guide to cleaning white hats

Definitive Guide to Cleaning White Hats

There’s something unique and special about a great looking white hat. From knit beanies to white panel hats, these striking hats always look sharp. That is until they get dirty, discolored, or stained. Ugh. 

Whether it’s a beanie, 5-panel hat, or a dad cap, keeping your white hat clean is tough. If your favorite white hat isn’t all that white anymore due to dirt, grime, sweat or food stains, we feel your pain! So how in the world are you supposed to clean white hats? 

Cleaning any hat requires careful attention and even more so if it’s white. White hats need extra care since dirt, spots, stains, and even slight damage can easily be seen. To help you avoid making cleaning mistakes, we’ve put together this definitive guide to cleaning white hats.

Read through the step-by-step informational guide below to determine what method is best for the type of hat you have. Once you have a good understanding of how to clean your white hat, it will come out as bright and fresh as the day you first started wearing it. 

Prior to Washing Your White Hat 

If you were to toss your white hat straight into the washing machine without thought, disaster could strike. White hats, just like white clothes, require some extra steps when cleaning. 

You may be surprised to learn that the washing machine is not the only option for washing white hats. Depending on the type of hat you have and what it’s made of, you may need to wash your hat by hand or just spot-clean it.

We’ve listed a few things below you need to know before you even think about getting out the laundry detergent.  Be sure to follow these instructions so your white hat comes out the way it should; as fresh and clean as newly-fallen snow. 

Read the Labels and Follow the Advice 

Your hat most likely has some small labels sewn inside. These labels are there to tell you what material your hat is made of and how to wash it. Find out what material you hat is made of and follow the washing instructions. If a label says not to use hot water, then don’t! Otherwise, your hat will shrink, making it worthless to you.

If you see a ‘dry-clean only’ label, the chances are your hat is made of wool or a wool blend. This means the material is not machine washable. You’ll need to take your hat to dry cleaners and let the pros do the work. However, if you see a ‘hand wash only’ label, you can use a wool cleaner like Woolite to clean your hat in the sink. 

Be Cautious Using Bleach 

If you don’t see a ‘no bleach’ label and your hat is made of cotton or a cotton blend, it’s most likely safe to use bleach. Just like a bit of bleach in the wash cycle with your white clothes can remove dinginess and brighten up things, to make your hat whiter and brighter. 

But before you dump a lot of bleach into your washing machine or sink, read the label on the bottle. Using too much bleach can wreak havoc on your hat. In fact, bleach is highly corrosive which means it can eat right through the material to ruin it. So read the label and use the bleach exactly as directed. Otherwise, skip the bleach altogether and rely on the power of your laundry detergent to get the job done. 

Don’t Wash Your Hat in the Dishwasher 

Contrary to what you may have read online, it’s not a good idea to wash hats in dishwashers. Dishwashers spray high-intensity jets of very hot water on dirty dishes to remove stuck-on food. A hat is not constructed to take such a beating. Instead of coming out nice and clean, your hat will come out discolored, misshapen, and a size or two smaller due to shrinkage. 

Dishwashers are designed for washing dishes and nothing more. So if you’re thinking of trying to wash your hat in your dishwasher, get that idea out of your head because it’s not a good one! Continue reading for safe and effective methods for cleaning white hats.  

Old-Fashioned Hand-Washing a White Hat 

The old school method of handwashing white hats is a good one. This method does require a bit of prep time and patience. However, it’s all worth it in the end. Your dirty white hat will come out remarkably clean and white if you hand wash your hat correctly. This method works best for white hats made of cotton, cotton blends, wool, and synthetic materials. 

What You’ll Need

  • 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent 
  • 1 cup peroxide 
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • A soft-bristled brush like a dish brush or toothbrush 

How to Hand Wash a White Hat

If your white hat is made of cotton, cotton blend, or synthetic material, fill your sink with warm (not hot) water. As the sink is filling with water, add the peroxide, laundry detergent, and baking soda. Then use a wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients into the water. 

If your white hat is made of wool, fill your sink half-way with cool or cold water. Then add one capful of Woolite or another detergent made for cleaning wool.

