How To Clean That Gross Baseball Cap
September 13, 2021
A baseball cap sits between you and the world. It protects you from dust and rain, and over the course of a long day, a baseball hat also soaks up sweat and sunscreen (you are wearing sunscreen, right?).
And though a broken and beaten-up cap can be a thing of character, you should still clean it. The good news is you can clean a baseball cap using stuff you probably already have at home.
What you need
An old soft toothbrush or a nail brush: This will come in handy for scrubbing out any stubborn stains.
Detergent with enzymatic cleaners, or dish soap: We like Tide Ultra Stain Release and Seventh Generation Dish Liquid, but whatever you have on hand is probably fine.
OxiClean for heavy stains: Detergent can’t tackle all stains. Have a more potent stain remover handy, in case you need to bring out the big guns.
A bucket or basin: Washing your hat in the sink is fine, but make sure to wipe it down first. You can also use a bucket or a storage tote.
Something round-ish to dry the cap on: A melon, a coffee tin, or a bunched-up towelwill all work well.
How long will this take to clean? Plan for 20 to 30 minutes, plus drying time.Give the baseball hat a rinse
Start by rinsing out your baseball cap a few times with clean water. A lot of what is caking up your hat is probably light surface gunk that will come right off with a good rinse.
If you’re using dish soap, lather up a small amount with water. If you’re using laundry detergent, dissolve a small amount in a container of water.
Apply your soapy mixture to the toothbrush or nail brush, and then scrub any obvious marks and stains. Use small, circular motions (like when you’re brushing your teeth) to really lift any deep-set dirt.
Fill a basin or sink with soapy water, using either detergent or dish soap. Hand-wash the hat by soaking the whole thing in the basin for around 10 minutes and then swishing it around a bit.
If your hat is particularly gnarly, you may need to replace the water (not that I would know from experience). Rinse the cap two to three times under running water, until the water running through it is clear. If you just let your hat flop on the ground to dry, it’s going to end up crumpled and odd-looking. Stuff the body of the hat with something so it dries in roughly the right shape—you can use a coffee can, a bundled-up towel, a melon, or just about anything. If you’re still seeing stains on your hat, go back with OxiClean.
Make a strong cleaning mixture of one scoop of powder dissolved in one pint of water. Then spot-test the mixture on an inconspicuous area on the cap, to make sure you won’t do any damage (OxiClean is especially not suited for use on wool). If everything looks fine, apply the mixture directly on the stubborn stains. Let it sit on the fabric for up to five minutes, and then rinse the hat thoroughly.
Do not clean your cap in the dishwasher or the washing machine, even though technically you can. (You can also cook salmon in the dishwasher, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.) At best, these are aggressive, harsh cleaning methods, beyond what a cap needs. At worst, you’ll end up with a wildly misshapen mess of a hat.
Some baseball caps aren’t suited for the type of cleaning we discuss here. Vintage (or vintage-style caps, like those from Ebbets Field Flannels) often have a soft brim, which may degrade when soaked and could dry in the wrong shape. For these types of hats, dry-cleaning is your best bet (or a very gentle spot-cleaning, blotting up any liquid).