Image courtesy Kati Sportcap & Bag

How to Properly Wash a Cap

Emily Potter is the content marketer for Outdoor Cap Company. She holds an M.A. in advertising and public relations from the University of Alabama and a B.B.A in marketing. is Outdoor Cap’s free web resource designed to spread the good news of the value of headwear as a promotional tool to distributors, decorators, and consumers.

Let’s be real, hats get gross and dirty pretty quick. There is a lot of conflicting information on the web about how to properly clean and wash a cap. This post is here to clear up the confusion so your customers don't contact you wondering why their hat is ruined after an improper wash. 

Do not under any circumstances put your hat in the dishwasher. Hats accumulate sweat, body oils, odors, and anything else you may associate with a smelly teenage boy. I'm guessing you don't want any of that near your dishes or other kitchen appliances. 

If that doesn’t bother you, the shrinkage of the cap will. Dishwashers use steaming hot water that is likely to shrink the fabric.

Before Washing a Hat


First things first, check the fabric care label for any washing instructions beyond this how-to guide. Follow those instructions first. There are three main types of fabrics newer hats are typically made of:

  • Cotton twill
  • Cotton/polyester blend
  • Polyester mesh

It is also important to know whether your visor is made of plastic or cardboard. All caps made from the late 80s on will be plastic. Cardboard visors lose their shape with washing and even mold if submerged in water.


Next, check your hat for colorfastness. Again, most newer hat owners won’t have to worry about this, but it never hurts to double check.

There are two ways do this: 

1. Rub the fabric vigorously and forcefully on a white sheet of paper. If no color transfers to the paper, you’re all set. 

2. Take a clean white rag, dip it in a mild detergent, add some water, and rub the rag on a colored area of the inside of the cap. If there is no fading once the cap is dry and no color bleeds onto the rag, you have the green light to move on to the washing stage.


For dirt and grime stains, spray the hat with a pre-treatment spray and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. For blood and grass stains, soak the hat in a mixture of cold water and liquid detergent for 30 minutes. You can use both methods, but the initial spray-and-sit step is essential.

If your hat is dirtier than average, use a clean toothbrush to gently scrub the stains with the cold water/detergent solution until it creates foam. Repeat the soaking process.

You can also deodorize and kill odor-causing bacteria by spraying the inner panels and sweatband with a 50/50 solution made up of rubbing alcohol and water.


You've made it to the easiest part. Toss your hat in the washing machine either by itself or with like colors and launder in cold water. Avoid washing it with a full load as not to crush it. You can use a hat form to ensure the hat holds its shape.

Washing a Hat


Never put your hat in the dryer. Air drying is the key to keep a proper fit. You can hang dry it, but it's best to place it on something like a coffee can or a balloon to help keep its form. 

Follow these steps for a risk-free and simple wash.