Now it’s time to put your hat into the water and submerge it. Move your hat around to be sure it gets fully saturated. Then leave it be for about one hour while the detergent works to remove dirt and grime. 

Once an hour has passed, use the brush to scrub away any stubborn stains caused by sweat or grime. Just work gently on those stains and be very careful. Don’t work against the nap of a wool hat to avoid snags. Once you’re satisfied your hat is thoroughly clean, rinse away the detergent with warm water for cotton and cool water for wool. 

Use a clean white towel to dab excess moisture from your newly washed hat. Then place your hat on a dry clean towel and allow it to air dry. Be sure the area you dry your hat in is well-ventilated. It’s fine to hang up a dad cap, baseball hat, or a 5-panel hat. It’s not OK to hang up a beanie cap because doing so will make it stretch out of shape. If your white hat is a beanie, place it on clothes drying rack and let it dry that way. 

Spot-Cleaning a White Hat that’s Not Terribly Dirty

It’s not always necessary to fully submerge a hat in water in order to get it clean. If your white hat is made of synthetic material or wool and has a strong shape like a 5-panel hat or a trilby, spot-cleaning is a great way to spiff it up. 

What You’ll Need 

  • 1 cup peroxide 
  • 1 tablespoon laundry detergent or Woolite 
  • ⅛ cup baking soda
  • One soft-bristled brushes
  • White washcloth 

To make the cleaning solution for hats made of cotton or synthetic material, add the peroxide, laundry detergent or Woolite, and the baking soda to one gallon of warm water.  To make the cleaning solution for wool hats, add one capful of Woolite to a gallon of cold water. 

How to Spot Clean a White Hat 

Place your brush into the cleaning solution to saturate the bristles. Then use a small scoop to place a dab of the cleaning solution onto the hat’s dirty or stained spots. Gently scrub the marks with the brush until the stains are removed.

Once you’re satisfied the stains or spots are removed, take your clean washcloth and get it damp in cool water. Use the washcloth to remove any remaining dirt and cleaning solution by dabbing your hat. Now all that’s left to do is air dry your hat in a well-ventilated area. 

Machine-Washing a White Hat 

It’s convenient to clean a white hat in the washing machine. However, you need to follow some basic guidelines to make sure your hat comes out clean and in great shape. Machine-washing is best for white panel hats and beanies made of cotton. Do not wash wool hats in the washing machine or wool blend hats! 

What You’ll Need 

  • Spray-on stain remover 
  • 2 tablespoons laundry detergent with whitening power 
  • Mesh laundry bag with drag-string or zip closure

How to Machine Wash a White Hat 

Take your spray-on spot remover and pre-treat your hat. Pay particular attention to the headband inside your hat, the crown area, and the underside of the brim. Once you’ve pre-treated the stains, place your hat inside the mesh laundry bag and close it securely. 

Set your washing machine on cold water and the gentle/delicate cycle. It’s best to add your hat to a small load of white clothes. This way, your hat will rub up against the clothing when the machine is agitating to help remove stubborn dirt and stains.

When the washing machine turns off, remove your hat and allow it to air dry. Hats put in clothes dryers can easily shrink, stretch, or become misshapen so don’t toss your damp hat in the dryer. Allow your hat to dry naturally by placing it on a dry, clean white towel in a well-ventilated area. 



Getting white hats fresh and clean isn’t impossible nor is it hard to do.  For the best results possible, find out what your hat is made of and read the labels sewn inside your white hat! Then follow our handy guide to clean white hats. 

Once you get your white hat fresh, clean, and dazzling white once again, take great care of it. If you give your hat some TLC, it won’t need cleaning so often. And by all means, if you see a spot or stain on your white hat, don’t ignore it! 

Whenever you notice dirt or a stain on your white hat, follow the spot-cleaning instructions above. This way, you’ll stay one step ahead! Eye-catching white hats are made to be enjoyed and admired from afar!

At Delusion MFG, our passion is hats. Whenever you need a new white hat, be it a beanie, dad cap, or panel hat, visit us! We’ve got a wide selection of hats and low, everyday prices! 

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