Like any clothing item, your favorite hat is bound to get dirty and accumulate enough sweat to require the occasional cleaning. Depending on the material and age, you can hand wash or machine wash a hat.

 

Whether it’s a baseball cap, trucker hat, snapback or a good old dad hat, hand washing and air drying is the safest method to preserve your hat’s color and shape. We’ll help you figure out how to wash a baseball cap using the care label and this step-by-step guide.

A person placing a baseball cap into a Maytag® washer

How to Wash a Baseball Cap in the Washer

Some hats, including cotton, cotton blend, acrylic or mesh caps, can be sturdy enough to machine wash using cool water and a gentle cycle, but you’ll need to check the care label and hat material first.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Non-bleach stain remover (optional)
  • Small bowl or hat form
Hat with a magnifying glass icon

Step 1: Read the Care Label and Determine the Brim Material

Look for a tag inside the hat that contains the fabric information and/or washing instructions and clean as directed. If your cap doesn’t have a care label, your best bet is hand washing to prevent any fading or structural damage to the brim. Keep in mind that common hat materials like cotton can shrink slightly in the washer. Also, don’t machine wash any hat that already has rips or holes, as the washer motion can make them worse. 

 

Next, figure out whether your baseball cap has a plastic or cardboard bill. Some hats, especially older ones made prior to 1983, have a cardboard bill that will get ruined in the washer. Simply tap or flick the brim—if it makes a hollow sound, the bill is likely cardboard. Hats with cardboard bills should be spot cleaned only—click here to learn how to clean a baseball cap with a cardboard brim. For hats with plastic brims, continue on to Step 2.

Machine wash gentle icon

Step 2: Wash the Hat in Cool Water Using a Gentle Cycle

Pretreat any tough stains with a non-bleach stain remover. Place your hat inside a laundry bag or pillowcase to protect it from potential damage from the washer agitation. Add the cap to a small load of clothes to help prevent matting and misshaping. Use a gentle cycle with slow spin speeds, cool water and a mild detergent, following the detergent manufacturer’s instructions.

Hat with a water drop icon

Step 3: Reshape and Air Dry the Hat

You’ll definitely want to skip the dryer, as the high heat and tumbling can damage your hat. Instead, after the wash cycle is done, dry your cap on a hat form or a round container (like an upside-down small bowl) to help keep the hat structure intact.

A baseball cap, cleaning supplies and a toothbrush next to a sink

How to Wash a Baseball Cap by Hand

Hand washing is the safest and most recommended hat washing method. Since you’re able to control the water temperature and how hard you scrub the fabric, it’s the best way to keep your favorite hat looking good.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Sink or bucket
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Small soft brush (like an old toothbrush)
  • Clean, dry towel
  • Non-bleach stain remover (optional)
  • Small bowl or hat form
Hat with a magnifying glass icon

Step 1: Read the Care Label and Determine the Brim Material

The same rules for fabric and bill type apply when hand washing a baseball cap. Check the care tag and wash according to fabric type, and determine whether your hat’s brim is plastic or cardboard. With a cardboard brim, you’ll want to spot clean only and skip the soaking—click here to learn how to clean a baseball cap that can’t be submerged.

Detergent bottle with a water drop icon

Step 2: Wash the Hat in Cool or Warm Water Using a Mild Detergent

Fill a clean sink or bucket with cool or warm water and add about a tablespoon of mild detergent. If your hat has any obvious stains, follow this guide and use a non-bleach stain remover and a soft brush to gently scrub the spot. Let the hat soak for about an hour, checking stained areas every so often to see if they need extra attention.

Hat with a water drop icon

Step 3: Rinse, Reshape and Air Dry the Hat

After soaking, thoroughly rinse the hat in clean, cool water and gently remove excess moisture with a dry towel. Put the cap on a hat form, an upside-down bowl or a balled-up towel to air dry.

Maytag tip

HOW TO WASH A WOOL BASEBALL CAP?

Wool requires a bit more care than other fabrics, but it’s easy to safely hand wash a wool hat. Simply follow the same directions for hand washing a hat, but use a detergent specifically formulated for wool. Don’t scrub too hard, otherwise the wool can become matted. After rinsing and removing the excess water, you may want to consider wearing the hat as it air dries so that it keeps the shape you want.

A baseball cap and cleaning supplies on a kitchen counter

How to Clean a vintage Baseball Cap

If you’ve got a vintage hat with a cardboard bill or aren’t sure of the material, it’s best to stick with spot cleaning. Baseball caps manufactured prior to 1983 weren’t required to have a care label listing washing instructions or fabric content, so if your older hat doesn’t have a tag, you can safely assume that it shouldn’t be submerged in water.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Small soft brush (like an old toothbrush)
  • Clean towel
Color test icon

Step 1: Test the Fabric for Colorfastness

Some older hats may not be colorfast, which means that the color might rub off if you use a cleaning solution other than water. Apply a dab of mild detergent in an inconspicuous spot, like under the bill, with a clean cloth. If any color rubs off, use water only to clean the hat.

Detergent bottle with a water drop icon

Step 2: Spot Clean the Hat with Mild Detergent

Mix about a teaspoon of mild detergent with cool water. Dip a soft brush into the mixture and gently scrub the dirty areas until clean. Dampen a clean towel to remove any excess detergent.

Hat with a water drop icon

Step 3: Air Dry the Hat

Put the cap on a hat form, an upside-down bowl or a balled-up towel to air dry.

A baseball cap, toothbrush and small bowls of cleaning supplies

How to Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats

Sweat stains under the brim of your baseball cap are almost inevitable, but fortunately, these kinds of stains are simple to clean

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Small soft brush (like an old toothbrush)
Color test icon

Step 1: Check the Care Label and Do a Color Test

As in the above methods, always check the care label for specific cleaning instructions and, in the case of older hats, do a color test first.

Liquid in cup icon

Step 2: Make and Apply a Sweat Stain Removal Paste to the Hat Brim

Mix together ½ cup of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide in a small bowl. Spot test the mixture first in an inconspicuous place on the hat, like under the bill. After spot testing, use a soft brush to carefully apply the paste to the inside of your hat, concentrating on the sweatband portion, and let sit for about 20 minutes.

Rinse icon

Step 3: Remove Stain Removal Paste

If your hat can be submerged, give it a good rinse in clean, cool water. If not, use a damp towel to gently remove the paste.

Hat with a water drop icon

Step 4: Air Dry the Hat

Put the cap on a hat form, an upside-down bowl or a balled-up towel to air dry.

Maytag tip

Can you wash a baseball cap in the dishwasher?

It’s possible to wash a hat in the dishwasher, but not recommended due to high heat and bleach-based dish detergents. To keep your hat in tip-top shape, stick to the gentler methods outlined above.

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