How to Wash a Hat

Confession of a fitness newbie: I didn’t know how to wash my hats.

Before I was active, I never used to wear hats at all. I thought that hats looked perfectly fine on other people, but on me, they looked dumb. Even when I lived in southern New Mexico, I opted against wearing a hat when I walked to school every day and summer daytime temperatures reached 115 degrees in the shade. (But it’s a dry heat!) That’s a hat hater.

My opinion about hats changed about six years ago, as I was training for a half marathon. Suddenly I wanted to wear hats at every training workout- specifically, my new favorite kind of hat- baseball-style caps. At first I was just randomly buying whatever hats I found on clearance at TJ Maxx or Ross. Now I have been wearing fitness hats long enough that I have my own preferred kind. I like baseball-style caps that are moisture-wicking with a nice moderately-rounded brim. I tend to stay away from cotton hats- because they get clammy after you sweat through the fabric. That’s gross. I also like a moderately-rounded brim to help block the sun. The brim can’t be overly-rounded, or it will bump against my sunglasses when I run. That’s annoying. My favorites now are Nike Dri-Fit Featherlight and Nike Dri-Fit Golf hats. The golf hats are cotton but they have some kind of moisture wicking effect to them.

So now I have this collection of hats. The hats that rank higher among the favorites have been starting to show their wear. To be honest, all of my favorite hats were getting pretty gross. I’ve been leaving big white patches and sweat stains on them. One hat that used to be white had turned almost completely yellow with sweat stains. My dirty hats were like a giant flashing sign on my head that screamed “FITNESS NEWB!” Here’s now much I didn’t know about hats. Back in the day, baseball hats used to be made with a cardboard brim. If you got the brim wet, the hat would be ruined. That’s why I was afraid to wash my hats. I’d rather have a dirty sweat stained hat broadcasting my ignorance than ruin one of my favorite running hats.

[WAIT just a second! Look what I just said: “my favorite running hats.” Hat+S = plural, as in more than one hat. “My favorite hats”- that’s a lot coming from a former hat hater. Every once in a while I say something like that, and I go WHOA. Things have changed, haven’t they??]

The internet is full of information about how to wash your hats. First off, I learned that any hat manufactured after 1983 has a plastic brim, and is safe to be washed at home. That’s where the agreement ends. Almost all of the information you can find on the web about washing hats is conflicting. Some people say you should only hand-wash your hats, soaking them in mild detergent and scrubbing with a toothbrush. Some people say Dry Clean Only. Other people say you should put them in the dishwasher- washing them on the top rack with regular dishwashing detergent. Really? I want to know who was the first person to try that. They must not have loved their hats very much. Yet still other people say you should wash them in the a regular washing machine with a plastic hat-form to help it keep its shape. Even the washing machine people are divided- some people say to only use a tumbler washer, since the old style agitator washers cause damage to the hats.

Damage? The hats? No, we can’t have that. [Methinks somebody has become overly-attached to her hats.]

I found a great video from Fans Edge that compared the various methods for washing hats. They took a sample of their own beloved hats and washed them by the different methods: hand wash, dishwasher, and washing machine- both tumbler and agitator. Then they compared the results.

After watching the video, I assessed the situation. I picked out 4 of the most offensive hats to wash. Two hats were light-colored, and two hats were dark. I thought that argued against trying the dishwasher, because I was worried the colors would bleed. I don’t have a hat form and I only have access to an agitator washer. After seeing what happened to the hat form in the agitator washed in the video, I didn’t even want to go there. I decided to go with hand washing. I filled the kitchen sink with warm water and some mild laundry detergent. I also used a pre-treater spray on the worst stains.

I thought it would be more difficult, but it wasn’t too hard to clean the hats. I was able to scrub them clean mostly with my hands, although I did use a toothbrush on one stubborn spot on the white hat. I rinsed them in cold water, taking extra care not to wring or twist them. I blotted them dry with a towel, then hung them on a drying rack to finish drying. Since I don’t have a hat form, I did occasionally go back and re-shape the caps while they were drying.

They are good as new. Even the disgustingly yellowed white hat looks white again.

What about you? Are you going to wash your hats? If you hate doing laundry, a little Outkast might help…

Now that I’ve revealed my fitness newb ignorance… are you ready to share your most embarrassing fitness question?

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