My son has several team hats that have gotten sweat-stained and greasy. Is there a way to wash cotton and wool hats at home without fading or shrinking them?How do you wash baseball caps without damaging them?
Vicki Barnes, Ames, IA
If you want to avoid fading or shrinking a hat, the safest method is to clean it by hand. You don’t need to visit a dry cleaner. It’s possible for you to wash baseball caps at home without damaging them. You may have heard that you can put them in a washing machine or dishwasher, but there are problems with those two methods. A dishwasher uses very hot water which may fade or shrink a cap. And if you put one in a washing machine, the agitator may damage it.
Unquestionably, the best way to wash a cotton baseball cap is to use warm water and a mild detergent. First, test the colorfastness of the material. Rub a damp white rag over the material to see if the dye comes off on the cloth. If it doesn’t transfer to the rag, you can move on to the next step.
The second step is to protect any stickers on the hat. Cover those up first with plastic wrap. Then use laundry pre-treatment on any stained areas. Again, if the hat has a sticker on it, don’t soak it in water. Instead, use a damp toothbrush to gently scrub problem areas.
If there are no stickers, and if the dye doesn’t transfer, you can soak the hat in warm water for up to three hours. Then rinse it, also using warm water.
Now, while all of those steps work for cotton caps, if you have a wool cap to wash, you can’t soak it in water. Instead, use a clean cloth, mild detergent, and cool water to rub away stains. The detergent should be something designed for delicate fabrics like wool.
Another problem you might have is the type of insert inside the bill. If it’s cardboard, you can’t soak the hat. But if it’s plastic, you can.
If you find that your cap fits a little too snugly after washing, you can usually expand it a little. Like if you stretch out a fitted hat, gently pull on the fabric from all sides while it is damp.
Finally, once the hat is clean, leave it out to air dry. You might want to invest in a cap shaper made to help caps dry in proper form for wearing.