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How to clean a hat without ruining the shape

Hat collection hanging on wall rack
Hat collection hanging on wall rack (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Knowing how to clean a hat the right way can save you from doing more damage than good, much like learning how to clean suede shoes. Hats can be surprisingly fragile depending on the material — particularly wool and straw — and anything with a rigid structure can be bent out of shape. That’s why extra care needs to be taken when cleaning a hat. This chore can’t be avoided either, as a hat will inevitably pick up sweat and grime with everyday use. 

To help you with this task, we’ve pulled together this comprehensive guide. Here, we will take you through how to clean different types of hats including baseball caps, wool hats, straw hats and fedora hats. We will guide you on what to do step-by-step and answer any questions you may have along the way. Here’s how to clean a hat. 

How to clean a baseball cap

Row of baseball caps on table

Row of baseball caps on table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 — First, fill a clean sink or a basin with cool water and add a few drops of mild laundry detergent.

— Then, place the hat in the water, using your hands to agitate the water to create some soapy suds. Leave the hat to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. If you have specific stains, put a dab of detergent onto a soft toothbrush and gently rub the stain. Alternatively, you can create a paste of baking soda and water to target stubborn stains or buy a stain remover like OxiClean Max Force 4 In Power Laundry Stain Remover Spray ($13, Amazon (opens in new tab)).

— Next, remove the hat and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Take care when gently squeezing excess water out of the hat to avoid twisting the brim.

—  Finally, pat down the hat with a clean towel before hanging up the hat to air dry or set on a clean towel. 

 TIP: Even if the care label says you can machine wash, it’s advisable not to clean baseball caps in the washer or dryer to prevent damage to the hat. Handwashing is by far the best method to retain the cap shape and fabric color. There is a method to clean baseball caps in the dishwasher, but we would advise against this.

How to clean a wool hat

Wool hat hanging up on wall rack

Wool hat hanging up on wall rack (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 — Start by filling a sink or basin with cool or lukewarm water and add some mild laundry detergent

— Next, turn the hat inside out, massaging the hat in the water for a few minutes to remove dirt. Leave to soak in the soapy water for about 20 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly in cool water to remove all traces of soap. Do not twist or wring the hat.

— Finally, roll the hat in a clean, dark towel to remove excess water. Repeat this step until the hat is just slightly damp. 

TIP: Cashmere or angora wool hats are more delicate than blended or acrylic wool, so advisable to handwash where possible. For blended wool, merina wool or acrylic wool hats, you can machine wash these on the delicates or wool cycle which has a cooler temperature.

How to clean a straw hat 

Straw hat hanging up on wall

Straw hat hanging up on wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— First, get a dry, white cloth and wipe away any surface dirt, dust, and grime. If you have a dark straw hat, you can use a darker cloth, but be mindful to not transfer any dye from the cloth that may discolor the hat.

— Next, wet a soft cloth or microfiber with a small amount of dish soap and water to gently rub the hat clean. Wipe in a circular or counter-clockwise direction to avoid damaging the weave pattern of the hat.

— Let the hat air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

TIP: Ensure the cloth is just damp and not soaking wet as this could cause water damage to the material.

How to clean a fedora hat 

Fedora hats hanging on wall rack

Fedora hats hanging on wall rack (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 — Simply take a soft-bristled clothes brush to gently brush away dust and dirt on the hat. Alternatively, you can use a lint roller to remove any fluff or debris on the surface.

—  If you have a leather sweatband around the hat, clean with saddle soap like this Fiebing's Saddle Soap ($7, Amazon (opens in new tab)) to keep the leather supple. 

TIP: The best way to store your fedora is in a covered hat box and placed upside down to prevent the brim from becoming misshapen. 

How often should I wash my hat?

This all depends on how often you wear it and how dirty it is. To avoid smells and grime, it’s recommended that you wash your hat at least two to three times every season. Of course, if you live in your favorite hat, this would need to be done more frequently.

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!