The Best Way to Clean a Baseball Cap

In the wild, few things are more important than your ability to maintain a clean appearance. When it comes to surviving in nature, you can’t afford for something as simple as that baseball cap of yours to become unsightly and clumpy. Here’s how best to go about cleaning your battered headgear.,

You can use a “how to clean a baseball cap with cardboard” as a way of cleaning your hat.

Dirty hats.

My dirty baseball hats have been known to end up in the garbage rather than being cleaned after a couple of years of hard wear. I’d tried the folklore-ish top-rack-of-the-dishwasher method before, but it never worked for me. The hats were malformed, discolored, and only partly cleaned when they arrived.

But after some research, I found a far better, and kinder, approach for cleaning the ol’ ballcap that would freshen, brighten, and extend its life by years. And, best of all, it’s mostly automated.

I had a couple extremely disgusting hats to test on, which was fortunate for you readers. Let’s get started.

Tips for Washing Hats in General

  • Caps should not be used in the laundry, either in the washing or the dryer. Even if you use a high-efficiency washer without a central agitation column, you must use cold water and the gentlest cycle, and you must be mindful about other garments in the load squishing the hat’s shape. Tumbling is bad for the form, and dryers are excessively hot. It’s better to stay away from the washing machines entirely.
  • You don’t want to use any bleach-based chemicals since you want your ballcap colors to last for years.
  • The myth of the dishwasher is debunked. You’ve undoubtedly heard that you can put caps on the top rack of the dishwasher. That is not something you should do. Dishwasher detergents sometimes include chlorine, and the device is frequently used at high temperatures (both for washing and drying), both of which might harm the headwear.
  • Hand-washing is the most effective way to keep the hat’s color and form.

How to Care for a Baseball Cap

1. Pour warm water into a clean sink or bucket. When in doubt, err on the side of cold rather than heated.

2. Add a spoonful of laundry detergent or OxiClean while it’s full. In a pinch, dish soap can do, but detergent or a specific stain-fighting product like OxiClean is more powerful and effective in removing stains from the hat’s fibers.

Shampooing the bill of the baseball cap.

The bill of the ballcap is being shampooed.

3. If necessary, spot-clean the hat beforehand. Spot-clean any spots that are particularly troublesome using a dab of cleaning solution directly on the hat. After immersing the hat in the water in your bucket or sink, scrape the cleanser into the fabric with a toothbrush or other small scrubber. I found a suggestion online about using shampoo to remove sweat stains; I tried it on one of my hats and the results were amazing. The front of the bill was free of sweat stains, but the rear (where I didn’t use any shampoo) remained somewhat filthy after cleaning:

Dirty hat.

One thing to keep in mind: threaded stitching should be avoided at all costs. If you stitch too quickly, the stitching will get lost, and the artwork will be ruined.

Hat in sink.

4. Soak the hat in the water for up to two hours. After you’ve spot-washed the hat, soak it for up to two hours in the soapy water-filled bucket or sink you’ve filled, but I’ve found that even 20-30 minutes would plenty. Take a glance at the cap about halfway through soaking to check how the stains are appearing. Although the wetted cloth will disguise certain stains, if they’re serious, they’ll still show through. Spot wash those stubborn issue spots with your little scrubber once again, being cautious around embroidered patterns and logos.


5. Rinse with warm water to remove all of the soap. Rinse the hat well before allowing it to dry.

6. To remove extra moisture, pat it down with a cloth. When you take the hat from the water, it will be quite wet; let some of the excess drip out, then pat dry as much as you can while keeping the form of the hat and being delicate with logos. The idea is to simply remove the excess so it may dry on a counter without spilling water all over the place.

Hat drying.

Wet countertop if there isn’t a towel below.

7. Always let your clothes air dry in a container. You’ll need to figure out how to dry the hat so it doesn’t end up crumpled on the counter. To put it on, use a coffee jar, a canister, a balled-up towel, or whatever mannequin heads you have laying around. This will keep the hat’s form and prevent it from crinkling. Put a cloth beneath the container as well; no matter how much patting you do, some drippage will always occur. If you want to hurry things up, blow air over it with a tiny fan or a hair dryer on low.

Cleaning Instructions for Wool Hats

Woolen hats are a little more delicate than cotton or mesh hats. The discontinued AoM hat, for example, is wool and requires a bit more TLC to clean (if you have one, save it; it’s now a vintage collector’s item!). Find a wool-specific detergent or cleaning solution to use instead of regular detergent or cleaning products, and soak it as indicated above.

Scrubbing should be done with care; if you scrub too hard, the wool will get matted and resemble felt. That’s something you don’t want to happen.

Finally, after drying the hat, pat it dry to eliminate extra moisture before considering wearing it to finish drying. Although it will most likely be unpleasant, the shape will fit to your head rather than some coffee bean container. Wool hats are infamous for losing their form after being washed, so be cautious.

Cleaning Tips for Older Hats

If your hat is more than 20 years old, it’s likely that the bill and cap were fashioned with different, less-durable materials than today’s hats. Bills, believe it or not, were formerly composed of cardboard rather than the more forgiving polymers of today.

When cleaning an old cap, the first thing to do is to check the color. The great majority of today’s hats are colorfast, which means they include a mix that aids in color retention after washing. However, this isn’t always the case with old caps. To test, use a cloth to dab a little bit of cleaning on the bill’s underside. If the cloth picks up any color, you’ll have to clean the cap with merely water and do the best you can. You’re free to use detergent if the cloth comes away clean.


When it comes to real washing, spot-clean only, particularly if you’re not sure what kind of bill you’re dealing with. Obviously, soaking an old cardboard bill in water will damage it. And, in general, ancient hats are less durable than modern caps. Clean any troublesome spots by hand with a tiny scrubber.

The Final Word

Washed caps to the right and left; unwashed "control" cap in the middle.

Caps are washed on the right and left, with an unwashed “control” cap in the center.

After utilizing this hand-washing approach, my hats were considerably cleaner. I experimented with many techniques, including not cleaning the central black and white hat. The stains on the bill are still evident, and the white isn’t as bright as the “Playoffs” baseball hat to its left. On that one, the OxiClean really brightened up the colors. You’ll also see that the stains on the bill of the Playoffs cap are nearly totally gone. They’re still visible, but it’s a lot better than it was previously.

The gray cap on the right is likewise much better, albeit the rear is still a little filthy since I didn’t spot-clean it, as you can see above. Lesson: For particularly troublesome regions, spot-cleaning is a requirement.

Give your favorite baseball hat a thorough hand-washing if it’s dirty from a few too many summer sweats, and you’ll be able to wear it for many more innings.


Is it possible for you to wash your hat?

A washing machine, on the other hand, will only harm your baseball cap. 

Is it possible to wash your hat in the dishwasher?

No, dishwashing detergents are far stronger than clothes detergents, therefore putting your hat in the dishwasher would damage it. In addition, the heat from a dishwasher might harm and shrink your hat.



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The “how to clean a hat with a toothbrush” is the best way to clean a baseball cap. You can use soap and water, or you can use toothpaste.

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