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The Best Way to Clean a Hat and Basic Care & Maintenance Tips

Proper cleaning and care keeps hats looking newer

Hats are worn everywhere, so it is only a matter of time before they get stained or dirty. Luckily, nearly all hats can be cleaned at home with the proper technique and tools.

Learn how to clean a hat the right way and you can remove stains, residue and dirt build up to keep your hat looking as new as the day you bought it.

Understanding a few basic tips on cleaning maintenance, hat storage and daily handling adds years to the life of your hat—even if you wear it every day.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Hat?

Before you clean your hat always check the hat label for specific cleaning instructions. Using certain cleaning products on your hat can permanently damage it, cause fraying or creasing. That's why you need to learn how to clean a hat properly without ruining it or causing additional wear and damage.

Removing Stains from a Hat

You can remove many stains like some foods, dirt, or even grease with a soft hat cleaning brush. Simply brush the stain lightly until removed. Always use a brush that is the same color as the hat and test the colorfastness of any brush or sponge before you begin.

Use a circular motion to carefully scrub the stain away. If this does not remove the stain from the hat, try using a hat sponge to gently blot and scrub the area until clean.

Daily Hat Cleaning & Care

soft-bristled hat brush is perfect for cleaning a hatClean your hat every day to keep the fabric looking as nice as it did when you first bought it. This gives your hat a like-new look for the best possible style.

A soft bristled brush is the best way to clean your hat from everyday dirt and debris. Softer bristled brushes work best.

Brush the hat gently in a clockwise motion to remove dust, dirt and other light stains.

Brushing the hat regularly keeps the material free of foreign elements that tend to build up over time. This will also lengthen the life of your hat.

There are many hat brushes on the market. It is best to buy a good one that will last a long time. If you don't have one, a shoeshine brush will do in a pinch. Remember, if you have a dark hat, use a dark brush and vice versa.

Cleaning Specific Types of Hats

Not all hats can be cleaned in the same way. Certain types of hats require specific cleaning steps.

Depending on what material your hat is made from, different cleaning techniques and products will be more effective. For instance, you wat to clean felt hats differently than you would clean a straw hat.

Certain stains can be removed from straw materials quite easily without using chemicals, while some stains in felt hats require more advanced techniques.

How to Clean a Felt Hat

Felt hat cleaning is a little trickier than other materials. If your felt hat is stained, there are many cleaners on the market that will help you get that stain out. But before you go to this trouble try to remove it yourself.

You may be able to rub the stain out with a gum eraser, a make-up sponge, felt hat sponge, or brush. Just gently rub the stain until it disappears.

If this does not work, you may try one of the many hat cleaners on the market today. As always, carefully read the instructions on the cleaner and make sure it is safe to use on your particular hat to avoid further damage to your hat.

Not all felts are the same! Some chemicals may stain, damage or ruin any felts with special coatings or applications. Always check your label or contact your hat manufacturer for special cleaning instructions.

What to Do When a Felt Hat Gets Wet

Water can change the shape of a felt hat. But when your felt hat gets wet or rained on it is not the end of the world.

If a felt hat gets wet, it can be a little more difficult to reshape the hat. To help it maintain shape it should be blocked by stuffing the hat with white cloths or similar. This will help soak up the water and help the hat hold its shape. Be sure to use white cloths as color can sometimes bleed into the hat. Change the cloths every couple of hours to help speed the dry time. Be sure that the hat is completely dry before storing it.

How to Dry Out a Wet Hat

All hats, unless they are specifically made to go out in the rain, should remain dry. When your hat gets wet, it is not ruined but there are simple steps to take to ensure your hat recovers from a sudden downpour.

DO NOT use a hairdryer or any other type of heat to dry your hat. This can distort or shrink your hat. Let your hat dry naturally.

Wet hats dry in the form you leave them in. When your hat gets wet set it up to dry properly. Carefully reshape the hat to its original form before leaving it out to dry.

