How to Wash a Baseball Cap Without Ruining It

black Fallout baseball cap
Credit – I. Fortey

You know what it’s like when you find the perfect baseball cap. It looks good; it fits well; it becomes a part of your everyday routine. But after a few years of heavy use, it’s pretty much impossible to keep that thing clean. And let’s be honest, not all of us are on top of a routine cleaning schedule when it comes to baseball caps. No doubt if your own hat hasn’t been cause for alarm yet, you have probably seen a few friends who have one that looks like it’s in desperate need of a run through the wash. But is that the best way to clean it?

How to Properly Wash Your Baseball Cap

front brim of black baseball cap
Credit – I. Fortey

Keeping your baseball cap clean doesn’t have to be an arduous process. But you need to follow some rules if you want to not only get it clean, but to keep it in excellent condition when it’s done. 

Gather Supplies

There are a couple of things you need to have to get this job done right.

  • A small brush, like a toothbrush, for spot cleaning.
  • A clean bucket or a clean sink that you can fill with water.
  • A gentle detergent or oxygen base cleaner like Dawn liquid or OxiClean. OxiClean is your best bet for deep cleaning.
  • Shampoo as needed to remove greasy sweat stains.
  • A towel
  • An elevated surface on which to dry the hat.

Test Things Out

Before you get into anything, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re safe to clean your hat. They don’t make all caps the same way, and not all of them can stand up to the same cleaning methods. Take a small amount of the cleaner you’re going to use and mix it with a small amount of water and rub it into a hidden part of the cap, someplace on the underside where no one is going to see it. Use your toothbrush to rub it in like you’re trying to clean up a stain. If the color of your hat comes away, then you’re going to need to switch gears. Only use water to clean your hat if the cleanser actually pulls the color out of the material. Anything else you use is going to ruin it.If no color comes away and the hat looks okay, proceed with the next steps for cleaning.

sink filled with soapy water
Credit – I. Fortey

Get Things Ready

Start things off by filling your bucket or sink with warm water. Heat is bad for your hat, so you’re going to want to keep this on the cooler side of things. If it feels like it would make a good cup of coffee or a bath, you’re way too hot. Once you have the temperature down, add about a tablespoon of your OxiClean or soap.

tooth brush spot cleaning a black baseball cap
Credit – I. Fortey

Spot Clean

Before you toss your cap into the bucket, give it a once-over. If there are any noticeable spots that stand out as especially dirty, spot clean these first. This is where the toothbrush comes in handy. You can wet the toothbrush and use a tiny amount of OxiClean or cleanser on the specific stains that you see. Gently scrub the stain to work the cleanser in.

underside of a black baseball cap
Credit – I. Fortey

Check Around the Brim

If you have some sweat stain issues, this is where you want to use the shampoo. Shampoo cleans off oils that come from the human head. It makes a great cleaner for the band of your baseball cap. Use the same technique you used to spot clean and take your toothbrush with some shampoo on it to any noticeable sweat stains around the brim. 

black baseball cap submerged in a sink of soapy water
Credit – I. Fortey

Soak Your Cap

This part requires a bit of finesse. If the hat is older, it may have cardboard in the brim. How old does your hat have to be? There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but if they made it before 1983 it probably has a cardboard bill. So, we’re talking vintage hats here. Soaking a vintage cap could effectively ruin it. If that’s the case, you need to soak the body of the hat but keep the brim out of the water. You could do this by hanging it off a clothes peg so that just the back of the cap gets in the water while the brim doesn’t. However you go about it, let it soak for at least 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on the level of stains we’re dealing with.

Spot Clean Part II

Periodically, check your hat as it soaks. Look for any of those stains that you scrubbed earlier. If you’re still seeing spots, give them another quick scrub. Remember to be gentle and careful around the stitching.

black baseball cap in a sink with water running
Credit – I. Fortey

Rinse

After you’re confident you scrubbed all the spots clean and the hat has soaked for a suitable length of time, it’s time to rinse it down. Monitor your water temperature again. You want to use cool water, nothing too hot. Rinse out all the soap from the hat.

black baseball cap on a towel after cleaning
Credit – I. Fortey

Dry

Set your cap on the towel and pat it down to dry it off. Your temptation may be to try to wring the hat out, but that’s going to do more harm than good. It’s also going to bend your hat, especially the brim, right out of shape. If you want to keep it looking as close to brand new as possible, you have to be gentle with the drying process. The aim here is to keep it in the right shape.

black baseball cap after deep cleaning
Credit – I. Fortey

Helpful Tips About Drying

The shape of a cap makes it kind of difficult to air-dry under normal circumstances. You want air to get in, under, and around the hat. That’s why you needed the elevated drying platform. It could be something as simple as an upside-down cardboard box that you can set it on. Put your towel down and put the hat on top of it. You are trying to keep it in the right shape here, so you don’t want it to lie in a slump. Likewise, you don’t necessarily want to hang it to dry either. The weight of the water if you hang it will cause the material to stretch and it will dry misshapen.

What to Avoid When Washing Your Baseball Cap

There are two ways to wash a baseball cap: the right way and the wrong way. That could be said for anything. You wouldn’t throw a dry clean only suit into the laundry with a bleach load, would you? Of course not. So, you need to make sure you’re doing right by your trusty cap.

  • Don’t toss it in the wash: They do not build most hats to handle the rough treatment they’re going to get in your washing machine. They also can’t handle the high heat on the dryer. They may stand up to a few loads like this, but it’s going to break down the material over time.
  • Don’t toss it in the dishwasher: There are a lot of websites and message boards where you will see this tip. Yes, a dishwasher is going to be less aggressive than a washing machine for your baseball cap. However, the high heat combined with the harsh cleaning chemicals could be even worse than putting it in the wash.
  • Don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals: Treat your baseball cap like you would treat any other piece of clothing. That means don’t spritz it with any random kitchen cleaner. And don’t put bleach on it if you’re not prepared to bleach the color right out of it and ruin the material.
  • Watch out for wool: If you have a wool cap, then you need to adjust your approach. Find a detergent that is specifically designed for cleaning wool. It will be mild enough to get the job done without causing damage. You must be a little gentler when scrubbing and it’s best dried over something that is similar in shape to your head. If you can’t dry it on something head-shaped, you’re just going to have to reshape it afterwards by wearing it until it gets back the way you like it.

Knock It Out of the Park

black baseball cap after deep cleaning 2
Credit – I. Fortey

Washing a baseball cap takes patience and a gentle touch. If you care enough about it to want to go through the complete process of keeping it clean, you need to make sure you’re getting it done the right way. If you rush or get too aggressive, then your cap is going to be that much worse for the wear when you’re done. Take your time, do the job right, and your cap will look good as new.