How To Get Sweat Stains Out Of Hats: 6 Tricks

Kellen Purles
Kellen Purles
Table of Contents

Remember that hat you always used to wear? You know, the one that fit perfectly? The one you always relied on? Maybe it’s the one tucked away on the top shelf or hiding under the bed riddled with sweat stains.

Wanna get rid of those unsightly sweat stains? Here are several ways to remove sweat stains from hats. Choose wisely, depending on what your hat is made of, certain methods will work better than others.

6 Ways to Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats:

1. Hand Washing

2. Dishwasher and Cap Cage (top rack)

3. Spot Treatment

4. Washing Machine

5. Dry Cleaning

6. Enzyme Treatment

Proceed with caution, using the wrong method could destroy your hat … along with any sweat stains. Before moving ahead with any of these hat cleaning methods, verify the following details:

Hat Material: You can usually find manufacturing and material information on the inside of your hat. If there isn’t a tag or it doesn’t specify what the hat is made of, check the manufacturers website for additional details.

Manufacturer Washing Instructions: Washing instructions can also be found on the inside of your hat. Again, if you can’t find any tags indicating washing or manufacturing information, check the manufacturers website.

Is the Hat Colorfast? Before you attempt to wash your hat, find out if it’s colorfast. Moisten a clean, white cloth in lukewarm water and rub it on a hidden part of the hat to see if the dye runs. If some of the colored dye transfers to the rag, don’t completely soak the hat in water as that will ruin it. If the hat’s color doesn’t transfer to the rag, it’s colorfast.

A few other tips to remember:

  • ALWAYS follow recommended washing instructions from manufacturer.
  • Don’t use bleach or detergents that contain bleach.
  • Don’t chuck your hat in the laundry with the rest of your dirty clothes. (trust us, it won’t end well.)
  • Don’t put your hat in the dryer… ever!
  • Don’t put your hat in the dishwasher with dirty dishes.
  • Don’t air dry your hat in direct sunlight.

1. Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats by Hand Washing

We’ll start here as hand washing is truly the best and safest method for removing sweat stains from your hats. Hand washing is particularly useful for hats made of cotton — like baseball caps and golf hats.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT use this method on hats or caps made of felt, leather, silk, wool or satin. For best results, make sure your hat is colorfast.

1. Fill a sink or bucket with warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of powdered or liquid laundry detergent. Be sure to use a bleach-free detergent to avoid fading. Stir mixture until detergent disolved fully into water.

2. Spot treat stains. Before putting your hat in the water/detergent mixture, pre-treat the sweat stains with a spray stain remover like OxiClean or Puracy Natural Stain Remover. If you’ve got some real stubborn stains, try using a soft toothbrush to spot clean.

3. Place the hat in the water and swish it around a few times. Let the hat soak for up to four hours while stirring ocassionaly.

4. Rinse with cool water. After the hat has soaked for several hours, remove from water and rinse with cool water. Rinse until all the soapy water is removed and the water runs clear. Lightly squeeze the hat to remove the excess water. Take care not to ruin its shape.

5. Let the hat air dry. Stuff the wet hat with a rolled-up hand towel and allow the hat to air dry. Drying time can take up to 24 hours or longer depending upon the ambient humidity. Do not air dry the hat in direct sunlight and do not put it in a clothes dryer unless you want it to be several sizes smaller.

2. Use Your Dishwasher to Get Sweat Stains out of Hats

As strange as it may seem, using a dishwasher to remove sweat stains from hats can work in some instances.

IMPORTANT: If the hat is made of cotton, jersey mesh, or a blend of polyester fabrics, the dishwasher method should work. If the hat’s brim is made of cardboard, DO NOT wash it in the dishwasher. Spot clean instead.

Follow these simple steps to get salty sweat stains out of hats using your dishwasher:

1. Use the top rack. It’s vital that you put the hat on the top rack to keep it away from the heating element in the bottom of the machine. Otherwise, you could shrink or warp your beloved cap beyond recognition. For the best possible outcome, use a “cap cage” or “baseball cap rack” to protect the hat’s shape. These can be purchased at many hat stores or from online shopping sites.

2. Use a non-bleach dishwashing detergent. Carefully read the ingredients of the dishwashing detergent you use as chlorine bleaches will permanently alter hat’s color. If sweat stains aren’t too serious, try washing without detergent.

3. Use a cold water washing cycle and deactivate the heated dry option. Use the gentlest cycle your machine offers. Wash the baseball cap or golf hat alone. You don’t want sweaty hat residue on your dishes or last nights lasangna on your hat.

4. Reshape and dry your hat. Once the wash cycle is done, remove the hat. Using your hands, gently reshape the hat and brim if needed. Place it on a towel to air dry. Using a fan will speed up the process. Wait to wear your clean hat until it’s completely dry.

3. Spot Treatment

IMPORTANTThis method works well for leather hats you don’t want to completely soak. Do not try this method on your felt hats, unless you love that greasy stain look.

Check for colorfastness.

1. Pretreat affected areas (if needed). If the sweat stains are particularly nasty, try applying a mild stain treatment. As always, make sure you’re not exposing your hat to a bleaching agent such as chlorine.

2. Mix up a mild cleaning solution. Use a small amount of mild detergent (bleach free) or shampoo and mix with cool water in a pail or container. Stir to mix completely.

3. Gently scrub the stain. Using a clean cloth, dip a corner in the cleaning solution you just mixed up. Gently rub it on the stain(s) until gone. Use unused portions of the cloth to wash individual sweat stains. Clean the hat’s sweatband in the same way. White vinegar can also be used to remove sweat stains. Apply 1 tablespoon of white vinegar onto each sweat stain and gently scrub until the stain is gone.

