How to Wash a Knit or Crochet Hat

shaping a knit hat

The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Knit hats or stocking caps are one of the best choices for keeping your head warm in the winter and can be quite stylish as well. Since they are worn directly next to the scalp and face, frequent washing is important to keep the caps looking and smelling fresh.

How you wash your knit cap depends on the construction and fiber content of the yarn.

Know Your Knit

If your knit cap was purchased in the United States from a commercial manufacturer, there will be a fabric care label inside as required by law. This label will have washing and drying instructions and tell you the type of yarn used to make the cap.

If your grandmother or best friend handmade the cap, ask them about the fiber content of the yarn. Is it cotton, wool, or acrylic yarn?

  • Superwash wool can be hand or machine washed on the gentle cycle in cold water.
  • Regular wool must be washed by hand in cold water; Otherwise, the fibers may felt (matt and shrink).
  • Cotton, linen, and ramie yarn can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle using either cold or warm.
  • Acrylic and other synthetic yarns can be washed in with your regular laundry.
  • Unknown fiber content items should be hand washed in cold water and laid flat to dry.

With any type of knit or crocheted cap, always remove any embellishments like ribbons, flowers, or pins, if possible, before washing. If the embellishments cannot be removed, ALWAYS hand wash the cap. Sequins and jewels can be damaged in a washer, even on the gentle cycle.

hand-knit hat
The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Wash a Synthetic Fiber Cap

Caps that are made from synthetic fibers like acrylic or synthetic blends can be machine washed. Turn the hat inside out and always use the washer's gentle cycle and cool water. Allow the hat to air dry to prevent shrinking and reduce pilling. The cap should be dried flat, not hung on a line, to reduce stretching and pulling.

Before washing, check the hat completely for any loose threads, snags, or ripped seams which can get worse during washing. Do not pull the threads! Instead, make repairs and fix any snags.

laying a hat flat to dry
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

How to Wash a Natural Fiber Cap

Knit or crocheted hats that are made from natural fibers like wool, cotton, or flax, or from a blended yarn of the fibers should be hand-washed in cool water. For wool fibers, choose a detergent formula developed just for wool that contains lanolin, such as Eucalan. Lanolin is a natural oil produced by sheep and helps preserve wool fibers and increases the water-resistance of wool.

Hand-washing may seem like a lot of trouble, but for a handmade or expensive natural fiber cap, it is worth the effort and doesn't take long.

  • Gently agitate the knitted item in the soapy water. Never wring or scrub.
  • Drain the sink and add fresh, cold water for rinsing. Repeat this process until all the water is clear and free of suds.
  • Support the item from underneath as you transfer it to a dry towel.
  • Gently squeeze to remove excess water and lay item flat on a dry, absorbent towel and roll up in the towel, pressing firmly as you roll. Do not wring the towel.
  • To dry, lay a bath towel on a flat surface. Place the knitted cap on the dry towel and reshape it into its original shape. Pat it into shape; avoid tugging or pulling. 
  • Allow the cap to dry completely, turning over several times.
gently agitating the hat
The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Looking Fuzzy?

To remove fuzzy pills or balls from knitted caps, you can either carefully snip them off with manicure scissors, use a clothing-shaver meant for the purpose, or gently pass a shaving razor across the pilled surface. Pills don't have to end the life of your hat!

Head Lice and Knit Caps

Head lice happen and knit caps often get shared at school or daycare. For machine-washable hats, use the hottest water temperature setting on your washer and launder as usual. Tumble in the dryer at a high temperature for at least 20 minutes to ensure the insects are dead.

For wool caps that cannot be washed in hot water, there are two ways you can take care of the problem at home. One is the one week quarantine. Place the items in a plastic bag and seal the bag tightly for one week. After a week, vacuum each item to remove dead lice or take them outside for a good shake, then hand wash. Or, use your freezer. Adult lice cannot live if subjected to extremely cold temperatures. Infested items can be bagged and frozen (must be below 32 degrees) for four hours.

Whatever method you use, be diligent. Head lice can be stubborn and you may need to take precautions for several weeks to be sure that you have gotten rid of every single one.

laundering an infected item in hot water
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

How to Store Knitted Caps

Knitted caps should always be thoroughly cleaned before storing them away. Avoid hanging knitted caps from hooks which can cause their shape to be distorted and even stress fibers to break. Instead, fold or roll gently and store in a covered container.