly and methodically until all areas have been covered.
Step 3: Kneading the Hat
Once the steam has permeated the hat, gently start kneading the hat using your hands and fingers to shape the hat brim and crown into their original positions. This may take some time, depending on what the brim is made of. Some brims are constructed from wire, while others are constructed from plastic. Both are malleable, but each takes a different amount of time and heat to get it back into shape.
We can't stress it enough — kneading must be done gently! Don't mash and smash your hat to get it back into shape. This can have the opposite effect and actually damage it even more. Keep your hands flexible and soft, easing the material back into place slowly and carefully.
Step 4: Repeat
Sometimes you may find that a hat doesn't snap back into shape quickly. If it's been crushed or misshapen for quite some time, it might take additional effort to return it to its original condition. Oversaturation — too much exposure to steam — may also impede the process. If you see progress, but the hat isn't quite back to its former glory, don't get discouraged. Simply allow the hat to sit and dry for a while. Once it's dry, start the process again. It may take two or three steam sessions, but you should see your hat return to normal after that.
Think About Hat Material
Steaming clothing and hats is a tried-and-true way to keep fabrics looking fresh and smooth. But before you start working on a hat, it's a good idea to consider the material the hat is made from. Although steaming is safe and effective on most materials, it's easier to use on certain fabrics and under certain conditions.
Natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, silk and linen, all respond well to steam's heat and moisture. If your hat is made up of one or more of these materials, then you can safely and confidently move forward with the reshaping process. One exception to this is linen. Linen is a tough fabric that is known for its quick-drying properties. This means it will take more heat and steam to remove creases or wrinkles from linen than its other natural counterparts. If you're attempting to reshape a linen hat, you'll need a lot of steam to permeate the material. It may also take several steam sessions to restore the hat's original shape.
Many synthetic materials, such as nylon, acrylic and polyester, also respond well to steaming. In many cases, these materials already have anti-crease and anti-wrinkle properties, so removing any creases or imperfections using steam is relatively simple. If you're using a clothes steamer or a kettle to reshape a hat made of synthetic materials, then the process should be fairly easy. But if you're using an iron or a steamer with a hot plate, be careful. If the material gets too close, the hot metal plate can melt or burn the material, resulting in permanent damage.
While most fabrics respond well to steaming and the reshaping process — even a straw hat — hats made of leather, felt, suede or velvet pieces are the exceptions. In general, these materials don't stand up well to moisture, and directing steam at them can damage your hat. If you have a hat with felt, suede or velvet pieces, you can try directing steam at the back of the material to protect the front — visible — pieces of the material. Leather materials shouldn't be exposed to steam.
It's also important to make sure you know what you're doing before you begin. If you're using a clothes steamer, read the directions carefully before you start steaming a hat. If you're using a tea kettle or an iron, read through our step-by-step directions several times. Even fabric designed to stand up to heat and moisture can get damaged if you don't know what you're doing.
Other Methods for Reshaping a Hat
Steam is the best tool for reshaping a beloved hat, but if you don't have access to a steamer or a kettle, there are some other great options to reshape hats of all kinds.
1. Have a Ball
If your head is an average size, it's roughly the equivalent of a youth-sized soccer ball. If your hat shaping is less-than-perfect, clean that soccer ball collecting dust in your garage and get to work. Use a spray bottle to dampen the hat and then place the hat gently over the soccer ball, being sure to pull it down and around the sides of the ball. Set the hat-soccer ball combination near a heat source, such as a radiator or heater. The hat will dry and should be as good as new. One word of caution — never leave a hat unattended, especially if it's close to a space heater. This method only works if you're nearby and can keep an eye on it the entire time.
2. Give It a Squirt
While this method won't work on a badly misshapen hat, a spray bottle can be an effective way to reshape your hat to fit your head better, especially if it's a little tight when you first get it. Holding your hat in one hand, use the other hand to hold the squirt bottle and gently spray it onto the hat. Focus the spray on the hat's headband area since that's the part you're trying to reshape. Once you've dampened the hat, use a hairdryer set on a medium heat setting to dry the band, making sure to hold the hairdryer several inches away from the fabric. It doesn't need to be completely dry — just start the process to get some of the excess moisture out.
Once the band is partially dry, put the hat on your head and wear it all day. As you wear it, the band will dry and conform to the size and shape of your head. Once it's dry, it should remain that shape and size, guaranteed to fit you perfectly every time.
3. Bundle up Tissue Paper
If your hat has leather, suede, velvet or felt elements, then spraying it with water or exposing it to steam may permanently damage the hat. If you need a water-free way to correct a misshapen hat made from these materials, try using tissue paper. First, use your hands to push out any indented areas in the crown of the hat. If possible, use your hands to reshape the brim as well. Then, stuff the inside of the hat with tissue paper until it's full. Be sure the tissue paper is firmly in place and you can't see any gaps between the pieces — it may take a lot of tissue paper to do this.
Once the hat is stuffed with tissue paper, place it in a cool, dry location and leave it alone for 24 hours. After a day, take the tissue paper out, and your hat should be ready for action. If it's not back in shape, you can repeat this process, leaving the tissue paper in place for two to three days.
4. Take a Hot Shower
The shower is a great place to find warm steam, making it an option when a steamer or kettle isn't available. Simply turn the water on in your shower as high as it will go. Hang your hat on a hook on the back of the bathroom door or near the shower, being sure to keep it at least 6-8 inches away from the source of the heat. After 10-15 minutes, the steam should have permeated the hat, and it should be soft, flexible and ready for shaping. Starting with the brim, use your hands to work the hat back into its original shape. Once the material is in place, set the hat on a clean towel and allow it to dry completely before wearing it.
5. Invest in a Steamer
If you collect our favorite accessory, then it might be a good idea to invest in a steamer. When it comes to reshaping a hat, having a hand-held clothing steamer is a simple way to generate the heat and steam you'll need to soften a hat when you need to correct a wrinkle.
Find More Hat Tips and Tricks on Our Blog!
Reshaping your hat isn't difficult, but if you're attempting it at home, be sure to take your time and pay attention. Hats come in all shapes and materials, and what works for one hat may not be effective on another. Know what your hat is made of and be careful to maintain a safe distance from any hot metal or steam being used in the process. One other tip — keep all hats out of the dryer! Putting a hat in the dryer, especially one that's damp, will most likely result in a hat that's even more misshapen or crushed than before. It may also shrink the material, rendering the hat unwearable.
At Hats Unlimited, we do more than just sell hats. We're passionate about helping you keep your hats you buy looking like new for many years to come. When you purchase a hat online or at one of our seven southern California-based retail locations, it comes with our commitment to high-quality, long-lasting products. We love sharing advice with our customers about hat care. And one of our favorite things is helping our customers pick out the perfect hat to gift to someone else.