How to Wash a Hat

They’re prone to some sweat and dirt, here’s how to clean your hats to keep them in top shape.

Whether wearing one in winter to keep your body warm or donning one in the summertime to ward against the rays, hats are a necessary part of every season’s wardrobe. But, have you considered how to clean these well worn accessories (or even washed them before)? Certified housecleaning technician, author, and blogger at, Donna Smallin Kuper, gives us her tips for taking care of these everyday items. First thing’s first: consider the material (is it knit, straw, cotton, embellished?) Once you’ve done that, note the structure (is it loose and floppy or starchy and rigid?). Now, follow these guidelines below based on what you find—some can be cleaned in a washing machine, while others require a spot cleaning. Kuper even suggests some products to keep on hand that can revive a beloved, but worn hat. If you stay vigilant about their upkeep, they will serve you well for years to come.


Baseball Hats

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These caps tend to get pretty grimy with sweat, dirt, and other debris that gets kicked up during a rowdy game. You can toss these in the washing machine, but help them maintain their structure by clipping them within a cap washer. Have some room on the top rack of the dishwasher? You can actually run them through a cleaning cycle in that machine as well. But Smallin Kuper says to use the dishwasher as a last resort.


Sun Hats

Luckily, your favorite poolside sun hat does not require too much effort to clean. Straw hats, particularly, only need a rinse with the hose to remove any sand or sweat. Just let it air dry in the sun before donning it on the shore once more. If you’ve got a fabric fedora or other similar cap that has been exposed to suntan lotion, Smallin Kuper says to wash them if you can. She says the dishwasher trick will work for these styles as well. And make sure they are completely dry before storing them away. If the dishwasher cycle does not dry them completely, stash them out in the sun for a couple hours to do the trick. When it comes to any kind of structured hat, first try to spot clean any stain (if there is one). This will prevent it from losing its shape.


Knit Hats

If you have a knit hat, Smallin Kuper stresses the importance of washing it using a mild detergent (like Woolite) and doing so by hand (as opposed to putting it through the machine’s cycle). Fill a sink or bucket with cold water and add a drop or two of the detergent (Not too much, you do not want to overdo it!). Before adding your hat, swirl the water around to create suds. Once you drop the hat into the container of sudsy liquid, squeeze the water through the hat for a few minutes, then rinse clean. Remove any excess water by squeezing the hat (but don’t wring it too hard as that could affect the hat’s shape). Remove any remaining liquid by laying the hat flat on a towel and rolling it up. Then lay flat to dry completely. If it’s a shaped hat, use plastic grocery bags to stuff it and keep the shape as it dries. If you just can’t see yourself hand washing your knit cap, toss it in the washing machine within a mesh laundry bag. Set the washer to the soak cycle, then rinse, spin, and lay it flat to dry (as above).