A favorite hat in your daily wardrobe can make life feel easy, until that hat gets too dirty to wear. When your hat starts looking crusty, what do you do? Learning how to clean a hat is the best way to extend its life.

There are many ways to get the job done, but here we’ll discuss a few of the best. Whether you’re looking to revive your favorite bucket or refresh your go-to 5-panel or camp hat for a night out, these methods for cleaning a hat will keep yours on your head and out of the laundry pile.

Note: These tips are for cleaning hard brim hats, like baseball caps. Hats with softer brims should be dry cleaned or spot cleaned. Avoid getting soft brim hats soaking wet, this can ruin the shape of your hat.

A woman wears a Nixon trucker hat

Supplies You'll Need

  • Bucket: This will be filled with water and used to soak/clean your hat. A clean sink also works.
  • Mild Laundry Detergent: Dish soap will also work, but you may need to lather more.
  • Oxygen Bleach (Color-Safe): Something like OxiClean works great if you have serious stains to remove.
  • Toothbrush: This will be used to scrub any stubborn spot stains.

Basic Hat Clean: How to Rinse, Soak + Dry

Whether you’re trying to get rid of serious stains or just giving your hat a routine wash, start with the basic hat cleaning method. That’s because it’s best to start with a light clean and then work your way up to more serious methods if needed.

Before starting, check your hat to see if it has specific cleaning instructions.

Otherwise, follow these steps to give your hat a basic clean:

  1. First, fill a clean sink, bucket or basin with cool water.
  2. Dunk your hat into the water for a rinse. Sometimes this is enough to clean your hat.
  3. Next, add a couple drops of mild detergent to the mix. If using dish soap, use the water to lather suds into the bucket.
  4. Dunk your dirty hat into the water and get some suds going.
  5. Let your hat soak in soapy water for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Finally, place your hat on a jar, balled up towel or some other stand to dry—something that can sit inside your cap to hold its shape.

Let your hat sit for 20-30 minutes, and be careful not to bend or misshape the brim when your hat is wet!

Pro Tip: Don’t put your hat in the sun to dry as this can damage colors.

Now, if you need to focus on specific stains, the following section will explain how to remove big stains from hats.

A man walks through the forest wearing a Nixon hat

How to Spot Clean a Hat

Sometimes a rinse and a quick soak aren’t enough to get rid of those sweat and dirt stains. If that’s the case for you, read on to learn how to perform a proper spot clean on your favorite hat, including those stylish low profile hats!

Follow these steps to handle more serious stains:

  1. First, fill a clean sink, basin or bucket with cool water.
  2. Add your OxiClean or other color-safe oxygen bleach.
  3. Apply some of the cleaning water to the stain on your hat. You can use the soft toothbrush to scrub the area. Be gentle! Also, we recommend using circular motions, like when you’re brushing your teeth.
  4. Finally, rinse your hat with cool water and set it on your drying stand until completely dry.

If the spot clean doesn’t work to remove the stain, try letting your hat soak in the OxiClean water for an hour or so. Then, rinse it and let it dry.

How to Clean Bucket Hats and Beanies

What about cleaning bucket hats and beanies? In most cases, machine washing these types of hats is fine. Check the washing recommendations for that specific hat before giving it a go.

If you’d rather not throw your favorite bucket hat into the washing machine, using the rinse and soak method above is also acceptable. Taking care of beanies and bucket hats is no sweat.

Can you put a hat in the washing machine or dishwasher?

The short answer, yes, you can. However, we don’t recommend it. Take a little extra time to hand wash your hat, it will last longer. If you do end up using a washing machine, put it in a pillowcase or a wash bag first.

Cleaning a hat is not terribly difficult, but it does take time. The upside is that time spent hand washing a hat will add to the time you’ll be able to wear that hat.