How to Get Sweat Stains Out of a Hat

Whether you have a baseball hat or a straw hat, knowing how to get sweat stains out of a hat is essential. There are three basic ways to do this: hand wash, baking soda-vinegar spot cleaning or washing machine. The one that’s the best way will depend on how bad the stains are and the material of the hat.

If you have a favorite hat and wear it all the time, you’ll soon come to find that a buildup of sweat develops around the inner rim. Not only will this be unsightly, complete with salt and water stains, but it will also be a hazard to your skin. You have to keep it clean or you could develop hair loss, zits, boils and other nasty little skin infections.

Quick Overview

  1. Note the Hat’s Material (you can’t wash everything at home)
  2. Hand Washing Method (with soap, water and an old toothbrush)
  3. Baking Soda ; Vinegar (used for stain treatment and as a whole method)
  4. Washing Machine (quickest method)

Before You Begin . . .

Inspect your hat and find out what the material is. There should be a label on the inside rim. If you have any doubts and concerns over washing it yourself, take your hat to a professional dry cleaner. You can clean almost any hat with the steps below except leather. If any part is leather, use a leather cleaner or take it to a dry cleaner.

Using a Dishwasher

If you poke around online, everyone seems to share the same tips. One of these is putting your hat in the dishwasher. You can do this as an option, but it’s not advisable. First, laundry soap isn’t a good idea for a dishwasher and second, even if you use non-bleach detergent, it’s not particularly skin safe.

What’s more, fabrics tend to capture and trap undissolved particles more than dishes made of glass or ceramic. For instance, let’s say you use a powdered dish detergent. Those particles will embed within the fibers of the hat. So, when you put the hat on and sweat, it will dissolve the particles and enter into your pores.

Hand Wash

Hand washing is usually a good old-fashioned standby. You can observe how you scrub and pay attention to any damage that might occur such as color fading or loose threads. This method is good for any kind of hat that doesn’t comprise natural materials such as straw, cardboard or wood.

Items You’ll Need

  • Sink or Tub
  • Mild Dish Soap or Hand Wash Detergent
  • Old Toothbrush


  1. Put about one tablespoon of soap in your sink or tub and fill it up with warmish hot water.
  2. Depending on how bad the sweat stains are, you can put it in to soak for an hour or you can use the old toothbrush and use it to spot treat the stained area. Scrub in a gentle counterclockwise direction.
  3. If you let it soak, take it out of the water and let most of it drip off. Inspect for any visual signs of the stains and scrub in gentle counterclockwise motions with the toothbrush.
  4. Dunk the hat into the soapy water again and then thoroughly rinse it off well until no more bubbles go down the drain. First rinse with warm water and then with cold water (this will help any elastic or stretchy parts go back to its original form).
  5. You can then dry the hat by hanging it up where there’s good ventilation or allowing it to sit in direct sunlight. Don’t use the dryer, it can damage and shrink the hat.

Baking Soda & Vinegar Spot Cleaning

Another trusty standby is using plain baking soda and white vinegar. You can use this handy recipe as a stain remover prior to hand or machine washing or as a full cleaning method. This is ideal for straw hats and others made of natural materials because you don’t need much water or cleaners.

Items You’ll Need

  • Cleaning Gloves
  • Old Toothbrush
  • ½ Cup Baking Soda
  • ¼ to ¾ Cup White Vinegar (the amount will depend on several factors)
  • Warm Water
  • Lemon Juice or Essential Oil (to mask the smell of the vinegar – optional)


  1. Put on the cleaning gloves.
  2. Mix the baking soda together with the white vinegar. If you want to use this as a stain remover, use less vinegar to make a thick paste. When this will be the whole cleaning method, use more vinegar plus add warm water in a sink or tub to make a bath. Add lemon scent, if using.
  3. For stain treatment, take a bit of the paste with the toothbrush and dab it onto the stained areas. Allow this to sit for a few hours or until it becomes crusty and dry enough to flake off.
  4. As a full method, dip the hat (do not soak for natural materials) in the mixture and shake it around with your gloved hands. Remove the hat from the mixture and rub the areas where the stains are worst with your fingers in gentle circular motions. You may have to do this several times, especially for natural-material hats.
  5. Whether removing stains or using as the full method, use a clean and damp sponge to wipe off the areas where you worked in the baking soda and vinegar mixture.
  6. Then continue with your next cleaning phase if you used it as a stain remover or simply let the hat air dry in a well-ventilated area.

Washing Machine

As long as your hat isn’t made of cardboard, straw or some other weaker non-clothing like material, it may be better just to use a washing machine. It’s quick, easy and you don’t have to pay too much attention. This is best for busy people who don’t have time to nitpick at stains.

Items You’ll Need

  • Delicate Wash Laundry Detergent (not regular laundry detergent)
  • Non-Abrasive Stain Remover or Baking Soda-Vinegar Mixture
  • Washing Machine with a Delicate or Hand Wash Setting


  1. Pre-treat the sweat stains on your hat. If they are really bad, allow the stain remover to sit on the hat for 12 to 24 hours before you wash it. Rub the product into the stain if you think it will help. Spray a little more just before you put it into the washer.
  2. Add the correct amount of delicate laundry soap according to machine instructions and put the hat inside.
  3. Turn the machine on to the Delicate or Hand Wash Cycle with cold water. If you have a machine with bells and whistles, refine the settings to stain care, gentle cycle and etc.
  4. Once finished, allow it to air dry or put it in direct sunlight. Do not use the dryer, it will not only distort the fabric but it will also shrink it.


It’s fairly simple to remove sweat stains from almost any hat. As long as you stay on top of its cleanliness and take care of filth when you see it, it will stay in good condition for many years to come. Remember, if you’re unsure about the material or if it comprises leather, use specific leather-cleaning products or take the hat to a dry cleaner.

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