Stop Washing Your Baseball Cap in the Washing Machine (and Do This Instead)

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Whether you wear a baseball cap on the daily, to cover up an exquisitely bad hair day or lack of recent shower, or to shield yourself from the sun while you bake at children’s outdoor sporting events, chances are that cap is not looking its best. If you’re like me, occasionally, when you remember, you toss it in your washing machine with all the other laundry. But this is not the best way to ensure your beloved cap from college or that once-in-a-lifetime family trip keeps its shape. Here’s how to wash it the right way.

How to clean a mildly dirty baseball cap

If your cap just needs a quick cleanse, the best way to freshen it up is gently, by hand. You’ll want to fill a clean sink or bucket with cool water and a few drops of (bleach-free) mild detergent. While we all know the best way to get suds is to drop the detergent in first, if you forget, agitate the water by hand to create bubbles. Let your hat soak for 5-10 minutes.

When it’s done, rinse the cap with cold water. Roll a clean towel around everything but the brim to gently squeeze out excess water. Hang to dry, or, to better preserve the shape, stuff the cap with a small towel, bowl, or ball and let air dry. Avoid putting it in the dryer.

How to deep-clean a cap

If you wore a cap during a Tough Mudder race, or it’s suffering with a heavy buildup of sunscreen, sand, sweat, or other indeterminate funk, it will need a deeper clean. (You may want gloves for this one.)

Start as above, with a clean basin or bucket of cool water, but this time add a color-safe oxygen bleach such as OxiClean (or save a few dollars and make your own with 2 parts water, 1 part hydrogen peroxide, and 1 part washing soda—which is not the same things as baking soda.)

Let the cap soak in the cleaning solution and water for about one hour. During this time, you can target specific stains by applying the OxiClean and scrubbing with a toothbrush. (Personally, I’d also use the toothbrush to scrub the filthiest part of the hat, the interior of the bill that spends all its time soaking up the juices, lotions, and dirt from your forehead.)

Once the cap’s been cleaned, rinse with cold water and dry as outlined above. Note: These instructions don’t apply to vintage caps with cardboard bills. For those, spot clean with stain-remover or mild laundry detergent but avoid submerging the bill.

Can you clean a baseball cap in the dishwasher?

While you could throw it in the dishwasher for convenience, it’s not the best method for preserving your cap’s shape and color over time. If you do go this route once in a while, be sure to use cold water, the gentle cycle, and a dish detergent that doesn’t contain bleach, and place it on the top rack only.


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