How to Clean and Care for Baseball Caps

Baseball caps hanging from a hook

The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether you wear a baseball cap for work or play, it'll need some occasional upkeep. Recently manufactured baseball caps are typically made of cotton twill, cotton-polyester blends, or jersey mesh. These fabrics are strong, durable, and usually colorfast. New caps use a plastic form (as opposed to cardboard) to shape the brim, and they can be washed in a washing machine without becoming deformed.

How Often to Clean Baseball Caps

If you wear your hat frequently, a thorough cleaning every few months can keep it looking fresh. But, before you start, read the hat's interior fiber content tag, which should include the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Unfortunately, caps made before 1983 didn’t require a label, so you may need to do some research to confirm the care information.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Hat form (optional)
  • Towel (optional)
  • White cloth

Materials

  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)
  • Stain remover (optional)

Instructions

Materials for cleaning baseball caps
The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
How to Wash Baseball Caps
Detergent Heavy-duty
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Delicate
Dryer Cycle Type Do not use dryer
Special Treatments Pre-treat stains
Iron Settings Do not iron

How to Wash Cotton, Polyester, or Mesh Baseball Caps

  1. Pre-Treat Stains

    For new cotton, polyester, or mesh hats, pre-treat exceptionally dirty areas such as sweatbands with a solvent-based or gel stain remover. You can also use a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent such as Persil or Tide, which have a high concentration of enzymes to break apart soil and oil molecules.

    Work the stain remover or detergent into the soiled areas using a soft-bristled brush, and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before washing. This pre-treatment helps remove perspiration stains.

    Someone using a soft bristled brush to pretreat a cap
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 
  2. Pre-Soak to Brighten Colors

    If the cap looks dull and you want to whiten it or brighten the colors, mix a solution of oxygen bleach and warm water following package directions. Completely submerge the cap, and allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight.

    Someone pre-soaking a baseball cap
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 

    Warning

    Don't use chlorine bleach on your baseball cap, even when treating a white hat. It can damage polyester fibers.

  3. Add the Hat to the Wash

    Remove your hat from the soaking solution, and add it to a load of similarly colored clothing. Wash using heavy-duty detergent on the delicate cycle, and select cool water. If you're concerned about protecting the shape of the cap, you can use a hat form to protect it in the wash.

    A baseball cap sitting on a pile of laundry in a basket
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  4. Shape and Air-Dry

    Allow the cap to air-dry in the washing form, over a large coffee can, or over another head-shaped container or form. Don't put baseball caps in the dryer because the heat and tumbling action can distort its shape.

    A baseball cap drying on a vase
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

How to Clean Hats With Paper or Cardboard Brims

Many hats made before the 1980s have cardboard bills. If the cap has a cardboard or paper-stiffened bill, spot-cleaning is the only method that won't damage the hat.

  1. Scrub Stains

    Use a soft-bristled brush to lightly scrub the stained areas with a heavy-duty detergent and water mixture. Use 1 teaspoon detergent per 1 cup warm water, and use sparingly as you scrub to avoid getting the brim of the hat too wet.

  2. Blot to Rinse

    Blot with a clean white cloth dipped in water to rinse.

  3. Air-Dry

    Allow the cap to air-dry. You may need to repeat the steps several times to remove all the soil.

How to Clean New Wool Baseball Caps

Wool baseball caps should be hand-washed using cool water and a mild detergent designated for wool.

  1. Gently Wash

    Gently massage the soapy water into the hat; don’t scrub or twist the fibers.

  2. Rinse Thoroughly

    Rinse well in cool water, and press gently with a thick towel to absorb most of the moisture.

  3. Shape and Air-Dry

    Allow to air-dry on a head-shaped object. If you wear your wool hat while it dries, it should conform to the precise shape of your head.

How to Clean Vintage or Commemorative Baseball Caps

If your vintage hat needs a deeper cleaning, before washing, do a colorfastness test.

  1. Test for Colorfastness

    Using a damp white cloth, gently rub an inconspicuous area of the cap. If there's color transfer onto the cloth, don't proceed.

  2. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    If the fabric is colorfast, mix a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent with 1 cup warm water.

  3. Wipe Down the Hat

    Dip the cleaning cloth in the solution, wring thoroughly, and then gently wipe down all surfaces of the hat. Don't immerse your hat in the water or the cardboard in the bill will likely dissolve.

  4. Rinse Well

    Use another cloth dipped in clean water to "rinse" the cap by wiping away any cleaning solution.

  5. Air-Dry the Hat

    Let the cap rest to air-dry.

Storing Baseball Caps

Commemorative caps should always be stored in a covered case to prevent dust and grease from accumulating. These should only need a light dusting or brushing once a year to keep them clean. If you have an autograph that you want to preserve, keep the cap in a dark air-conditioned space to prevent fading and stop mold or mildew from forming.

Less precious caps can be packed in a plastic or cotton storage bin or stacked inside a cotton bag or pillowcase in your closet. If using a bag, make sure nothing compresses the hat as that will change its shape. Always stow caps away from direct light, heat, and moisture.

Repairs

If the frayed edges on the bill of the hat become a concern, you can repair it with glue, but the hat will never look the same. Adding glue will also dramatically change the value of a commemorative cap.

If you choose to temporarily stabilize the fraying, apply a small amount of school glue to the edges, gently pressing the fabric to lay flat. However, since the glue is water-soluble, it may discolor the fabric, and the glue will wash out the next time the hat is cleaned.

If a stub breaks on a plastic hat adjuster, replace the stubs completely by using super glue to add Velcro strips on the adjuster to create a new closure. For rips or more serious defects, a tailor or hat restoration service might be able to save a vintage or commemorative cap.

Treating Stains on Baseball Caps

If you have stubborn perspiration stains, try a bit of gentle hair shampoo. Rub a drop of shampoo and water into the stained area with a soft toothbrush. Be careful when using a toothbrush around threads, seams, and appliques so you don't dislodge the stitches. Then, continue with the washing instructions that pertain to your type of hat.

Tips for Washing Baseball Caps

  • Don't wash your cap in the dishwasher—the detergents are harsh and often contain bleach that can ruin the fabric. Additionally, the high drying temperatures may cause the fabric to shrink.
  • Also, don't put your cap in the general laundry because any agitation or friction with other items while washing can ruin the hat's shape.
  • To determine if your hat has a cardboard bill, tap the area. If you hear a hollow sound, then you probably have a cardboard bill.
  • If you want to wear an autographed cap, protect the signature first by setting the ink. Cover the signature with a white pressing cloth, and iron with high heat to help set the ink.