If you’re anything like us, you have a closet full of baseball caps. For some of us, our hats are more than just headwear; each baseball cap holds special meaning. Some people actually collect them, like classic sneakers or other high-value commodities.
Like all valuables, it’s important to know how to maintain them. Make a misstep in their care, and it is possible to ruin their value. Even for those of us that don’t look at our hat collection as an investment, it’s nice to be able to clean our college hats so they continue to look good when we wear them.
Baseball has a long and storied history, and most people don’t know much of it, including the interesting history of the college baseball World Series.
The history of the classic baseball cap is just as intriguing. Like the game itself, baseball caps have changed a bit over the years. Old baseball hats (pre-1984) were made with cardboard brills, which means you have to be extra careful while cleaning them. Nothing stinks worse than having a classic ball cap from a long-forgotten, now defunct team get destroyed by a poorly-conceived effort to clean it.
The vast majority of modern baseball hats are manufactured from synthetic fabrics. That’s not to say there aren’t some types of hats that are wool or cotton, but even those have man-made materials, including plastic brims. These materials make washing your hat easier, but you still need to be practical.
You should always start gently when attempting to clean a cap, and only move to the next level of washing if you’re not having success.
3 Basic Methods for Washing Your Baseball Hat
- Spot Cleaning
- Hand Washing
- Machine Washing
If you’ve got some small stain from a wayward sprinkle off some kid’s ice cream cone, you probably don’t need to go crazy with cleaning your cap. A dab of dish detergent and some water on a clean rag can often do the job. Be sure that you use cold water with just a drop of dish soap and then remember to rinse the spot with just water on the rag.
You can try using a spot cleaner like a Tide pen or Carbona Stain Wizard. You should test these products somewhere hidden to make sure the hat is colorfast, and be sure you aren’t using a stain remover that is bleach-based.
Some people also use a toothbrush to help scrub more stubborn stains. You have to be very careful around the stitching, though, as embroidered letters and logos can be damaged by bristles.
This is probably the most desirable way to completely clean a hat. In a tub or bucket of cool water or warm water (not hot), add a mild detergent and soak the hat to loosen any soil and odors. Water also neutralizes the salts from perspiration, and any college student athlete should know that you might sweat in your hat every once in a while.
You can use your hands to agitate the hat in the water and use a sponge or brush to cleanse stained areas. Hand washing is usually sufficient for brick dust and infield dirt, but grass and sweat stains may require a deeper cleaning.
Older laundry machines that open from the top are pretty effective at cleaning baseball caps, however, we don’t recommend putting your favorite cap in a high efficiency washing machine. These machines are often too hard on a baseball cap and may ruin your hat.
If you are going to opt for automation, remember to keep the water temperature at warm or below. Also, make sure you are using the gentle cycle.
You also want to make sure that you aren’t throwing your hats in with a big load of laundry, as the mass of wet clothes can cause some damage to the caps. While there are ways to reshape a baseball hat, it’s not something that you want to deal with if you don’t have to.
The Dishwasher is Not Your Friend
You might be tempted to throw your cap in the dishwasher, but you should avoid that temptation. The problem is that your dishwasher runs on hot water–really hot water– which makes sense because the water should be hot enough to disinfect your dishes. While this is a great feature for getting clean plates to eat off of, you don’t want this water melting the plastic bill on your hat.
Not only is the bill plastic, there may be plastic webbing that helps shape the crown of the hat. There’s also a good chance there is plastic around the brim, especially if it’s a snap-back. The heat will potentially warp the bills, melt the mesh, and generally leave you with a useless hat.
So, don’t put your cap in the dishwasher, even if you were going to use laundry detergent instead of Cascade.
How to Dry Your Baseball Cap
With every one of these methods, there is only one way to dry your recently cleaned cap: air drying. Throwing a cap into a laundry dryer is a major no-no. The high heat will do bad things to a hat.
Support the Shape
Some people like to stuff a hat with a t-shirt or other clean clothing to help keep the shape when drying. This isn’t a bad move, as stuffing the cap will definitely prevent the crown from collapsing, but I find that it takes a substantially longer amount of time for the cap to dry because there is no airflow.
Instead, you can get a hat washing frame and use it to hold the shape of your hat as it dries. If you didn’t have one of these devices, try to find something else that will give you airflow and shape, if possible.
Getting a Clean Cap
Bottom line, keep things cool and hand wash your cap when possible. Air dry and use something to help keep the shape. With these few ideas, you should get many years of use out of your favorite caps. If you or one of your friends have recently ruined a baseball cap, a new hat is the perfect gift for a college sports fan.