How to Wash a Baseball Cap

Take better care of your everyday headwear. These tips make it easy to keep your baseball cap clean.

Baseball-style hats will last longer with routine washing.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Ahmet Misirligul

Shutterstock/Ahmet Misirligul

Baseball-style hats will last longer with routine washing.

Skin and hair oils, sweat, lotion and conditioners can affect the fabric lining of a baseball-style cap just as much as dust and dirt. Whether dirty from tearing around the bases during little league or after working in the garden, hats will last longer with routine washing.

Sweat and grime buildup has always been the biggest reason I’ve replaced a baseball cap, but it’s always best to try cleaning before you toss a perfectly good garment. While manufacturers will tout many ways to deep clean their product, always refer to the washing directions on your own hat’s label. Some athletic hats are constructed using durable materials, and those may retain their shape well with aggressive washing such as in the washing machine or even in a dishwasher. If you’re timid, you can also have great results with a little hands-on TLC.

Baseball caps are manufactured from different materials including cotton, wool, and cotton or poly blends. Hats can contain spandex, mesh and other synthetic fibers that may clean easily but still need to be handled with care. If you’re going to take a risk and wash your baseball cap in the washing machine, tie it into a pillowcase to help prevent damage from the agitation. Aggressive cleaning can lead to irreversible damage, especially depending on how the brim of your baseball hat is constructed.

Teenage boy with long hair looking away in a black baseball hat.

Handwashing a baseball cap is always the best first effort for cleaning your cap so the brim will retain its proper shape.

Photo by: Shutterstock/tammykayphoto

Shutterstock/tammykayphoto

Handwashing a baseball cap is always the best first effort for cleaning your cap so the brim will retain its proper shape.

Always start with easy cleaning before taking things to the next level or you’ll risk damaging your favorite cap. Here are five ways to wash a baseball cap.

1. Remove Loose Dust and Dirt

Use a dry, clean toothbrush to dust any embroidery or embellishments on the hat. A soft brush is also good for removing dust and dirt that can get embedded around the stitching.

Cleaning a dirty baseball cap so that the fabric lasts longer.

How to Clean a Baseball Cap

Use a dry, clean toothbrush to remove dust and dirt around stitching on a baseball cap.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Use a dry, clean toothbrush to remove dust and dirt around stitching on a baseball cap.

2. Spot Clean the Outer Fabric

Cleaning surface stains on a hat starts with spot cleaning, much like you’d do on your favorite T-shirt. Spot cleaning can minimize damage as it doesn’t require soaking that can misshape the brim.

A fabric spray like OxiClean or a spray bottle filled with a ratio of 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon white vinegar and a few drops of dish detergent makes it easy to target your cleaning on specific stains. Use a clean toothbrush or cloth to soak the cleanser into the stain. Then, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe it away. Remember: Blotting at stains is always better than rubbing!

3. Deep Clean the Sweatband

Whether your baseball cap is an everyday staple of your wardrobe, or you only wear it during your active workouts, the inside band of the cap captures most of the sweat and oils produced by your head. The sweatband stitched into the inside of your cap can and will get pretty dirty, especially as the sweat builds up and dries. Discolorations aren’t limited to the band, though. The sweat that leaches through to the cap itself will begin to discolor the brim and soak through seams to affect the outward appearance of your baseball cap.

Cleaning a dirty baseball cap so that the fabric lasts longer.

How to Clean a Baseball Cap

Discoloraton from sweat that's leached from the sweatband onto the brim of your hat could require a deep clean.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Discoloraton from sweat that's leached from the sweatband onto the brim of your hat could require a deep clean.

Cleaning the sweatband with a damp sponge can help reduce sweat buildup and permanent staining.

  1. Saturate the sweatband with a fabric cleanser and work it into the fabric with a damp sponge. Target only the sweatband and avoid saturating the brim or fabric panels.
  2. Use a clean, dry cloth to massage in the cleaner and begin to lift away oils and dirt.
  3. Rinse the cleanser off the sweatband using a spray bottle of water, blotting the fabric until most of the moisture is absorbed.
  4. Re-saturate the sweatband with clean water and then use a dry cloth to absorb any remaining moisture. Allow the hat to dry.

4. Soak the Cap in a Bath

Cleaning a dirty baseball cap so that the fabric lasts longer.

How to Clean a Baseball Cap

Soak a baseball hat in warm, soapy water to get rid of heavy stains.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Soak a baseball hat in warm, soapy water to get rid of heavy stains.

Spot cleaning the outside of the hat and deep cleaning a sweatband isn’t always effective for a baseball cap that’s worn regularly and heavily stained by dirt and sweat. For those hats, consider a deep soak. While some manufacturers suggest that their fabrics and brim materials can sustain a cleaning cycle in the washing machine or on the top shelf of the dishwasher, we like the ol’ fashion washboard approach in our home. Here's how to do that:

  1. In a bucket of warm water, mix a few drops of liquid soap and submerge the cap completely until it’s saturated.
  2. Use a toothbrush or another soft-bristled brush to agitate stains, especially around the sweatband.
  3. When you have cleaned the hat, allow it to dry "molded" so that it retains its original shape. You may ball up a towel for "the head" and wrap a rubber band around the brim to reinforce the intended shape.

5. Treat Bacteria and Smells in a Hot Bath

Cleaning a dirty baseball cap so that the fabric lasts longer.

How to Clean a Baseball Cap

Eliminating bacteria buildup on a baseball cap might require a hot water bath.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Eliminating bacteria buildup on a baseball cap might require a hot water bath.

If the deep-set stains are resistant to cleaning and if your baseball cap has lingering smells, a hot water bath is the final effort to rid the fabric of the bacteria causing the stink. Here's what to do:

  1. Fill a pot of water on the range with a few drops of detergent or a teaspoon each of borax and washing soda.
  2. Once the solution has heated but before it boils, submerge the baseball cap and allow it to soak for 5 minutes. You may want to do this twice if the water is very dirty after the first soak.
  3. Rinse the hat under cool water and allow it to dry, molded, to help it retain its shape.

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