How to Wash a Baseball Cap to Keep It Looking Great

By James

Though you’re likely diligent about laundering your bedding, clothing and workout wear on a regular schedule, when is the last time you washed your baseball caps? It’s easy just to take them off and toss them aside, but after wearing them to work out, do yard work, carpool or catch a game, caps collect dirt and sweat – not to mention hair oil and styling product residue, makeup stains and more. Even if you only wear a cap twice a year or so, it’s likely collecting dust, dirt and crumbs sitting in the backseat of your car or the bottom of your closet, and needs a refresh from time to time. Here’s how to wash baseball caps by hand and in the machine according to our Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab.

But first, “always check inside your hat for a care label and if there is one, be sure to follow it,” Carolyn Forte, executive director of the Home Car & Cleaning Lab recommends. Basic caps are easier to wash. Decorative or embellished ones need more TLC. If there’s no label to be found, Forte recommends doing a colorfastness test by placing a few drops of water on all colors, dabbing them with a white paper towel and checking for any color bleeding. If no color comes off, follow these easy hand and machine washing tips. If you see color on the towel, stick with spot cleaning when needed.

How often should you wash your baseball cap?

If you wear your cap every day or even a few times a week, plan to wash it at least once a month. Only reach for it here and there? Washing it several times a year should be enough. And just like other accessories (think jackets and sneakers), it’s best not to wait until you actually see stains, spots and dirt to wash a baseball cap. By then, they may be harder to remove and soil on the inside from sweat and body oils may not even be visible at all, but it’s there.

How to handwash a baseball cap

Hand washing your baseball cap is really quite simple, and this method gives you the best chance of keeping the shape intact, if you handle it carefully.

  1. Give the hat a good shake or vacuum it with the flat upholstery tool to get rid of any dust and loose dirt. Use a lint roller to remove stuck-on hairs inside and out.
  2. Fill your sink, basin or large bowl with cool water, and mix in a few drops of laundry detergent or a grease-cutting dish soap. Apply a drop or two of detergent to any visible stains and work it in with your fingertips or a soft brush.
  3. Agitate the water with your hands to create suds, then immerse the hat and move it around gently to help the water penetrate the fibers.
  4. Let the baseball cap soak for 15 minutes, then check to see if any spots are still visible. For stubborn stains, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to work a bit more detergent or suds into the fabric. Let sit for 5 minutes then return it to the soapy water and let soak for another 10 minutes.
  5. Once clean, place the baseball cap in a colander in the sink and rinse it thoroughly under cool water until all the suds are gone.
  6. Gently squeeze out any excess water, but skip the brim, so it keeps its shape.
  7. Firmly pat the hat dry with a white lint-free towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Stuff the inside of the hat with a second clean, dry hand towel or place it on top of a ball or bowl, so it keeps its shape.
  8. Let it air dry completely before storing or wearing it.

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How to wash a baseball cap in the washing machine

When you’re short on time or sink space, or have a hat that you’re not too concerned about, this set-it-but-don’t-forget-it method is a huge help. And remember to set a timer on your phone, so you can promptly take the hat out of the washing machine when the cycle is done. (Leaving it in the machine too long could make reshaping more difficult.) Like with handwashing, skip the dryer and let the cap air dry, so it doesn’t shrink or lose its shape. And with these tips you won’t need to shell out money for a protective hat washing cage.

  1. Pre-treat any visible stains with detergent or an enzyme-based laundry pretreatment.
  2. Wash the hat alone, with other hats or with a few lightweight items. Avoid adding anything large or heavy, so the cap doesn’t get crushed inside the washing machine.
  3. If you have one, tuck the hat into a mesh wash bag large enough for the hat to fit comfortably inside.
  4. Choose the delicate cycle. Check to make sure the water temperature is cold, and the spin speed is set to the slowest your machine offers, so the ball cap doesn’t stretch, shrink, or bend.
  5. Remove the hat right promptly. Stuff the inside of the hat with a clean, dry hand towel or place it on top of a ball or bowl, so it keeps its shape and let it air dry.
  6. Let it air dry completely before storing or wearing it.

How to spot clean a baseball cap

For baseball caps with delicate embellishments or details, or vintage styles with cardboard brims (typically from the early 80s or before), spot cleaning is always the best and gentlest method.

  1. Apply a small amount of mild laundry detergent or dish soap to a damp, lint-free cloth, then dab it onto any stains or dingy areas. For stubborn spots, swap in an enzyme-based laundry pretreatment product and leave it on the stain for 5 minutes.
  2. Using the same damp cloth and small circular motions, carefully work the detergent into the fabric. Rinse with a clean damp cloth and repeat until the area is clean. Avoid harsh or excessive scrubbing, which can damage the fibers.
  3. Rinse the cloth clean in cool water, then use it to gently blot away all residual soap on the baseball cap. Repeat as needed, always rinsing the cloth as you go.
  4. Stuff the inside of the hat with a clean, dry hand towel or place it on top of a ball or bowl, so it keeps its shape and let it air dry.
  5. Let it air dry completely before storing or wearing it.

Can you wash a baseball cap in the dishwasher?

We don’t recommend it. Hacks like this may seem tempting at quick glance, but there’s really more risk than reward here. The dishwasher is filled with food soils, hot water and dishwasher detergents that while safe for dishes and glasses, may not be so for fabrics. If you care about your hat, it’s best to use one of the tried-and-true laundering methods above.

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