How to Clean and Care for Baseball Caps

Woman exercising while wearing a baseball hat and checking her fitness tracker on her arm.

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Whether you wear a baseball cap for work or play, it will need some occasional upkeep. But before you start, read the hat's interior fiber content tag that should include the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Unfortunately, caps made before 1983 didn’t require a hat to be labeled, so you may need to do some research to confirm the care information. If you wear your hat frequently, a thorough cleaning every few months can keep it looking fresh.

How to Wash New Cotton or Polyester Baseball Caps
Detergent Heavy-duty detergent
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Delicate
Dryer Cycle Type Do not use dryer
Special Treatments Pre-treat stains
Iron Settings Do not iron

Project Metrics

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.

Work Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: One day

Skill Level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • White cloth
  • Hat form (optional)

Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Soft-bristled brush

Instructions

  1. Pretreat Stains

    For new cotton, polyester, or mesh hats, pretreat exceptionally dirty areas such as sweatbands with a solvent-based spray or gel stain remover. You can also use a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent such as Persil or Tide. These two detergents have a high concentration of enzymes to break apart body 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 pretreatment helps to remove the body oils that come along with perspiration.

  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-based bleach and warm water following package directions. Completely submerge the cap and allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight.

    Skip the Chlorine Bleach

    Do not use chlorine bleach—even when treating a white hat. It can damage polyester fibers.

  3. 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.

    Don't Fall for the Dishwasher Hack

    Do not wash your cap in the dishwasher—the detergents are harsh and often contain bleach that can ruin the fabric. Additionally, the high-heat drying temperatures may cause the fabric to shrink.

  4. Dry

Allow the cap to dry in the washing form or over a large coffee can or another head-shaped container or form. Do not put baseball caps in the dryer because the heat and tumbling action can distort the hat's shape.

Cleaning Hats With Paper or Cardboard Brims

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 and lightly scrub the stained areas with a heavy-duty detergent and water mixture. Use one teaspoon of detergent per cup of warm water, and use sparingly as you scrub to avoid getting the brim of the hat too wet. Blot with a clean white cloth dipped in water to rinse and allow the cap to air-dry. You may need to repeat the steps several times to remove all of the soil.

Cleaning New Wool Baseball Caps

Wool baseball caps should be hand washed using cool water and a mild detergent designated for wool. Gently massage the soapy water into the hat—don’t scrub or twist the fibers. Rinse well in cool water and press gently with a thick towel to absorb most of the moisture. Allow to air dry on a head-shaped object.

Tip

If you wear your wool hat while it dries, it should conform to the precise shape of your head.

Cleaning Older or Commemorative Baseball Caps

If your vintage hat needs a deeper cleaning, first do a colorfastness test. Using a damp, white cloth, gently rub an inconspicuous area of the cap. If there's color transfer onto the cloth, do not proceed. If the fabric is colorfast, mix a solution of one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with one cup of warm water. Dip the cleaning cloth in the solution, wring thoroughly, and then gently wipe down all surfaces of the hat. Do not immerse your hat in the water. The bill may be shaped with cardboard that will likely dissolve. Use another cloth dipped in clean water to "rinse" the cap by wiping away any cleaning solution and let it rest to air-dry.

If you have an autograph that you want to preserve, keep the cap in a dark, air-conditioned space to prevent fading, and mold or mildew from forming. If you want to wear the 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.

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.

Less precious caps can be packed away 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 any cap away from direct light, heat, and moisture.

Repairs

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

To temporarily stabilize the frayed edges, 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.