How to Clean a Baseball Cap
You don’t have to be rooting for a baseball team to enjoy a good cap. There are a lot of ways to represent your favorite Chicago sports team with a baseball cap, including fitted hats, flex fit caps, snapbacks and trucker hats. What they all have in common is that they’ll require occasional care to prevent them from getting filthy — especially if you wear them a lot. (And why wouldn’t you?)
Beginning in 1983, caps were required to carry a tag that including both the materials and the “best care” information. True vintage hats may require some research. No matter when your cap was made, Clark Street Sports has put together baseball cap cleaning instructions that can be used on most cotton or polyester hats to help them look like new.
A Few Don’ts of Cap-Cleaning
Whether you wear your cap to keep sweat out of your eyes during workouts, to shield the sun glare during a game or as part of a work uniform, you want it to impress. However, some popular cleaning methods will actually damage your hat. Here are a few basic tips on what not to do:
No Laundry Machines — Using the washer or dryer is a near-certain way to shorten your hat’s lifespan. Even when you’re using a washer cool water on a gentle cycle, other clothes in the load can squish a cap, and a center agitating column is basically a hat-slayer in disguise. Only use the washer if you have a hat washer rack or hat form to protect its shape. The tumbling of a dryer can also ruin the shape, and the heat can cause shrinking and/or color-fade.
No Dishwashers, Either — We don’t know who started the old wives’ tale that you can wash a baseball cap on the top rack of a dishwasher, but whoever did has destroyed a lot of good caps. These appliances typically run at high heat, and the detergent usually contains bleach, both of which are bad for hats. (And don’t get us started on what they do with vintage caps with cardboard brims.)
No Chlorine Bleach — On that note, you should never use cleaners that contain chlorine-based bleach. It causes color fading and also is known to damage polyester fibers. (Oxygen-based bleach is safe in moderate amounts.)
So What Should You Do?
If you truly want your baseball cap to last and look great, hand-cleaning is the way to go. This will retain the hat’s color and shape. There are two basic methods to follow: one for a quick refresh and one for if your cap is coated with months (or years) of sweat stains and grime. Here’s how each of them works.
Quick-Cleaning Ball Caps
- Fill a clean sink, basin or bucket with cool water and add two drops of mild detergent.
- Submerge the hat and swish it around in the water to create suds. Let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the hat from the sudsy water and rinse it thoroughly using clean cool water.
- Gently squeeze out any excess water and use a clean towel to pat the hat down. Be careful not to twist or bend the brim.
- Let the hat dry by hanging it up, setting it on a head-shaped object, or re-shaping and setting it on the towel.
Hat Deep-Cleaning Steps
(Note: When deep-cleaning a baseball cap, you should wear latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the stronger cleaners involved.)
- Fill a clean sink, basin or bucket with cool water. Add one tablespoon of color-safe heavy-duty detergent or dedicated stain remover such as OxiClean as the basin is filling (this will help agitate it).
- Spot-clean specific stains by dipping that area into the solution and adding a dab of your cleaning product. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub the area and work the cleaner into the fabric. (Shampoo is also a good spot-cleaning product to use for sweat stains.)
- After spot-cleaning, let the entire hat soak in the solution for at least one hour. If there are particularly tough stains, or if the hat has dulled and you want to brighten it, you might leave the hat submerged for several hours or even overnight.
- Repeat steps three through five from the quick-cleaning process above.
Cleaning Vintage Caps
If you have a vintage hat, or another hat with a cardboard or paper brim, stick to the spot-cleaning described in step 2 of our deep-cleaning section. Fully submerging these caps in water will irreversibly damage the brim.) Use a solution that contains one teaspoon of detergent to one cup of cool or warm water. Rinse the treated areas by blotting them with a clean cloth dipped in cool water.
What about Wool Caps?
Some modern baseball caps are made of wool for added warmth. For these hats, use the quick-cleaning method described above, but make sure the detergent is specifically formulated for wool. You should also gently massage the hat with the soapy water without twisting or scrubbing.
Restore even the dirtiest, most-soiled caps with this guide on how to wash baseball caps. Clark Street Sports is here to help you take proper care of your Chicago sports team caps and other apparel so you can proudly wear it on the right occasion.