Cleaning a Felt Stetson Hat

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Stetson is an iconic brand of hats symbolizing the American west, style, and durability. Whether you have a classic 10-gallon cowboy hat or another style, you will want to learn how to care for your hat to make it last and look its best. Today's Stetsons are made from a variety of materials from straw to fur felt. Let's focus on the care of felt hats made from natural fur or wool.

How to Clean the Hat

Making a style investment in an expensive felt hat like a Stetson means that you should look for one that is constructed from natural fur or wool felt. Most Stetson felt hats are made from beaver, rabbit, or wild hare fur. The fur fibers are felted with extremely hot water to make a solid material that both repels water and provides warmth.

The most common soil on a hat is dust. To remove accumulated dust, use a soft bristled brush like one made for cleaning suede and starting at the left side of the hat, brush it counterclockwise to keep the surface looking smooth. Continue brushing toward the back of the hat and gently work all around the hat including the upper and lower surfaces of the brim.

If the hat has a grease stain or perspiration stains that include body oils, use a bit of cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the stain. Sprinkle a good layer of the powder on a dry hat (never do this if the hat is wet) and allow to the powder to sit on the felt for several hours. Next, brush away the powder with a soft bristled brush. If the hat is dark, it will take several brushings to get rid of the powder (and hopefully, the oil). Repeat if needed to absorb the oil. Never attempt to use liquid laundry stain removers or cleaners.

If your felt hat gets wet, shake off excess water. Turn down the interior leather sweatband and stand the hat on the band to dry naturally. Do not dry on a flat surface or the brim will lose its shape. Place the wet hat in a warm area away from direct sunlight or excessive heat. Allow to air dry. If you must speed the drying, use a hair dryer set on low and hold it at least 12 inches from the surface.

Rain does not usually cause a staining problem with a felt hat; however, acid rain can sometimes spot the felt. If that happens, use a clothes steamer to give the hat a good steam. Hold the steam nozzle at least 12 inches from the hat and move slowly around all sides. Brush the hat well while it is still damp and then allow to air dry away from heat and direct sunlight. Be sure that the hat is thoroughly dry before wearing or storing.

How to Clean the Band

To prevent perspiration or hair products from staining the leather sweatband and eventually seeping into the felt, turn the sweatband down so it can dry between wearings. To remove staining on the leather sweatband, sprinkle it with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the moisture. Allow to sit for several hours and then brush away. Do not spray with liquid cleaners unless they are specifically designed for cleaning leather

If the leather headband becomes stiff, use a good leather conditioner to restore the suppleness.

How to Store

If you will not be wearing your Stetson felt hat for a period of time, store your hat upside down so the brim will keep its shape, Store in a covered hat box to ward off dust. Hats should be kept in a conditioned space that is not overly hot or damp. Never store in an attic or damp basement.

To prevent damage from insects, add a bag of cedar shavings or a bag of lavender to the hat box.

Restoring and Resizing

If you have a vintage Stetson or other felt hat, a professional milliner may be able to help you repair damage and restore the hat. Interior hat bands and outside trim can be easily replaced. A fur felt hat can be resized down about one full size, but increasing the size is not simple. A milliner may be able to stretch the hat a little, but it will eventually go back to its original size due to the blocking done during the making of the hat. Always consult a professional.