How to Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats

How to get sweat stains out o

As a Southern California native with relatively fair skin, I rarely spend a day outside without wearing a hat. I wear hats, my kids wear hats, and my husband wears hats outside as well. Because we are also pretty active, by the end of every summer season I am faced with the question of how to get sweat stains out of hats! 

There are a handful of good techniques to choose from when it comes to getting sweat stains out of hats. The best method for your hat will depend on its material, structure, and the severity of the stain you’re trying to remove. Below I’m sharing 3 of the best sweat stain removal methods to try. 

Considerations Before Washing Your Hat

Before you wash any hat, it’s important to first keep these considerations in mind.

  1. FOLLOW CARE INSTRUCTIONS: If your hat has a tag with care instructions, read them and follow carefully! If the hat cannot get wet, then absolutely do not soak it in water. Spot treat stains instead.
  2. AVOID CHLORINE BLEACH: But you already knew this one, right? Chlorine bleach will alter or damage the color of your hat.
  3. AVOID THE DRYER: Never dry your hat in a dryer. Always air dry out of direct sunlight to avoid accidentally sun bleaching your hat.
  4. WASH SEPARATELY: If you choose to wash your hat in your washing machine or dishwasher, make sure to wash it separately. Do NOT combine your hat in a dishwashing cycle with dirty dishes. 

How to Get Sweat Stains Out of Hats

Mild Sweat Stains: Spot Treatment Method

It’s a great idea to clean sweat stains from your hat as soon as they start to appear. This will preserve the integrity of your hat and make it last longer. If the sweat stains on your hat are very recent, very mild, or both then opt for one of these natural, gentle cleaning solutions. 


This is the gentlest option and works well on hats that can’t handle getting very wet. 

  1. Mix 1 part distilled white vinegar with 1 part filtered water in a spray bottle. 
  2. Spray this mixture on the stained portion of your hat and scrub gently with a cleaning cloth until the stains have lifted. 
  3. Blot the area clean with a cloth dipped in cold water. 
  4. Set the hat somewhere safe to air dry completely.


If your hat can handle getting wet, this method will work faster than the vinegar spray.

  1. Run the stained area under cold water. 
  2. Using your fingers, apply a very small amount of your preferred detergent (laundry detergent or dish soap both work well). 
  3. Work the detergent into the stain then rinse clean under cold water. 
  4. Set the hat somewhere safe to air dry completely.

Moderate Sweat Stains: Scrub Method

Are you battling slightly older, more set-in sweat stains? Maybe you tried the above methods and are not completely satisfied with your results. It’s time to upgrade to this cleaning scrub next.

What You’ll Need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Dish Soap
  • Hydrogen Peroxide


  1. Combine (relatively) equal parts of the ingredients until they form a loose paste.
  2. Get the stained part of your hat wet with cold water. 
  3. Apply the paste to the stained area of your hat and rub it in gently with your fingers or a soft scrub brush.
  4. Depending on the severity of the stains, let the mixture sit for a few minutes before rinsing clean under cold water. 

*NOTE: Always test the paste on an inconspicuous location of your hat to make sure it won’t cause any damage before cleaning the entire hat.

Severe Sweat Stains: Soak Method

Old sweat stains (maybe even layers upon layers of old sweat stains) are going to require a more powerful cleaning method to remove. Few things are more powerful than “the long soak” when it comes to removing tough stains. Here’s how to do it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Oxygen Bleach (Color-Safe Bleach)
  • Basin filled with warm water


  1. Dissolve oxygen bleach in a basin filled with warm water.
  2. Submerge your hat(s) in the mixture.
  3. Allow stained hat(s) to soak for 15 minutes up to overnight depending on the material and shape of the hat and the age and severity of the stains.
  4. Remove your hat(s) from the cleaning solution and rinse them clean under cold water.
  5. Allow hats to air dry completely before using.


Can hats go in the washing machine?

Flexible hats (think cotton bucket hats) in a washable fabric that don’t have much structure are great candidates for cleaning in a washing machine. Athletic visors and baseball caps can also sometimes be washed in a washing machine. 

Structured hats (like fedoras), straw hats, and most baseball hats should not be cleaned in a washing machine. These hats are much better off being spot cleaned or washed by hand to maintain their structure and preserve the quality of their fabric. 

If you do choose to wash your baseball hats in the washing machine, use a hat frame to maintain their shape. And no matter what hat you put in the washer, make sure to wash in cold water on a delicate cycle. 

Can I get my baseball hat wet?

Some baseball hats and visors have a bill that’s shaped with cardboard. If this is the case for your hat, it could quickly become ruined in a washing machine or dishwasher. 

Not sure if your hat’s bill is cardboard or plastic? 

Most hats manufactured today are made with a flexible plastic foam material (high-density polyethylene or HDPE). If your sweaty hat is vintage from before 1983, then the likelihood of a cardboard brim is higher and you should take care when washing. 

Is it better to wash hats in the dishwasher or the washing machine?

Hand washing or spot cleaning is always the best option. With that said, the best option between these two is going to depend entirely on the type of hat you’re trying to clean. 

Hats will be agitated more in a washing machine, making it more likely for the hat structure to be damaged in the wash. Dishwashers do not agitate the contents in the same way but the detergent used in a dishwasher can be harsher on fabrics. 

Never wash your hat in a dishwasher with dirty dishes or in a washing machine with a load of other laundry. And always check the care label for your specific hat before choosing any wash method!

Is it ok to put hats in the dryer?

No. It’s never a good idea to dry a hat in your dryer. Doing so means you’ll risk misshaping your hat or accidentally shrinking your hat. Instead, take a few minutes to re-shape your hat with your hands after washing then set it on a flat surface to gently air dry. 

How to get sweat stains out of hats

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