5 Best Ways To Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats

Wearing a hat, be it a baseball hat, cowboy hat, or something else entirely is both a stylish and practical accessory. It can be worn during warmer months both as a fashion statement and to help keep sunlight out of your eyes.

But wearing a hat a lot in the summertime also means a lot of sweat. The more and more you sweat, the nastier your hat can get. What do you do if you have sweat stains in your favorite hat? There are more than a few methods that you can choose. You can hand wash, machine wash, or even use the dishwasher in the right circumstances.

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We All Deal with Stains

The unfortunate part of wearing hats, especially during the summer, is that we sweat profusely. The hotter the weather gets, the more sweat we produce. And there is nowhere for the sweat on our heads to go other than right into the material of the hat.

girl with sweat on forehead
(Hans Reniers, Unsplash)

The good news is that, no matter what material your hat is made up of, there is a way to get out those unsightly stains. Read on to see how to deal with cleaning each type of hat in different ways.

A Few Considerations

Before you can start cleaning the stains out of your hat, you should know a few of the considerations to take into account. Among them are the material of the hat, the washing instructions on the hat, and whether or not the hat is colorfast.

Hat Material

Perhaps the most important consideration is the material of the hat. Different materials require different cleaning methods. Generally, your hat should have both material and manufacturing material somewhere on the inside.

If the tag is gone and you don’t know what kind of material it is, you may have to check the manufacturer’s website. Absolute worst case, a Google search should give you a little more information about the hat material.

Washing Instructions

Also on the manufacturer tag should be instructions about how to properly wash your hat. Each hat type requires a different washing method, so don’t just make assumptions. Like the material type, you can probably find all the requisite information on the manufacturer’s website.


Another thing to consider before washing your hat is whether or not it is colorfast. Take a clean, white cloth and moisten it with lukewarm water. Rub on a hidden part of the hat that isn’t seen while wearing it.

You are doing this to see if the dye will run. Should some of the dye transfer into the rag, then you know you can’t completely soak the hat. But if the colors don’t transfer onto the rag, you know that your hat is colorfast.

Method#1: Washing By Hand

The first method involves doing things the old-fashioned way with a little elbow grease. It is important to note that you do not want to hand wash hats or caps that are made of leather, wool, felt, silk, or satin. Also, make sure that your hat is colorfast before starting.

Start by filling a bucket or your sink with warm water, adding in a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Make sure the detergent is bleach-free so that you don’t accidentally fade your hat. Stir to ensure that the detergent is fully dissolved.

handwashing a black baseball cap in soapy water
Credit – I. Fortey

Use a spot treatment on your hat before you start washing. Something like an OxiClean should work fine, particularly for tougher stains. Then put the hat into your mixture, swirling it around a few times. Give the hat time to soak, as many as 4 hours may be needed.

Finally, rinse off your hat with cool water. Rinse until all of the soap is gone, slightly squeezing the hat to get excess moisture out. Let it air dry, up to 24 hours if need be, and see how it looks. You can repeat the process if necessary.

Method#2: Put it in the Dishwasher

Believe it or not, you can put hats in the dishwasher. Just make sure that your hat is made of jersey mesh, cotton, or a blend of polyester fabrics. If the brim of the hat is made of cardboard, do not put it in the dishwasher and spot clean it instead.

You want to use the top rack of your dishwasher for this method. That will keep it away from the heating element at the bottom. Putting it near the heating element could either warp or shrink your hat past the point of recognition.

If you have a “hat cage” or “cap rack”, even better. Those are meant to go in the dishwasher while protecting the shape of the hat. You can find them for relatively cheap online.

Make sure that you use a non-bleach dishwashing detergent that won’t damage the color. When you run the dishwasher, put it on a cold water cycle and turn off the heated dry. It is also imperative that you run on the gentlest of cycles as well. Don’t put the hat in with any other dishes; no one wants last night’s spaghetti on their hat.

When it is done, remove and reshape your hat if need be. Put it on a towel and give it time to air dry. For really tough stains, you can repeat the process from start to finish.

Method #3: Spot Treatment

Before we get going, know that this method will not work for leather hats that you don’t want to soak. It is also not advisable for felt hats unless you really like that stained, greasy look.

Start by pretreating any areas that need it. A mild stain treatment can remove particularly tough stains, just make sure that it doesn’t have bleach or chlorine in it or you could wind up with a big, faded spot.

Next, use a little bleach-free detergent or shampoo and mix it with cool water in a container. Stir to mix properly, creating the cleaning mixture that you need to get rid of the stains. Then use a clean cloth, gently rubbing on the stains.

underside of a black baseball cap
Credit – I. Fortey

Be careful not to scrub too hard as you could remove the color or fade the hat. Keep working at the sweatband, in particular, to get those nasty stains out. You may have to apply your scrubbing to the same area multiple times depending on the severity of the stain.

Rinse your hat completely, inspecting it to ensure that the stains have been removed. Allow up to 24 hours to air dry before wearing again.

Method #4: Washing Machine

This is definitely not the first option but can be useful no less. Just make sure you only use this method with golf hats, knit hats made of cotton, colorfast ball caps, washable polyester blends, or twill. If there is a cardboard brim, go with another method.

Like the spot treatment method, use a pre-treat to help with badly stained hats. Prewash will only make it that much easier and more likely to get the stains out. If you have a garment bag, it is recommended that you place your hat inside before washing it. If you’re washing a baseball cap, it’s best to use a cap cage that helps maintain the shape of your cap.

When you start the cycle, ensure that it is on a gentle, cold cycle. Never use hot water when cleaning stains out of your hat. Add in your detergent according to the instructions on the hat’s tag. Make sure to avoid bleach as it could fade and degrade the color of your hat.

After it is done washing, allow 24 hours for your hat to dry. You may want to reform the shape of your hat; do so at this point. Do not, under any circumstances, put your hat in the dryer.

Method #5: Dry Cleaning

When all else fails, there is a chance that you could have your hat dry cleaned. Generally speaking, fedoras, top hats, and felt hats don’t do with water-based cleaning methods, so don’t dry-clean them.

Felt hats, something like a cowboy hat can be dry cleaned to get out tough sweat stains. You will more than likely have to reblock it afterward to reshape them. Just make sure that the dry cleaner that you choose has experience when it comes to dry cleaning hats.

man wearing a cotton hat
(Michael Burrows, Pexels)

Should you have a dress hat that needs stain removal, make sure to take it to a haberdasher, hatter, or Western wear store. Those require specialized treatment to properly clean them and any other method could potentially damage them.

The Final Word

As you can see, there are more than a few methods for getting sweat stains out of a hat. It all just comes down to the material of the hat, the type, and any manufacturer instructions that may come along with it.

Cleaning a sweat-stained hat usually comes down to some cool or cold water, a mild detergent, and a little bit of washing. Whether that be through a dishwasher, washing machine or by hand, you can remove even the most unsightly of sweat stains from just about any type of hat.

Just make sure to be aware of the cleaning specifics and instructions on your hate. Improperly cleaning your hat can do much worse than fail to remove the stains.  You could be looking at fading the color or even damaging the hat, making it unwearable.

If you have a baseball cap that can use a comprehensive cleaning, check out our guide on how to wash a baseball cap.