How to Clean and Care for a Felt Stetson Hat

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Stetson is an iconic brand of hats symbolizing the American West. Whether you have a 10-gallon cowboy hat or another style, you'll want to learn how to care for it and make it last. While today's Stetsons are made from a variety of materials including straw, natural wool, or fur, felt is the most classic choice. Most Stetson felt hats are made from beaver, rabbit, or wild hare fur. The fur fibers are felted with boiling water to make a solid material that both repels water and provides warmth. If you wear your Stetson hat every day, you'll need to clean it monthly to keep it looking sharp.

The most common soil on a Stetson hat is dust, which can be removed with a soft-bristled brush like one made for cleaning suede. Do not use any water when cleaning your hat.

How to Clean a Felt Stetson Hat
Detergent Do not use detergent
Water Temperature Do not use water
Cycle Type Do not use a washer
Dryer Cycle Type Do not use a dryer
Special Treatments Use a soft-bristled brush
Iron Settings Do not iron

Project Metrics

Work Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: Up to 5 hours

Skill Level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Talcum powder or cornstarch
  • Leather conditioner (optional)

Tools

  • Soft-bristled brush

Instructions

  1. Brush the Hat

    Start with the left side of the hat, and brush it counterclockwise to remove dust and smooth the surface. Continue brushing toward the back and gently work around all areas of the hat.

  2. Clean the Band

    To remove staining on the interior leather sweatband, sprinkle it with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the moisture. If the leather headband becomes stiff, use a suitable leather conditioner to restore the suppleness.

  3. Give the Hat a Final Brushing

    Allow the cornstarch to sit for several hours and then brush away any excess powder.

Storing a Felt Stetson Hat

If you do not need to wear your Stetson felt hat for a while, store your hat upside down so the brim will keep its shape, and pack away in a covered hat box to ward off dust. To prevent damage from insects, add a bag of cedar shavings or lavender to the box. Hats should be kept in a conditioned space that is not overly hot or humid. Never store your Stetson in an attic or basement where temperatures and humidity tend to fluctuate.

Repairs

If you have a vintage Stetson or other felt hat, a professional milliner may be able to help you restore it and repair damage. Interior sweatbands 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 before attempting any major changes or repairs to your hat.

Treating Stains on a Felt Stetson Hat

If the hat has heavy grease or perspiration stains, use cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Sprinkle a thick layer of the powder on a dry hat (never do this if the hat is wet) and allow the powder to sit on the felt for at least four hours. Next, brush away the powder with a soft-bristled brush. If the hat is a dark color, it will take several brushings to get rid of the dust (and hopefully, the oil). Repeat if needed.

Rain does not usually cause a staining problem with a felt hat; however, if you have acid rain in your area, it can sometimes spot the surface of a hat. If that happens, use a clothes steamer to relax the material and hopefully loosen the spots. Hold the nozzle at least 12 inches from the hat and move slowly around all sides. Brush the hat thoroughly while it's still damp and then allow to air-dry. Be sure the drying process is thoroughly completed before wearing or storing the hat.

Tips for Caring for a Felt Stetson Hat

  • To prevent sweat or hair products from staining the leather sweatband and eventually seeping into the felt, turn the sweatband down so it can dry between wearings.
  • Never attempt to use liquid laundry stain removers or cleaners on your Stetson.
  • If your felt hat becomes wet, shake off excess water. Turn down the interior leather sweatband and stand the hat on the band (not the brim) to dry naturally. If you must speed the drying, use a blow-dryer set on low and hold it at least 12 inches from the surface.
  • Between cleanings, remove lint or stray hairs by gently patting the hat with the sticky side of masking tape.