How to Clean and Care for Baseball Caps

baseball caps hanging from a hook

The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 

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.

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 to Wash 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

Work Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours

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
materials for cleaning baseball caps
The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

Instructions for Washing 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 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 pre-treatment helps to remove perspiration stains.

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

    pre-soaking the baseball cap
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 

    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.

    adding the cap to a laundry basket with like colors
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  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.

    allowing the cap to dry on a vase
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

Instructions for Cleaning 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

    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.

  2. Rinse

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

  3. Dry

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

Instructions for Cleaning New Wool Baseball Caps

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

  1. Wash

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

  2. Rinse

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

  3. 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.

Cleaning Vintage or Commemorative Baseball Caps

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

  1. Do the Colorfast 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.

  2. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    If the fabric is colorfast, mix a solution of one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with one cup of 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. Do not immerse your hat in the water or the cardboard shaping the bill will likely dissolve.

  4. Rinse

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

  5. Dry

    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 mold or mildew from forming.

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.

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 extra 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

  • 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.
  • Also, do not put your cap in the general laundry because any agitation or friction with other items 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.