Then flip the sweatband out of the hat, set it on a towel brim down to avoid flat spots on the crown and let it air dry.

Cleaning a Straw Hat

Straw hats are often more durable with a surface that stands up to cleaning. However this is not the case for every straw hat. So, check your label.

To clean a straw hat use a soft bristled brush in a circular motion with light pressure. If you need a little more help to get the dust and dirt off, use a clean, damp white cloth. Be sure that the cloth is not too wet and do not use a colored cloth as it could transfer the color to the straw fibers.

It is important to wipe any perspiration stains with a damp cloth as soon as possible after you wear the hat. This will prevent staining. Body salts cause the straw to discolor. Wiping the hat directly after wearing prevents discoloration.

Cleaning Leather & Suede Hats

Leather and suede should always be treated with some kind of a water proofing material. This will help the hat to stay good looking, longer. There are many different kinds on the market so do your research and find the one that will work best for the particular material that your hat is made of.

Sweatbands on leather and suede hats should be cleaned frequently to ensure that the perspiration stains do not soak through and stain the rest of the hat.

Flip the sweatband down after wearing and allow it to thoroughly dry before storing. This will also help keep stains from the rest of the hat. If the sweatband is fabric, clean it occasionally with a mixture of a mild soap and water. A soft brush can be used to apply the mixture to the band and then use a damp, white cloth to blot the band clean.

Allow the band to dry completely before flipping it back inside the hat. If the band is leather, be sure to use a leather cleaner on it.

There are many great options out there that will help keep the band stain and odor free. Be sure to do your research and find one that will work best for your hat. You may also want to look into a leather conditioner or lotion to help keep the leather looking smooth and supple.

Cleaning Fancy & Decorative Hats

Cleaning fanyc hats like Fascinators, retro hats, floppy brims and more, or for those hats with ribbons, flowers or other decorations on them, it is best to remove them to clean them separately. This will ensure that the whole hat is cleaned thoroughly. The decorations can then be hand washed or refreshed with steam. If the decorations cannot be removed, brush them gently with the soft bristled brush. If that does not work, try using a hair dryer set on the lowest cool setting to blow the dust off.

Removing Oil Stains from a Hat

If your hat has oily stains from hair products, lotions or body oils, simply sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder on the stained area. Allow it to sit for several hours and then take a soft bristled brush to the area and brush it away. This simple remedy can work on most styles of hats including leather and suede.

Handling: How to Handle Your Hat

Hats can become misshaped fairly easily. Remember they are just fabric that has been steamed or pressed into their present shape so normal wear and tear can slowly knock them out of shape.

Understanding a few basic tips on handling and maintenance along with proper care will keep your hat looking newer longer for a lifetime of fashionable style.

Simple handling techniques will drastically lengthen the life of your hat. Always be sure to handle your hat with clean hands. Dirty, oily hands or gloves will be sure to ruin your hat.

Once your hands are clean, be sure to lift your hat by the brim and not the crown. Continually lifting your hat by the crown will cause the crown to lose its stiffness and weaken its ability to hold its shape. It could even cause creases to form in the crown that cannot be removed. Simply lift the hat from underneath and grasp the front and back of the brim to maintain the hat’s shape.

Hat Storage: Storing a Hat the Right Way

Proper hat storage is a big component of maintain your hat. Store it properly and it will keep its shape and look newer longer.

Whenever possible, store your hat on a hat rack or a hat peg. Just be aware that a storing a hat on a peg for too long could also cause the hat to lose its shape. So, use pegs to store your hat sparingly or for short time periods like overnight.

If you do not wear your hat very often, store it in a hat box that supports both the brim and the crown. Keep the box in a cool, dry place. Moisture can cause irreversible damage to your hat if it remains damp for a long period of time.

Never store your hat in direct sunlight or hot, dry places like a car. This can also cause irreversible damage to your hat.