How to wash baseball cap without ruining it

If you wear a baseball cap often, chances are it looks and smells the part. A gentle cleaning every so often will remove dirt and sweat stains. Depending on how often you wear your cap, this could be weekly or a couple of times a year.

One general rule of thumb: Skip the washer and drying machine — both are not ideal for cleaning baseball caps. Likewise, you should avoid any products with bleach in them.

Here's everything you need to know.

How to clean a really dirty baseball cap

If your cap looks like it slid into home plate, you'll want to pretreat any dirt or sweat stains before soaking with a stain remover like OxiClean.

How to wash baseball cap without ruining it

Make a cleaning mixture and spot-test it on an inconspicuous area on the cap to make sure it won't cause any damage or discoloration.

Apply the mixture directly to the stains with a small brush and scrub gently in a circular motion. Then, soak the hat, checking after 15 minutes if the stains need further scrubbing. Remove the hat from the water, rinse it thoroughly, then reshape and air-dry in the same manner as above.

When to spot-clean a baseball cap instead

Some baseball caps aren't suited for soaking and should be dry-cleaned or gently spot-cleaned instead.

For example, vintage caps made prior to the 1980s often have a cardboard bill, which will become warped if it gets soaked. If you're not sure how long your hat's been around, simply tap on the brim. If it feels solid and doesn't bend easily, it's a plastic brim. If it bends easily, it's a cardboard brim.

Due to the form and shape of its crown, consider just spot-cleaning New Era's 59Fifty caps. You should also consider just spot-cleaning the wool, vintage-style caps from Ebbets Fields Flannels.

To spot-clean a baseball cap, use a small brush and some mild cleaning detergent and scrub gently, blotting any excess liquid immediately.

What about the dishwasher or washing machine?

Avoid cleaning your cap in the dishwasher or washing machine, as you run a very high risk of ruining the hat. While you can technically wash a hat in a dishwasher or washing machine, the safest bet is to hand-wash and air-dry.

Insider's takeaway

Generally speaking, you can make quick work of cleaning a baseball cap by soaking it in water with mild detergent and gently spot-cleaning where necessary. But some caps — particularly vintage-style caps, and hats made of wool, suede, or leather — are more suited for gentle spot-cleaning.

Barbara Bellesi ZitoBarbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance writer from Staten Island, NY. She covers trends in real estate and home improvement for a number of publications, including Apartment Therapy, The Motley Fool, and Angi/Home Advisor. Barbara also writes fiction, and her debut novel is forthcoming in 2022.Read moreRead less