Folks, as my wife will tell you, I like my baseball-style caps and seem to have accumulated a ton of them over the years. With that said, there seem to be just a handful of them that I wear all the time. The problem was that they got pretty dirty with use so what should one do?
I tried putting one in the clothes washer once and ruined my favorite hat at the time. So, since I didn’t have a way to wash my hats, I wound up having piles of “wearable in public” hats, work hats that look bad but feel good and “oh man this is filthy but I don’t want to throw it away in case I ever figure out how to clean it” hats. In the back of my head, I knew I wanted to find a way to wash them but never seemed to find the time.
How To Clean A Ball Cap
One quick comment – what I am about to tell you works on modern caps with plastic liners in the brim (the part that sticks out). Prior to 1983-ish, the liners were often cardboard and getting them wet would ruin them. If you flick the brim of an old hat and it sounds hollow, it’s probably cardboard and you should not do what I am about to outline. All of my hats are modern and have plastic liners.
One day while reading, I ran across the solution and it was so easy I was skeptical that it could work. Not only did it work, but it worked amazingly well. The near miracle fix is to hand wash your hats so they don’t get beat up. You soak your hats in a soapy solution using HE clothes washing soap. In our case, we use Tide for our clothes and that’s what I used. Note, don’t use a detergent with bleach or your hats will fade.
I took a bucket, poured in about a 1/4-1/3 cup of Tide HE and then just over a gallon of warm water. I took my dirtiest “what do I have to lose” hats and let them soak for a few hours, came in and pushed them around in the water to break things up and then let them sit another few hours – these hats were incredibly dirty folks. I was working outside and forgot about the first test batch and they probably soaked for 6-8 hours at least with no ill effects.
With everything wet, I really was just hoping they were done and rinsed them 2-3 times. I then hung them to drip dry in our shower. I’ve since found that even a small fan pointed at the hats speeds up drying dramatically.
The results were remarkable. Oil and sweat marks largely disappeared. Detergents are pretty remarkable – these days, they include enzymes to help break things down and they probably played a role on cleaning the hats so well. Tide Original, which we have, includes three enzymes – amaylase (starch based stains), mannanase (vegetable based stains) and protease (for protein based stains). Seriously, some of the hats were horribly dirty and now they are clean!!
I’ve now got all my hats back in service and they look great. This means my favorite work and shooting hats are back in business! I’m going to guess I’ve done about four batches of hats – maybe a bit over a dozen or so and 3-4 of them have been washed twice. In other words, I’ve done this a number of times and it really seems to work well.
Now that I know how easy it is, I can routinely clean my hats. I’m really happy with the results and hope this helps you out.
By the way, here are some links to what others did so you have some other perspectives to consider:
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