How to Wash and Care for a Baseball Cap
Baseball caps can be made from a variety of fabrics and with several types of construction, so proper cleaning methods will vary depending on what type of hat you have. Most manufactured baseball caps are now typically made of cotton twill, cotton-polyester blends, or jersey mesh, including a plastic form to shape the brim. These fabrics are strong, durable, and usually colorfast, so newer hats can be washed with cold water in a washing machine without becoming deformed.
Slightly different washing methods are necessary for older caps with paper or cardboard brims, for woolen baseball caps, and for vintage baseball hats. All baseball caps should be air-dried rather than using a clothes dryer, which can shrink or misshape the material.
Learn how to wash, repair, shape, and store any kind of baseball cap to keep it looking its best.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine
- Soft-bristled brush
- Hat form (optional)
- Towel (optional)
- White cloth
- Heavy-duty detergent
- Oxygen bleach (optional)
- Stain remover (optional)
- Wool wash detergent (where needed)
|How to Wash Baseball Caps|
|Detergent||Heavy-duty (except for wool caps)|
|Dryer Cycle Type||Do not use dryer|
|Special Treatments||Pretreat stains|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
|How Often to Wash||Every few months; or when visibly soiled|
How to Wash Cotton, Polyester, or Mesh Baseball Caps
For new cotton, polyester, or mesh hats, pretreat 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, then allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing. This pretreatment helps remove perspiration stains.
Presoak 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 the package directions. Completely submerge the hat, and allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight.
Don't use chlorine bleach on your baseball caps or colorful accessories, even when treating a white hat. It can damage the polyester fibers.
Add the Hat to the Wash
Remove your hat from the soaking solution, then wash it without any other items. Use heavy-duty detergent and choose your machine's delicate cycle in 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.
Shape and Air-Dry
After washing, 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 hats in the dryer: The heat and tumbling action can distort its shape.
How to Wash Baseball Caps With Paper Brims
Many hats made before the 1980s have paper-based cardboard bills. If the cap has a cardboard or paper-stiffened bill, spot-cleaning is the only method that won't damage the hat.
Use a soft-bristled brush to lightly scrub the stained areas with a heavy-duty detergent and water mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of detergent per 1 cup warm water, then use the solution sparingly as you scrub to avoid getting the brim of the hat too wet.
Blot to Rinse
Blot the area with a clean, white cloth dipped in water to rinse any remaining detergent.
Allow the cap to air-dry. You may need to repeat the steps several times to remove all the soil.
How to Wash Wool Baseball Caps
Wool baseball caps should be hand-washed using cool water and a mild detergent intended for wool.
Gently massage the soapy water into the hat; be sure not to scrub or twist the fibers.
Rinse the hat well in cool water, then press it gently with a thick towel to absorb most of the moisture.
Shape and Air-Dry
Allow the hat 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 Wash Vintage or Commemorative Baseball Caps
If your vintage hat needs a deeper cleaning, before washing, do a colorfastness test.
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.
Mix the Cleaning Solution
If the fabric is colorfast, mix a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent with 1 cup of warm water.
Wipe Down the Hat
Dip the cleaning cloth in the solution, wring it thoroughly, then gently wipe down all surfaces of the hat. Don't immerse your hat in the water, or the cardboard in the brim will likely dissolve.
Use another cloth dipped in clean water to "rinse" the cap by wiping away any cleaning solution.
Air-Dry the Hat
Let the cap air-dry in a place away from direct sunlight; time to dry can range from a few hours to overnight.
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 stitching so you don't dislodge the threads. Then, continue with the washing instructions that pertain to your type of hat.
Baseball Cap Care and 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 significantly change the value of a commemorative cap.
If you do 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.
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 hats 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 this will change its shape. Always store baseball caps away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
How Often to Wash Baseball Caps
If you wear your hat frequently, a thorough cleaning every few months can keep it looking fresh. 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 about an older hat to confirm the care information.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
How can I tell if the brim of my baseball cap is made of cardboard?
If the brim of your cap bends easily and has a hollow sound when you tap on it, it is likely made of cardboard and should not be machine-washed.
Does this washing method work for any type of brimmed cap?
Yes. Most other types of promotional or souvenir caps are constructed in the same way as baseball caps and can be washed the same way.
How can I brighten a white baseball cap without bleach?
Chlorine bleach can break down the fibers of baseball caps, and it should never be used to clean them. However, you can use oxygen bleach to safely brighten a white hat, or opt for natural cleaners like baking soda and vinegar.