Everything You Need to Know About Hat Care

As a leading producer of hats, including safari, fedora, straw, cloth, and of course Panama hats (among others), we receive a lot of questions from Panama Jack customers about hat cleaning and care. The simple truth is, while our hats are designed with care and made to last, they still need a little TLC from time to time. Knowing how to properly care for yours can help to ensure that it’s a lasting part of your wardrobe for endless sun-filled adventures ahead. 

Here, we share the top dos and don’ts for hat care and cleaning, along with a few of our favorite tips and tricks to keep yours looking new, year after year. 

Hat Care: What Not to Do

First, let’s get a few basics out of the way—the don’ts! When it comes to caring for your hat, the following five actions may seem logical for cleaning most personal items, but they’re all things we do not recommend doing to our hats. 

  • Do Not Wash - the cycles on most washing machines (even for delicates) can be too much for the structure and fibers on most hats.
  • Do Not Tumble Dry - even worse than machine or hand washing, most drying cycles can spin too aggressively, and any heat at all could shrink the fibers and natural weaving. 
  • Do Not Bleach - even when attempting this for spot stain removal, this chemical can damage the natural fibers and leave a more permanent discoloration.
  • Do Not Iron - the high heat from an iron can wreak havoc on most natural hat fibers. 
  • Do Not Dry Clean - this one may seem surprising, since it’s often posed as the alternative to washing and drying at home—but dry cleaning chemicals can also harm the integrity and coloration of your hat. It’s best to avoid it together.

  • Hat Care: What to Do

    With so many everyday cleaning options off the table, you’re probably wondering what you can do to properly care for your hat. But you’re not in this alone! As part of our commitment to producing quality hats, we’re also here to help with all of your questions when it comes to cleaning yours. In fact, you can contact us any time and we’ll help you determine the best approach to caring for your hat, based on its specific materials and needs.

    Beyond having our personal support, here are a few of the best ways to care for your hat yourself. And note that while our various styles of hats are crafted from a range of different fibers and materials (from cotton and polyester to hand-woven toquilla straw), you can approach their care and cleaning in many of the same general ways outlined below. 

    First, check the label on the inside of your hat for specific care instructions. You’re likely to find a series of icons that can direct you as to where to begin, including the most common ones below.

    Cleaning the Crown

    Perspiration is a likely culprit for wear and tear on your hat, frequently leaving stains that are either white (from salt) or dark (from natural skin and hair oils) around the crown. These can usually be addressed by using a diluted mixture of dish soap and warm water. This is one of the gentlest and most effective cleaning solutions you can use to spot treat your hat. 

    Avoid submerging the hat in this (or any) solution, particularly if you’re cleaning one with a straw or cloth structured brim. Doing so can cause the material in the brim to warp and lose its shape. Instead, use a new or clean sponge to lightly dab (not rub) the stains, allowing the soapy mixture to gently lift the stains.

    Alternative method: some of our customers have reported that instead of using a dish soap mixture, they have successfully used a few spritzes of an air freshener such as Febreze, along with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove both odors and stains from their hats!

    Cleaning the Inner Band

    For stains on the inner sweatband, these same methods outlined above can be quite effective. Start with the diluted dish soap solution, gently dabbing any stains, and then try the alternative approach next if you want to address any odors more assertively. In either case, take care to avoid soaking or oversaturating the inner band with liquid. 

    Drying the Spot-Cleaned Hat

    Once you’ve spot treated any stains, dry your hat immediately with a clean paper towel or cloth, working to absorb all of the excess water from the hat. Spot cleaning may need to be repeated several times depending on the nature and severity of the staining. 

    To help prevent future staining from the cleaning solution itself, wipe off all of the excess moisture from your hat. If it’s very wet from your spot treatment, turn it upside down and fold out the sweatband to allow the moisture inside to more quickly evaporate into the air. 

    Once clean and patted dry, we recommend leaving your hat to air dry. Resist the temptation to tumble dry or blow dry your hat in an effort to speed the process along, and allow it to dry naturally at its own pace instead. 

    Note that spot cleaning will not shrink a hat, provided that the hat is not totally saturated with water. However, any aggressive cleaning—such as using a washing machine or even just fully submerging the hat during a hand wash—could ruin the shape and integrity of the hat. And the use of harsh soaps and cleaning agents could cause permanent staining. Try to use any liquids sparingly as you spot clean your hat where it’s needed. 

    Tips and Tricks

    One of the best ways to keep your hat clean and looking good as new? Proper hat storage in between wears! 

    • Whenever you’re not using your hat, try to keep it in a cool, dry place where it won’t be exposed to the elements, particularly direct sunlight or water. 
    • Our hats were born for those long, blissful days at the beach or out on the open water boating and fishing—but long-term exposure to all that salt water can ultimately lead to corrosion of any metal pieces that may be on your hat. Spot cleaning and then storing them away properly can help minimize that overall exposure. 
    • Some hats, like buckets and boonies, are built to be flattened or crammed into tight spaces for storage. But others are not, and doing so could result in your hat losing its shape. When in doubt, give your hat proper room to “breathe” and hold its structure. 
    • In all cases, try to avoid stacking heavy objects or other pieces of clothing on top of your hat, unless it’s stored within a sturdy box that can hold the weight off of the hat itself. Pro Tip: One space-efficient way to store your hat is to mount a hook on unused wall space and hang it. Not only will it be safe from potential damage, but it may be just the accent piece you didn’t know you were looking for.
    • Traveling on a plane but want to bring that favorite structured hat along for the beach and beyond? Often, your best bet is to wear it, rather than try to cram it into your luggage. Should you need to lean your head back and relax at 35,000 feet, you can always remove the hat and rest it on your lap, or search for any unused overhead bin space—as long as it’s far away from any heavier object that could crush the hat. 
    • When you’re out and about, try to always set your hat down on a dry, protected surface whenever you take it off. At the beach in particular, set your hat on a towel or tuck it gently (and loosely) inside a beach bag when you want to take a swim. This will help keep it sand-free and minimize any additional cleaning needed once you return home.

    Have any other favorite hat care tips of your own? Let us know, or share them with other Panama Jack fans directly on our Facebook page. We want to hear from you!