How to Clean a Cotton Baseball Cap

Baseball caps can be a godsend, especially during the sticky summer months, or when they come to save the day during those inevitable bad hair moments. However, with each and every wear, you're exposing your cotton cap to a potential multitude of stains and damage.

So, what are the best ways to clean a cotton baseball cap? The best methods are:
Hand Washing
Spot Treatment
Machine Washing
Enzyme Treatment

It's our time to save the day. In this article, we'll tell you how to clean your cotton baseball caps in the best way possible.

Ground Rules

Just before we begin, though, let's lay down a few ground rules. It's important you stick to these, otherwise your hat will face the consequences:

1. When selecting your products in the battle against those stains, avoid anything containing bleach.

This includes both during pretreatment and the laundering of your cap. If you do, the bleach will cause unnecessary fading, ruining the bright colors of your hat and making it...not so bright. So, if you don't want your accessory to be short-lived, it's best you abide by this rule.

2. Leave the dishwasher alone. We're warning you.

At some point in time, a case of gossip and myth-telling led to people using dishwashers - yes, dishwashers - to clean their caps. This, however, is quite possibly the worst thing you could do. The temperature is just too hot. It'll deform your hat and render it unwearable. The hot water will cause shrinkages, and let's be honest, it's not the most hygienic thing in the world.


Color Fastness

The most important thing to do, however, is to source the material information of your cap. Check its tag or look up the manufacturer's website. You need to find out if the cap is colorfast - this means the cotton dye won't transfer when it's in contact with water.

Using some lukewarm water, dampen a clean white cloth and rub carefully on a hidden part of the hat. If the dye runs, do not completely soak your cap in the water, as this will obviously damage it.     If your hat is twenty years old, there's a high possibility it won't be colorfast. Sorry to disappoint you. Caps back then were made with different, less durable materials, both in their visor (commonly called the “bill” or “peak”) and crown. The visors used to be made from cardboard, and soaking one of these in water will spoil it. Today, most cotton caps are dyed in a way that (largely) prevents color fading upon washing, but make sure to conduct the colorfast test before.

Now that's cleared up, we can get stuck in.


Magic Away those Mud Stains

Whether you've just run a cross-country race, or had a rather unfortunate fall in a muddy field, (these things happen, funnily enough), getting rid of mud stains is not as hard as it sounds. The key thing to remember when cleaning your cap is to let the mud dry before treatment. This way, you'll be able to brush the majority off. The staining underneath will still need attention, but luckily for you, nothing complicated is required. A standard pretreatment spray, some liquid laundry detergent or even just some dish soap will do the trick.

For small mud stains, apply your pretreatment and work it into the fabric using some water and a soft bristle toothbrush. Some hand washing afterwards will get rid of the residue from the pre-treatment. If you don't do this step, it'll set in and be difficult to get rid of.

For those pesky large stains, soak your cap in a solution of diluted laundry detergent and warm water. You'll need to leave it to soak for around an hour, and once the timer's up, rinse it out with a cool stream of water.

Before drying your hat, make sure it'll reshape properly. Ball up a hand towel and place it inside the cap. Then, set it near a window or an area with natural warmth.


Get Rid of Grass Stains

Grass stains can appear to be tricky to rid, but they don't have to be. Grass stains are composed of a combination of protein and dye. Because of this protein component, you'll need an enzymatic stain remover. Spray your item liberally with the remover and proceed to hand wash. If the stain is still lingering, simply repeat the process.


Stubborn Sweat Stains

It's the moment you've all been waiting for. The sweat stains. You may not have run a long distance, or through a grassy field like the examples above, but sweating is something all of our bodies do, whether we like it or not. And, if you're putting a cap on your head, it's the first thing you should expect to encounter.

You need to be careful when attempting to remove sweat stains, as the wrong method could permanently damage your hat. Here we will go through some of the best methods for tackling them.

1. Hand Washing

It's the simplest method around, dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, but it's arguably the most effective. Fill a bucket or sink with some warm water and add a tablespoon of your chosen laundry detergent. Stir until it's dissolved, and move onto the pretreatment. Focus the pretreatment on areas around the sweatband of the cap. You can follow the toothbrush trick mentioned above to work the detergent into the sweatband, but be careful of any stitching when scrubbing with your toothbrush. Then, soak and swish. Rinse with cool water and lightly squeeze to remove any excess water - this will make the drying time a little quicker.

The average drying time would be twenty-four hours, depending on the surrounding humidity. Remember, though, being impatient and shoving your cap in a clothing dryer will cause it to shrink. You can place it on some sort of container, such as a balled-up towel or a coffee jar should you have one. Use whatever you can that will support the natural shape of the hat.

2. Spot Treatment

This is a really useful trick: For really stubborn sweat stains, grab one tablespoon of white vinegar and rub it into the fabric using a hot, clean cloth. Put the area under a gentle stream of cool water and proceed to air dry.

Another natural method to blitz those blighters is by using baking soda. Make your own paste by adding four tablespoons of baking soda to warm water. Apply the paste to your stain and dab with a spoon. Then, using a clean soft bristle toothbrush, scrub it in, allowing it to soak for a maximum of an hour. Repeat the usual aftercare steps, rinsing with cool water, and allowing the cap to dry in-shape.

3. Washing Machine

We've already warned you about the danger of the dishwasher, but we'll let you use your washing machine...for now. This may have to be the last resort if you're running low on time, (or effort, let's be truthful!) Remember that any form of washing with heat has the ability to ruin your hat, so be careful. It can damage the visor, alter the shape or even shrink the whole cap. If your cotton cap has a sticker, cover it with plastic wrapping. And, if you're concerned about color preservation, read the tips mentioned above about color fastness.

After pretreatment, we'd recommend you place your hat in a garment bag if you're washing it with other clothing. Additionally, cap shapers can be bought that'll keep your hat in shape as their name suggests. Wash on a gentle cold cycle, and air dry after you've finished. DO NOT use a washing machine that has a central agitating column, as it will likely damage the cap.

4. Enzyme Treatment

It sounds complicated and like you're back in chemistry class, but this is easy to do. Mix your enzyme-based cleaner with warm water and let it fully dissolve. Luckily for you, these removers are easily sourced online or in retail stores. Soaking should only take twenty minutes, but allow more time if your stain is proving stubborn.


As with everything, prevention is better than cure. Although easier said than done, there are certain measures you can take to reduce the number of sweat stains covering your hat.

Heat, stress and anxiety levels, diet and exercise levels all affect the amount of sweat we produce. We can't, of course, stop sweating - that'd be unhealthy. But if you know you're going to be sweating buckets on a particular day, perhaps avoid wearing your favourite cap.

Between cleanings, keep your cap fresh by sprinkling a little baking soda inside. Then, shake out. It's that simple.



Overall, getting rid of stains is vital if you want your cotton baseball cap to stay in good shape. Many of the methods listed above are extremely effective when conducted in the right manner. Although they require more effort and attention than just a simple chuck-in-and-wash, you'll certainly enjoy the benefits at the end.