Thursday, June 06, 2013

Washing Baseball Caps - My Washing Experience

Back in high school and part of college, I wore baseball caps religiously like some sort of bold fashion statement. Indoors, outdoors, I had a hat on and would never take it off. If only my genetics were on display in the open, this would likely have been avoided -- I is baldy. Those first two decades of thick luscious hair would have been enjoyed.

Unfortunately, my return to displaying my thick head of hair was too late. The ditching of the baseball cap in the middle of college turned out to be the final encore. Within a year or two, it became apparent that the top of my scalp was on its way out. Long story short, I returned to wearing hats, but not because of shame or uneasiness, just for protection from the sun. Not until one exposes their bare and relatively flat scalp to the open summer sky does one start going paranoid about skin cancer -- well, it was actually the huge tan I got my first summer "out".

The important takeaway from this elaborate story is that hats will be a major part of my life. I live in servitude to the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of my collection of scalp coverings. At about $20 to $40 a pop, baseball caps are not exactly cheap. There are obviously cheaper options in the hat market, but still. Or maybe you just want to keep one of your favorite hats in good working order.

Hat Materials

Cotton is a pretty common material for garments, and the same is true for baseball caps it seems. Wool is another big one. There's also polyester and probably other ones I can't think of right now. I have dealt with all three materials.

Washing Hats

Cotton and wool (100% each, not blends) both seemed to stain, soak up sweat, and smell the worst after wearing them long enough in my experience. I have NEVER succeeded in washing them and coming out with the hat I started with. If I recall correctly, the instructions for baseball caps usually say that one should only wipe the hat down with soapy water.  I don't think submerging and washing it like a shirt is usually recommended. However, I don't like the idea of not rinsing soap out thoroughly, so I do the regular washing and fail almost every time.

New Era has instructions for non-washable caps and washable caps on their website. Wool falls under non-washable, and the washable needs to be reshaped.

Washing Fail

Wool is generally a no-no to wash in water -- dry clean only? Both of my wool caps that I remember have died sad deaths after their first wash. One of them was probably my only and most expensive hat ever. I loved that thing except it just reeked after wearing it for almost a year daily for 6+ hours a day without washing. This ended up as a total write-off after the entire skullcap portion shrunk. Woops.

Cotton has been better, but I've still noticed some shrinking after washing and hang-drying. The back skullcap area was usually worst hit because, I believe, the front rounded area of hats usually has some reinforcement to provide the shape. That's not to say the front remained perfect every time.

With two more recent 100% cotton hats, I had slightly better success because of my past experience. What I did was I washed it in lukewarm water, then dried out after stuffing the inside of the skullcap with towels. The goal was to keep it from shrinking too much with the towels to help keep the round shape. This worked for the most part and kept the form of the hat pretty well. There were still some obvious areas with shrunken and wrinkled fabric. Occasionally, I overstuffed the hat, which made it a bit large for my head.

Baseball Cap Washing Frames

After doing a lot of research a years ago, I noticed that a lot of people seemed to recommend using wire frames to wash and dry hats with. See the official instructions with the Lids model. The same model with instructions from the official Ball Cap Buddy. This product appears to allow for hats to be washed in washing machines or dishwashers with detergent. The frame supposedly keeps the shape of the hat. I never got around to trying one of these things out.

Polyester Hats?

My current and favorite hat is a 100% polyester fiber one that I've washed twice now successfully. No special tools were used -- I only stuffed it with a towel both times. There did not appear to be any shrinkage after either wash. Another great thing was that it seemed like the polyester didn't absorb the detergent as much as my cotton hats -- water rinsed clean quicker.

However, I am unsure if the ease of washing could be attributed to the material or the design/ construction. The hat uses a very stretchy backing as it is one of those caps without the adjustment strap. Sorry, I can't find the exact model.


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