How to Wash a Baseball Cap by Hand or in a Washing Machine

Although you probably wash your bedding, clothes, and workout clothes on a regular basis, when was the last time you washed your baseball caps? It’s easy to take them off and toss aside, but after they’ve been worn to practice, gardening, carpooling, or catching a game, dirt and sweat collect in the caps — not to mention hair oil and styling product residue, makeup up spots and much more . Even if you only wear a hat about twice a year, it’s likely collecting dust, dirt, and crumbs in the back seat of your car or on the floor of your closet and needs a touch up from time to time. How to hand and machine wash baseball caps according to our Good Housekeeping Institute cleaning lab.

But first, “Always check your hat for a care label, and if there’s one, be sure to follow it,” recommends Carolyn Forte, executive director of the Home Car & Cleaning Lab. Plain hats are easier to wash. Decorative or embellished ones need more TLC. If no label can be found, Forte recommends doing a colorfastness test by putting a few drops of water on all colors, patting them with a white paper towel, and checking for color bleeds. If color doesn’t come off, follow these simple hand and machine wash tips. If you see color on the towel, stick with spot cleaning if needed.

How often should you wash your baseball cap?

If you wear your hat every day, or even a few times a week, plan on washing it at least once a month. Just reaching for it here and there? Washing several times a year should be sufficient. And just like with other accessories (think jackets and sneakers), it’s best not to wait until you’re actually done see Stains, stains and dirt to wash a baseball cap. Then they may be more difficult to remove and dirt on the inside of sweat and body oils may not be visible at all, but it’s there.

How to hand wash a baseball cap

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

  1. Shake the hat well or vacuum with the flat upholstery tool to remove dust and loose dirt. Use a lint roller to remove stuck hairs inside and out.
  2. Fill your sink, sink, or large bowl with cold water and mix in a few drops of laundry detergent or a degreasing dishwashing liquid. Apply a drop or two of detergent to any visible stains and work in with fingertips or a soft brush.
  3. Agitate the water with your hands to create foam, then submerge the hat and gently rock it around to allow the water to penetrate the fibers.
  4. Let the baseball cap soak for 15 minutes and then check if any stains are still visible. For stubborn stains, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to work a little more detergent or soapy water into the fabric. Leave on for 5 minutes, then return to the soapy water and leave to soak for another 10 minutes.
  5. When the baseball cap is clean, place it in a strainer in the sink and rinse thoroughly under cold water until the suds are gone.
  6. Squeeze out excess water gently, but leave out the edge so it keeps its shape.
  7. Pat the hat dry firmly with a white, lint-free towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Using a second clean, dry towel, fill the inside of the hat or place it on a ball or bowl to help it hold its shape.
  8. Allow to air dry completely before storing or wearing.
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How to wash a baseball cap in the washing machine

If you’re short on time or space, or have a hat you’re not too worried about, this set-it-but-don-forget-it method is a big help. And remember to set a timer on your phone so you can take the hat out of the washing machine as soon as the cycle is done. (Leaving it in the machine for too long can make it more difficult to form.) As with washing hands, skip the dryer and let the cap air dry to avoid shrinking or losing its shape. And with these tips, you don’t have to spend money on a protective hat wash cage.

  1. Pre-treat visible stains with detergent or an enzyme-based laundry pre-treatment.
  2. Wash hat alone, with other hats, or with some light clothing. Avoid adding anything large or heavy to avoid crushing the cap in the washing machine.
  3. If you have one, place the hat in a mesh laundry bag large enough for the hat to fit comfortably.
  4. Choose the gentle cycle. Make sure the water temperature is cold and the spin speed is set to the lowest level your machine offers so the ball cap doesn’t stretch, shrink or bend.
  5. Remove the hat immediately. Fill the inside of the hat with a clean, dry towel or place it on a ball or bowl to help it hold its shape and allow to air dry.
  6. Allow to air dry completely before storing or wearing.

How to clean a baseball cap

For baseball caps with intricate embellishments or details, or vintage styles with cardboard rims (typically from the early 80’s or earlier), spot cleaning is always the best and most gentle method.

  1. Put a small amount of mild detergent or dish soap on a damp, lint-free cloth, then blot at any stains or soiled areas. For stubborn stains, switch in to an enzyme-based pre-wash conditioner and leave on the stain for 5 minutes.
  2. Using the same damp cloth, gently work the detergent into the fabric using small circular motions. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth and repeat until the area is clean. Avoid harsh or excessive scrubbing as this can damage the fibers.
  3. Rinse the cloth clean with cold water and use it to gently blot any soap residue off the baseball cap. Repeat as needed, always rinsing the cloth.
  4. Fill the inside of the hat with a clean, dry towel or place it on a ball or bowl to help it hold its shape and allow to air dry.
  5. Allow to air dry completely before storing or wearing.

Can you wash a baseball cap in the dishwasher?

We don’t recommend it. Hacks like this might seem tempting at first, but there really is more risk than reward here. The dishwasher is stocked with leftover food, hot water, and dishwashing detergents that, while safe for dishes and glasses, may not be safe for fabrics. If you care about your hat, it’s best to use one of the proven washing methods above.

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