Hat Care

 Even the most devoted hat collectors can make mistakes when it comes to the cleaning and storage of their most beloved hats. And when you factor in the differing materials and flexibility of any given kind of hat, how to clean a bowler becomes a very different prospect from keeping a ten-gallon hat in perfect shape.  Our guide makes it easy for you to keep everything from ball caps to top hats looking their very best. You don’t need expensive materials or a high level of expertise to keep your hats looking sharp. No matter what kind of hat ranks as your favorite, you’re sure to find something that will help you out if you just read on.


Methods for how to clean a hat change depending on the item in question, but good maintenance for almost every type will be made easier by having a few of the following things on hand:

  • Hooks and pegs to hang from
  • Waterproof spray to avoid moisture damage
  • Vinyl hat covers to minimize dust and detritus
  • Hat inserts to help keep their shape
  • A hat brush or sponge

Having an arsenal of these tools at your disposal will save you a lot of trouble and increase your efficiency tenfold, especially with more delicate projects like how to clean a hat.

First Things First

It’s critical that you first determine what type of hat you are cleaning, and what it is made from. Look at the label to determine the materials it’s composed of, and how you can wash it. “Dry Clean Only” means just that. Ensure that you know how old the hat is, as age can certainly play a part in how you approach cleaning a hat. You should only spot clean hats that may be very old, or are in a delicate state.

If you’re unsure what a particular hat is made of, take a good look at it. You can usually determine what it’s made of by comparing it against another hat. Once you know what materials you’re dealing with, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Fur, Felt & Wool

Learning how to clean a hat made from these kinds of materials is going to be extra important, since headwear from this material will often compose some of the fanciest parts of your collection. For felt and wool hats that are just a little dirty or dusty, gentle strokes in a counter-clockwise motion with a soft bristle brush will often do the trick and make it good as new. For more drastic messes and stains, cleaning with a powder cleaner and drying with a steam cleaner should be your go-to choice for intensive cleaning and maintenance.

No matter how you choose to clean a hat of this type, they should all be stored in the same way: from a hook or peg, making sure that the brim is facing outward so as to help it keep the shape you love.

Canvas Hats

Whether you’re going with an fisherman's cap or one of your favorite old-school baseball hats, canvas remains one of the sturdiest and easiest to clean materials on the market. There’s a good chance you’ve got a hat of this type hanging in your den as you read this. Figuring out how to clean a hat of this fabric isn’t rocket science: usually a damp cloth is all you’ll need, but you can feel free to use powder cleaners for some of the tougher stains. No matter how badly it’s dinged up, it’s a pretty safe bet that cleaning up your canvas hat will ask less of you than felt hat care does.

Straw Hats

Because of the flexible nature of the material, cleaning straw hats can sometimes feel fraught with peril. But you can easily figure out how to clean a hat of this nature simply by using a gentle touch and some items you might already have around the house!

A lot of people don’t know that straw can be cleaned with as little as a damp cloth (not soaking!) and a soft sponge. As long as you don’t press too hard, the same things you use to keep your kitchen clean will also function as great straw hat maintenance tools. Be sure to use only a damp cloth. A soaking wet cloth or sponge can cause water damage to the hat. Gently wipe in a counter clockwise direction to avoid damaging the unique pattern of the weave. If the hat needs more than a surface cleaning, you can move on to a clean, damp cloth or use a product formulated specifically for straw hats. Wet with a small amount of dish soap and water, then test an inconspicuous, small area of the hat to make sure it’s safe to continue.

The most important measure you can take when learning how to clean a straw hat is a preventative one: keep it out of the rain and store it away from moist areas.
When it comes to drying, Let the hat air dry in a cool, well ventilated area, away from direct sunlight to avoid fading. Never use artificial heat like a hair dryer or heater as this can also damage your hat. These tips should hold fast whether you’re cleaning a regular straw hat or one made from material like raffia.

Wool Blends and Cotton

Cleaning a cloth hat is simplicity itself. Most stains and detritus can be wiped clean with a soft brush and a little bit of water. The only thing to keep in mind when it comes to how to clean a cloth hat (like a wool blend or cotton cap) is the style of cloth for the hat in question. If the material is waxed or oiled, you can rinse it off and clean with a simple dust rag, but if the cloth is untreated you might have to use a brush and powder cleaner (not dissimilarly to felt hat care). Either way, none of your cloth hats should give you much of a hassle when it comes to keeping them in tip top shape.

Suede Leather and Pure Leather

You might think there isn’t a big difference between how to clean a suede and leather hat, but we’re actually going to divide them up into two different parts here, since there are quite a few places where they diverge.

For Suede, you’ll want to brush dirt and grime off with soft bristles brushes, and you can even use an emery cloth to raise the nap. Suede bars or “suede erasers” are a simple way to easily clean milder stains. If the inside of your hat is getting a little smelly, baby oil and warm water is important for knowing how to clean a hat of this kind away from some of the stronger odors it can accrue.Oil stains can be dusted with cornstarch or talcum powder. Let it sit on the stain for several hours to absorb the oil, then simply brush it away.

Leather is a little bit different. To start, it’s best to pre-treat a leather hat, to protect it from the elements and against future damage. Stains can be tough to get out once they’re in there, but you can condition your hats against disrepair by treating them with a protector that helps repel water and prevent stains on the surface. The protector should be applied to your leather at least once a year. More frequently is advised if your hat is exposed to harsh weather on a frequent basis.


Sometimes general rules can be as important to remember as the specifics that come with each type of hat. As you might have noticed, felt hat care tends to be the most intensive type of hat cleaning, but there are some basics to keeping your headwear in ship shape that is shared among most hat types.

  • Store your hats away from direct heat, direct sunlight, and moisture
  • For the majority of stains, air dry your hats
  • Soft bristle brushes and lint rollers will help you learn how to clean a hat with little to no trouble
  • Regular cleanings, even when your hats aren’t dirty, will keep them looking sharp for longer

Lastly, remember not to panic if your hat gets a stain, a strain or a pinch in the fabric every so often. These are your hats, and they reflect your personal style and the life you’ve lived. Normal wear and tear can add a lot of character to your favorite hats, so if it’s not so egregious that it compromises your personal aesthetic, you should feel free to wear dinged or worn hats with pride!