Washing anything that has a bit of structure to it is tricky, but there is a tested method that works for cotton hats.
To wash cotton hats, fill a bucket or container halfway with cold or warm water and mix in a few drops of laundry detergent. Soak the cotton hat in the sudsy solution for 20 minutes or more depending on how soiled it is, then lightly treat with a soft sponge, rinse thoroughly, stretch back to shape using newspaper, and allow to air dry.
This article explores the problems of washing cotton hats in the washer, the techniques for washing using hands, as well as how to dry them properly in order to maintain their integrity.
The problems of washing cotton hat
When it comes to washing items that have structure to them such as hats, there is a huge problem to deal with, and that concerns the structure itself.
Many cotton hats have a visor (or the part that protects the eye from sun rays) that is normally stuffed with a stiffener such as plastic, buckram, or even cardboard.
Sometimes even the front panel of the cap or other areas can be stuffed with these stiffeners in order to give them some bit of shape.
The presence of these structured areas makes it notoriously tricky to wash these caps, as the slightest mistake can cause a misshapen hat.
Take for instance, too hot of a water which can cause the plastic to heat up and slightly change shape, or cause some reaction with the sizing material used for buckram and cause it to lose structure.
Agitation, also, can have the same (if not) a more pronounced effect on stiffeners.
Further, aside from the structural problem, there are also other problems too such as fading which could result from the use of hot water, or from the chemicals of the laundry detergent, or even from the type of finishing product applied to the hat’s fabrics or from agitation in the washing machine or by hand.
And then there is also shrinkage, which is something quite pronounced with cotton and can cause a great distortion in the way that the cap looks especially when effort is not made to put back the cap in shape after washing.
How to wash a cotton hat or cap
All the above are the problems that one will face when trying to wash a cotton hat, but there are certainly ways that you can use to overcome these problems.
Check the care label
It can never be over emphasized on how critical it is to check the care label of your hat to find out the best technique for washing and maintaining it.
Some hats, especially the more expensive or delicate ones like cardboard stiffened hats, are only meant to be dry cleaned, whereas others would support hand washing or even machine washing.
Whichever the case may be, ensure to stick with the recommended method and avoid going a different route which can cause problems for the hat.
Spot treat using stain removers
At times, you might be battling only a little spot of stain on your hats, and that surely doesn’t warrant tossing them into the washer or washing them by hand.
Instead, get a heavy duty stain remover like OxiClean and use it to tackle the stains directly.
Remember, stains are best removed when they form in which case there might even be no need for a stain remover as your regular laundry detergent should work perfectly well too.
Before you use a stain remover on your cotton hat, it is very important to test in an inconspicuous area of the hat (typically the inside fabrics) to find out how it’s going to react. Make sure to allow the tested spot to fully dry before you make a judgment.
If there is no reaction, you can proceed to treat the stain with the spot remover as directed by the manufacturer. If you do observe fading or discoloration however, then it’s best to take it to the dry cleaners or wash using the method explained below.
After spot treatment, pat dry the treated spot with a clean cloth and then let the hat dry in a shaded area.
Wash by hand
You might be dealing with a more serious problem such as a smelly hat, or one that has dirt all over it.
What you want to do in this case is to actually watch the cap. But the best technique to use to wash a hat that is structured is handwashing.
The agitation of a washer is too unpredictable to risk relying on it, so it’s best to use a method you know you can control the amount of agitation you apply.
Hand washing a cotton cap is very easy. Because cotton is a really durable material, you can easily get away with using a sponge or soft brush on the hat’s fabric.
To wash a cotton cap by hand, fill a bucket, sink or plastic container with water and add a few drops of liquid laundry detergent.
Make sure to use a gentle to mild detergent to avoid causing discoloration. Next, soak the cap in the solution for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on how soiled it is, then use the clean sponge, cloth or soft brush to go round the interior and exterior of the hat to remove soiling and stain.
Replace the sudsy water with fresh water and rinse the hat thoroughly. Hold the cap by its end and swing it gently to and fro to force water out through the visor.
Then dry as instructed below.
Can you wash a cotton hat in the washer?
It is possible to wash a cotton hat in the washing machine, but the chances of ruining it is a bit higher due to the prolonged agitation of the washer.
For that reason, it is always best to watch hats, especially delicate hats by hand and try to only rely on soaking and avoid agitation.
How to dry a cotton hat
So you’ve treated stains on your cotton hats, or perhaps even wash them by hand. Now it’s time to dry them.
The way you dry a cotton hat would determine how well it ends up holding shape.
It is extremely important to eliminate as much water as possible after rinsing and then stuff in items such as newspapers, tissue or even cloth into the cap to keep it in shape.
To remove as much water as possible from the hat, use a dry towel to pat over it. An alternative way of doing it is to grab the cap from the back or any comfortable side and swing it gently to force water out through the visor.
When drying cotton hats, make sure to do so away from direct sunlight which can cause the destruction of the cotton fibers by yellowing them and turning them brittle.
How to maintain cotton hats
For hats, the less they are submerged in water the more their chances of keeping to structure and looking good.
But in order for you to avoid frequent washing, you have to make sure you maintain them properly.
Here are some tips and tricks you can use to extend the period between washing for your cotton caps.
Brush using a lint roller
From time to time, you’ll have dust build up on your hat. The way you can remove that is by brushing the cap using a lint roller.
Air dry the hat after wearing
Whenever you use a cotton hat, always allow it to dry properly before you store it, hang it on the wall or place it on a flat surface with the interior facing down. This would prevent quick smell build up which will call for washing.
Always store them in the right shape
Never also, store your hats in a way that makes them lose shape for a lengthy period of time. That can tamper with the structure of the stiffener which can be difficult or impossible to get back.