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Can You Wash a Hat in the Washing Machine? 4 Expert Tips

man using washing machine

Whether it’s a baseball cap or wool knit, a hat can come in for a lot of use and abuse. It gets rained on, collects oil and grease from the head and hair, and if it has sat in a wardrobe or under the stairs for several months, it can get dusty and even a little damp. As such, it can be tempting to throw the hat in a washing machine to clean it, while some even put their hats in the dishwasher to get them clean.

While hats can be made from a variety of materials, in most cases, putting them in the washing machine or the dishwasher carries risks of shrinking the headwear or causing the color to fade. In some cases, it can lead to the hat becoming misshapen and may irreparably tear and damage the material. However, it is possible to wash some hats in the dishwasher if you follow the correct care instructions, use the right settings, and treat the hat properly once it is out of the machine.

Read on for more details on different hat types and to find out whether they can be machine-washed or what other methods are best employed.

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Hat Types

Straw hat on the back of chair
Image By: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Whether or not a hat can be machine washed is generally determined by its material. Some materials should never be machine-washed. If your hat has no care label, follow these general guidelines.

Straw Hats

Straw hats should never be washed in a machine. The structure and the straw itself will break down and you’ll be left with a pile of straw. It is the action of the washing cycle, as well as the volume of water, that causes the damage, so the choice of temperature and other settings will not diminish the damage.


Beanies can be made from any of several materials but are most often made from cotton. Pure cotton is a natural material that withstands water and the washing cycle, well. As such, pure cotton hats can do well in a washing machine but you should consider putting them on at a lower temperature and expect a little shrinkage. You may also want to ensure that the beanie is shaped after removing it from the washing machine and allowed to dry.

Baseball cap on the table
Image Credit: stux, Pixabay

Baseball Caps

Baseball caps usually have a hardened beak at the front and putting the hat in a washing machine will likely destroy the hard structure of the beak. This is especially true of older, traditional baseball hats because the beak is made of cardboard and this will break down during washing. Modern hats can use plastic or other materials. If the label says it can be machine washed, you should be able to do so without the risk of it becoming damaged.

Wool Hats

Wool is another natural material that will not become badly damaged or shrink in the washing machine, but it can lose its shape. Put your wool hat in a net bag or a pillowcase, and once it’s washed, dry it on something with the same shape as the hat as this will hold the hat shape.

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The 4 Tips for Machine Washing Hats

Even if a hat says it can be machine washed, the following tips can help retain the shape and integrity of the item being washed:

1. Wash With Similarly Colored Items

woman using washing machine
Image By: Evgeny Atamanenko, Shutterstock

Don’t be tempted to try washing a hat on its own. It will be thrown around the drum of the washer so it has a greater chance of becoming badly damaged. Put the hat in with a decent-sized load that contains clothes and items of a similar color. This will help reduce damage and should prevent colors from running.

2. Use a Laundry Bag or Pillowcase

The washing machine drum spins a thousand times or more per minute, and a delicate hat getting thrown around in the drum can become damaged. As well as putting the hat in with other items of clothing, you can also put the hat in a laundry bag or a pillowcase. Ensure the case is closed as this will prevent the hat from escaping and becoming damaged.

3. Use Cold Or Cool Water

Person pouring liquid in the washing machine
Image By: RODNAE Productions, Pexels

Hot water is more likely to cause shrinkage, and because most hats are quite tight-fitting, more than a tiny amount of shrinkage can cause the hat to become unwearable. Hot water also damages graphics and any design on the hat.

4. Air Dry

Machine drying a hat can be as damaging, if not more so, than machine washing. Allow the hat to dry naturally. Don’t use a hairdryer. You can put it on a plastic rounded stand. This ensures that the hat retains its form-fitting shape.

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Hats are convenient, easy to grab, and can protect against any type of weather. But they can also get dirty, just like any type of clothing. While some can be machine-washed, others demand dry cleaning.

Spot cleaning is one way of keeping a hat generally clean, but if you find that spot cleaning isn’t enough, check the care label to determine the best way to maintain your hat. If you do wash yours in a machine, don’t put it in an empty machine, consider placing it in a laundry bag or pillowcase, and don’t dry it in a tumble dryer.

Featured Image Credit: Elnur, Shutterstock


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