4. Rinse with cool water. After the sweat stains are removed, use a new cloth and cool water to wipe away the soapy cleaning solution. If the hat is made of cotton or other water-safe material, you can use a gentle stream of cool water to rinse. If your sweat-stained hat is made of leather, use a moist sponge to rinse the sweat stains.

5. Air dry your hat without added heat. Let your hat air dry. Don’t dry in direct sunlight and don’t use heating devices (hair dryer or clothes dryer).

4. Cleaning Hat Stains with Washing Machine

While not a recommended first option, a washing machine can be useful in removing sweat stains from some hats.

IMPORTANT: This method should only be used with colorfast ball caps, golf hats or knit hats made of cotton, twill or a washable polyester blend. Do not use the washing machine method if the brim or bill of the hat contains cardboard.

1. Pre-treat with stain remover. If the hat is badly sweat-stained, use a prewash stain removal product. You may want to place the hat in a garment bag if you’re going to wash it with other clothing.

2. Wash hat on gentle, cold cycle. Set the water temperature to cold (never use hot water). Add laundry detergent according to the maker’s instructions. Do not add any bleach and be sure the laundry detergent does not contain bleach (color-safe bleaches may be okay.)

3. Remove hat promptly and air dry. Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the hat and form it with your hands. Allow it to air dry completely. Do not place the hat in the dryer or use any means of heated drying.

5. Dry Cleaning Sweat-Stained Hats

Some sweat-stained hats can be damaged with water-based cleaning methods. Felt hats, top hats and fedoras, for example, do not take well to water.

It’s not recommended to dry clean top hats or fedoras. Hats made of felt, like cowboy hats, can be dry cleaned to remove salty sweat stains. They will likely need to be reblocked after cleaning to restore their shape. Be sure the dry cleaner you choose has experience dry cleaning hats.

If you have a dress hat that needs to have sweat stains removed, take it to a hatter, a haberdasher or a Western wear store. Specialized treatments will be needed to remove the sweat stains from dress hats.

While baseball caps and similar style caps can be dry cleaned to remove sweat stains, it’s often not worth the cost.

6. Enzyme Treatment for Hat Sweat Stains

1. Mix warm water with an enzyme-based cleaner like those used to clean pet urine. These can be found online or in retail stores. Fully dissolve the enzyme cleaner.

2. Soak. Soak your cotton or polyester blend hat in the mixture for 20 minutes. It may take an hour or two if the stain is stubborn.

3. Wash. Hand wash the hat or place in your washing machine as instructed above.

Sometimes you need a little more help, like if the stains are particularly stubborn or if the hat is white. Here are some tips to help in these cases.

How to get stubborn sweat stains out the hats

Some sweat stains are just plain stubborn and won’t come out with any of the methods we’ve covered so far. To get stubborn sweat stains out of hats, try the following method using baking soda.

1. Make a sweat stain removal paste. Put four tablespoons of baking soda in a small bowl or container. Mix in warm water and stir until all the baking soda is moist and a paste is formed.

2. Apply the paste to the stain. Dab some of the paste on the sweat-stained hat with a spoon. Using a clean soft bristle toothbrush, scrub the baking soda mixture into the stained area. Allow the paste to soak in for several minutes, up to an hour.

3. Rinse the baking soda paste away. Once the clock has ticked away 60 minutes, rinse the paste away with a stream of cool water. Rinse until all the baking soda has been removed.

4. Air dry the hat. Stuff a small clean towel into the hat to absorb excess moisture. Let the hat air dry completely. A fan or open window can shorten the drying time. Do not put the hat in a clothes dryer or in direct sunshine.

How to get sweat stains out of white hats

White hats stained with yellow sweat stains can be especially difficult to clean. But all is not lost. Using hydrogen peroxide you can salvage that pristine look. Be aware: Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful bleaching agent. Use cautiously.

1. Carefully drip a few drops of hydrogen peroxide onto the yellow stains on the brim of the hat.

2. Gently scrub the stain with a clean, soft bristle toothbrush.

3. Let the hydrogen peroxide soak each stain for about 10 minutes.

4. Using cool water rinse away the hydrogen peroxide and allow the hat to air dry.

5. If the hat is washable, you may want to wash it by hand or use one of the other methods described above. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on colored hats.

How to Prevent Sweat Stains in Hats

The best way to get rid of sweat stains in your hat is to avoid them altogether. That’s easier said than done. We all sweat and sweat even more when wearing a hat. But there are some things you can do to prevent sweat from ruining your favorite hats.

Tips to preventing sweat stains in your hats and caps:

Sweat Less

Sweating can occur for a number of reasons: heat, stress, anxiety, diet, physical activity, etc… If you can prevent or reduce the sweating in the first place, you can cut down on the sweat stains.
Pssst… here’s a few tips to prevent unwanted sweat.

Hat Saver Spray

This hat spray treatment repels sweat and oils from your head. Just spray on your hat and let it dry for 15 minutes. It can keep sweat stains away and keep your hats looking new.

Hat & Cap Liners

Hat liners go on the inside of your hat and create a barrier between your head and the hat. The liner prevents sweat stains by absorbing the sweat instead of your favorite hat.

Face/Forehead Antiperspirant

Prevent the sweat and you can prevent the sweat stain. If you suffer from profuse face or forehead sweating, you may want to try a facial antiperspirant to reduce sweating.

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