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Some ball caps are made to be washed – others, not

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Monday, August 19, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Working in the yard, running, playing softball – summertime activities can turn you into a sweaty, dirty mess. Not only you, but your baseball cap as well.

So how do we clean it?

Some caps are made to be washed; other cheap versions are hardly worth the bother. Before you decide, eyeball your hat.

“A cap almost has to be constructed in a way that’s conducive to washing,” said Patrick Qualls, one of the owners of AmeriCap, a North Carolina hat manufacturer.

He said to look at the hat, check the material, examine how it is stitched, and look at the headband and the brim. If it’s well made – good-quality material, sturdy stitching, a plastic brim (and most caps made in the last 10 years fit that description) – it will be obvious and you can begin cleaning. If it’s a cheap hat with flimsy stitching and a cardboard visor, a good cleaning may spell its doom.

Here’s some advice from Qualls and assorted online sources, including the eBay buying guide, WikiHow and Quality Logo Products.

Materials: “Cotton you can wash,” Qualls said. “Polyester, twill, any of them can be washed.” AmeriCap uses a pre-shrunk twill, similar to what is used in khaki pants, he said. A hat may shrink a little when washed but not a significant amount. For wool hats, extra care is needed.

Look for a tag: Check for a manufacturer’s tag sewn into the hat, giving washing instructions. If you find one, we are done here. Happy laundering. But if there is no tag: If the hat is stained, use a prewash. Then toss the cap in the washer and wash gently in cold water. No bleach.

Or wash the hat by hand. Cool-to-warm water in the sink, mild detergent, gentle rubbing with a clean washcloth should do it. Rinse in cool water. If it’s a wool hat, hand-wash in cool water and a detergent specifically for wool. Wool can be temperamental, so wash gently and press with a towel to remove leftover water.

Drying: Never put your hat in the dryer unless you plan to give it to your tiny-craniumed nephew. Let the hat air dry. Place it on some kind of form – a coffee can, a canister, your head – to help it hold its shape as it dries.

Dry clean? Sure you can. But why not save money by doing it on your own?

What about the dishwasher?

Some people subscribe to the idea of using a dishwasher to launder a cap.

Whirlpool, which knows about optimal use of kitchen appliances, advises against the practice.

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