How to Clean a Wool Hat: a Complete Guide

How do you clean a wool hat? It's a tough question with a number of answers, some good and some not so good. Fortunately, we got you covered. When it comes to cleaning such a durable yet delicate fabric as wool, there are a few things to consider.

First, it's important to handle the hat properly. If you have a wool felt fedora, don't grab it by the crown — handle it by the front and back of the brim to avoid ruining the shape of the crown. If you have a flat cap, grasp it by the peak.

Secondly, keep your hands and fingers free of dirt and grease when handling the hat. No need to add to the grime, right? Plus, it preserves the hat longer.

Finally, whether hand washing or not, be as gentle as possible since a wool hat (especially one with decorative embellishments) can be easily ruined by aggressive or abrasive cleaning.

Of course, you could simply take it to the dry cleaners and call it a day. Serious grease stains are hard to remove and are best handled by a professional.

However, if you're ready to take up the task and go the DIY route, here are the best ways to clean a wool hat.

Hand Wash Your Wool Hat With Ease

  • Fill a bowl with cold water — never hot water as that will very likely ruin the hat.
  • Add a small amount of mild, non-bleach laundry detergent (about a teaspoon) such as Woolite until it's dissolved.
  • Before you dunk the entire hat in the cool water, spot test it first by soaking a small, unnoticeable part of it for a few minutes. If the color doesn't bleed or the fabric doesn't seem damaged in any way, you're good to go.
  • Gently brush away any stains with a soft-bristled brush such as a toothbrush or felt hat brush and allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before hand washing.  
  • Once that's done, submerge the entire hat in the bowl. Typically, a 30-minute soak is enough, but feel free to soak it for a few hours if needed. Just be sure to check on it every hour or so.
  • Remove the hat from the soapy water and rinse in cold water to remove any leftover detergent. Gently squeeze to remove excess water.  
  • Place the hat on a clean towel and pat it down. Never wring or twist your hat, as it will ruin the shape.
  • Air dry the hat in a clean spot away from direct sunlight.

How to Machine Wash a Wool Hat (Not Recommended)

  • Set the washing machine to the gentle cycle. Anything stronger could destroy the wool fibers and ruin the hat.
  • Use cold water — using hot water to wash a wool felt hat might cause the color to run.
  • Put the hat inside a garment bag before placing in the washer to protect it from the machine's agitation.
  • Wash the hat with clothing in a similar color to avoid unwanted dyeing.
  • Use a mild detergent such as Woolite that is specifically made for delicate fabrics such as silk and wool.
  • Once the wash cycle is complete, gently soak up any excess water with a clean towel.
  • Place the hat on a flat surface away from direct sunlight and allow to air dry.

Dry Cleaning (Without Going to the Dry Cleaners)

  • Use a soft brush such as an unused soft-bristled toothbrush or a hat brush specially designed for felt hats.
  • Start on one side of the hat and work your way around with short, gentle counter-clockwise strokes along the direction of the fabrics nap to maintain the material's integrity while removing dust, dirt, and lint.
  • For any noticeably stained area of the hat, you can carefully dab it and spot clean with a slightly damp cloth or sponge (such as a makeup sponge). Make sure the cloth is not too wet or made of a furry fabric that will end up transferring lint rather than removing it.
  • To absorb and remove oily stains caused by hair products, makeup, lotions, or body oils, sprinkle the stained area with cornstarch and leave for at least a couple of hours before brushing away.
  • Repeat any or all of these steps as necessary.
  • To finish the process, use a piece of masking tape or a lint roller to remove any lint that might linger after brushing.


Helpful Tips to Keep a Clean Wool Hat

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

To help prevent sweat stains on the brim or crown of your hat, place paper towels or napkins inside the sweatband. Change them out from time to time, especially in the summer months or after heavy use when perspiration is high.

Saddle Up and Play It Smooth

Most sweatbands are made of leather. If the band becomes rigid, clean with a small amount of saddle soap and then use a leather conditioner to keep it supple. Take extra care that the conditioner doesn't touch the felt, which will (surprise!) leave a stain.

Speaking of sweat, if this is a regular occurrence when wearing your hat, it's good idea to turn the hat band outward and allow the hat to dry completely after each use. If stains form on the felt, dip a white cloth into an equal mix of distilled white vinegar and lukewarm water and gently dab or rub in the direction of the nap. Allow to air dry.


How to Store Your Wool Hat Once It's Clean

When not wearing your hat, the best way to store it is in a hat box or on a clean surface in a cool, dry area with the crown down and stuffed with tissue. If a hat rack is your only option, choose one with a wide, flat hook shape that will not compromise the shape of the hat's crown.

When storage space is an issue, you can stack hats with similarly-shaped crowns as long as they are not squished in any way.