Ask most people about how they care for their hats and odds are good that they will be puzzled. It seems that we tend to subconsciously view them as separate from other articles of clothing, and we just treat them differently. However, there are plenty of do’s and don’ts when it comes to proper headwear care. Here is some advice on this, including how to clean a hat, dry it when it gets wet, and put it away.
How to Clean a Hat
Even if you do not use them often, hats can get dusty and dirty like any other article of clothing. This is especially true for caps and other headwear primarily used on hot, sunny days. Before you do anything, however, cleaning them is not usually as simple as sticking them in the laundry. In fact, doing so may beat up your hats to the point that they lose their form and possibly start to fray custom embroidery. Despite any urban legends you may have heard, dishwashers are hardly more effective.
This leaves hand-washing as the best option for how to clean custom hats like baseball caps and other structured caps. Beanies and knit caps can usually be washed in a garment bag in the washer. That is, if your hat is even made of durable fabrics that can be washed (as with most modern hats). You may want to double-check the tag. For non-washable hats or tough stains, an at home dry cleaning kit can get your hat looking new again.
For starters, prepare some cold water (not hot or even warm), then mix in just a tablespoon of dish soap or laundry detergent. Dip only a small part of the hat inside at first. Choose a part of the hat not easily visible to others. If the dye runs after a minute or two, forget the water. If it does not run, feel free to submerge the whole thing.
Start by using a soft-bristled brush to scrub the most noticeable spots and sweat marks. A nailbrush or a soft toothbrush will usually suffice. Then leave it in the water for between 30 minutes for light cleaning and two hours for heavy-duty dirt.
After the hat is scrubbed clean and smelling fresh, you’ll need to rinse. Use a steady stream of cold water to rinse the detergent. Coldwater prevents discoloration and shrinking. Rinse until the soap is gone and the hat no longer feels sticky. Be careful not to overly saturate the hat bill because it can warp.
Once you take it out, do not toss it into the dryer because this can lead to shrinking. Let it dry on its own, preferably under a vent and away from a window. Use a towel to pat out as much water as possible before air drying. There are framed hat shapers you can use for structured hats like trucker hats, fitted snapbacks, and baseball caps to keep their shape. If you don’t have one on hand, you can set it to dry on a balled-up towel or bowl to maintain the shape while drying.
Storage and Travel Packing
Whether you are putting it in your luggage or putting it away for some time, you should be careful about how you pack your hats. They can only bend and fold so much, and under so much weight and duress, before breaking. Thankfully, there are ways that hats can be stored while still keeping their shape.
For the home, there is the tried-and-true hat rack, both wall-mounted and free-standing. It is as easy as hanging the hat from a peg or hook. Hat boxes also work for domestic environments, but they can keep headwear safe in storage rooms and units as well. You could stick quite a few in the same container if it is wide enough for your widest hat, but delicate ones need their own.
As for travel, there is an easy trick for keeping hats from getting flat: stick something inside the crown. Whether it is a rolled-up clothing article or something else, it should be heavy enough to keep other belongings from pressing into the hat. You may even want to organize your luggage so that the hat is the center. Keep heavier items underneath, then place everything else around it.
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