How to Clean and Care for a Straw Hat

A straw hat hanging on a trellis

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $5

Warm-weather straw hats are both fashionable and practical for men and women because wide brims can easily block the summer sun. But to preserve their beauty, it helps to learn how to clean straw hats so they don't become damaged.

Read the hat's care label to find out any specific cleaning requirements. If your hat doesn't have care instructions, pay attention to the tightness of the weave. You can clean most straw hats with a small amount of water and a mild cleaning solution, but some will become misshapen when wet. In these instances, skip the steps that require water, and use a vacuum and soft brush instead.

Here's how to safely clean and care for a straw hat.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment
  • White cloth
  • Pantyhose or netting
  • Soft-bristled brush


  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • Water


Items to clean a straw hat
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
How to Wash a Straw Hat
Detergent Mild dishwashing detergent
Water Temperature Cool
Cycle Type Do not machine-wash
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine-dry
Special Treatments Spot-clean or hand-wash only
Iron Settings Steam any fabric pieces
How Often to Wash 1-2 times a year

How to Clean a Straw Hat

  1. Remove Ribbons and Trim When Possible

    If your hat has any ribbons or trim, remove them before you begin the cleaning process. Clean them separately by dusting or hand-washing. They can often be refreshed with a bit of steam or ironing.

    A ribbon next to a straw hat
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  2. Wipe Down the Hat

    Whether you have a natural straw hat or one made of a synthetic material, begin by using a clean, damp white cloth to remove any loose dirt or dust. Don't use a colored cloth, as the dye may transfer to the straw. If you need to get into the crevices, use a soft-bristled brush, brushing from the top of the crown to the brim.

    Someone brushing a straw hat
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  3. Use a Vacuum Attachment

    If your hat is really dusty or sandy, place a piece of netting or pantyhose over the end of your vacuum brush, and use it to pull debris from the hat.

    Someone using a vacuum attachment on a straw hat
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  4. Wipe with a Cleaning Solution

    Make a solution of a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid and water. Wet a soft cloth so it is barely damp, and test a small area of the hat to make sure the water doesn't cause any adverse effects. Once you know it's safe, wipe the hat in a circular pattern to avoid damaging the straw. Finish by wiping with a clean cloth dipped in water, and then use a clean dry cloth to soak up the excess water.

    A straw hat with a white cloth and bowls of liquid
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Can You Wash a Straw Hat?

You should never put a straw hat in a washing machine or soak it in water. Water can make fibers swell and become misshapen. Water can also cause rot to develop in the straw fibers.

What is a Straw Hat?

Straw hats are typically made of strong, flexible fibers, such as toquilla straw, toyo straw (shellacked rice paper), raffia straw, and seagrass. A straw hat can also be made out of tightly-woven synthetic straw materials, and should be washed as carefully as natural straw.

Treating Stains on Straw Hats

Perspiration is the usual culprit when it comes to stains on straw hats. To remove perspiration stains from a hat, wipe the area with a clean, damp white cloth as soon as possible after wearing to prevent body salts and oils from staining the straw.

For stains around the sweatband, use 1/2 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 teaspoon warm water on light-colored straw. For dark straw, use 1/2 teaspoon ammonia and 1/4 cup warm water. Use a soft-bristled brush, like an old toothbrush, dipped in the cleaning solution, and work on a small area, just one to two inches, at a time. Clean, and then blot with a white towel dampened with water. Allow the area to dry completely before wearing again.

For oily stains, sprinkle the stain with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Allow it to stand for a few hours, and then brush or vacuum away.

Care and Repairs

If you have a small tear in your hat, use a matching color of mesh netting to repair it in the following three steps. Your patching effort may be noticeable, but it will stabilize the straw.

  1. Cut out three pieces of netting that are a bit larger than the size of the hole.
  2. Place the netting, each piece stacked on top of each other, on the back of the hole inside the hat.
  3. Use a needle and matching thread to hand-sew the netting to the hat by pushing the needle through the netting and the gaps in the straw's weave.


If you have a hat with a veil that can't be removed, use steam from an iron or a clothes steamer or hold the fabric over a pot of boiling water to carefully reshape a crushed veil. Don't over-steam, or the entire hat can lose its shape. 

Storing Straw Hats

Always store straw hats in a cool, dry place. If the brim is curved, store the hat upside down in a hatbox to prevent misshaping the brim and to keep off dust. Or, use a mannequin head form, and cover the hat and head loosely with a white cotton pillowcase to repel dust. Never store a straw hat in a plastic bag, which can cause discoloration and promote mildew.

How Often to Wash Straw Hats

While they don't require frequent deep cleanings, a thorough washing once or twice a year will keep your straw hat in great shape.

Tips for Washing Straw Hats

  • Wipe down the hat after each wearing with a clean damp cloth. This will remove dust accumulated during the day and prevent it from becoming deeply embedded. Always use a plain white cloth so there will be no accidental dye transfer.
  • For a quick cleaning, wrap mailing tape around your hand with the sticky side out. Gently pat the hat all around so that the tape will pick up bits of dust and dander.
  • For a quick way to dislodge dust from your straw hat, brush all over using a soft clean paintbrush.
  • Always handle a hat with clean hands and by the brim, not the crown. Constant pinching can break the fibers.
  • Remove scuffs on the hat by rubbing the area with an artist's gum eraser. Use gentle pressure, and allow the eraser to do the work.
  • How do you clean sweat stains from a straw hat?

    If the stain persists after wiping it away with a cloth, make a mixture of 50 percent hydrogen peroxide and 50 percent warm water for use on a lighter-colored straw hat. Use a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush to penetrate the stain with the mixture. Wipe dry with a clean cloth and let dry before wearing or storing the hat.

  • Does water ruin straw hats?

    Dousing a straw hat with water can make it warp. Do not wear a straw hat in the rain because it will not keep its shape.

  • How do you make a straw hat white again?

    Dab a solution of 50/50 peroxide and warm water on the hat to brighten it up. Do not use bleach to whiten a straw hat. Chlorine bleach may damage the straw fibers or change the color of the hat.