The season is changing here in the Midwest, winter is almost upon us and we are looking to the holidays and our favorite headwear for everyday and special occasions. You may be putting away felt hats and bringing out straws or vice versa in your part of the world,  Either way, the change of seasons makes this a good time to talk about caring for a hat and how to keep your hat in wearable condition. As you put away hats for one season and bring out those for the next, take a moment to examine each hat for stains or damage. Taking time now will lengthen the hat’s life. Below are a few simple techniques to use in cleaning and storing your hat. My suggestion is to always try the least invasive cleaning method first. If it does not succeed in removing the dirt or stain, try one of the other steps.

Straw: First, get rid of the surface dust. Take hat outside and blow off dust using a can of compressed gas duster (found at office supply stores).

  1. Use mild soap and water with a soft bristle brush and gently scrub surface. Repeat with clear water to rinse.
  2. Use a homemade formula for simple stains. Mix the following ingredients and rub lightly with a soft cloth. If it is a dark color mix ½ teaspoon ammonia and ¼ cup water. For lighter colors mix ½ teaspoon and ¼ cup water. For lighter colors mix ½ teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and ½ teaspoon of warm water. Always do test on hidden part of hat before trying it on the visible stain.

Felt: First, place hat in paper bag and put in the freezer compartment for several days. This will cause dust to rise to surface. Remove from freezer and take out of doors to gently beat with soft bristle brush so dust will fly away.

  1. Gently rub with a dry sponge, rubbing the sponge over the stain in a circular, counterclockwise motion.
  2. For soiled spots, scrub gently with mild soap and water using soft bristled brush. After area has dried, rub lightly with fine sandpaper to raise and freshen nap.

For both straw and felt, be careful not to get the hat too wet as it may shrink or stretch and lose its shape.

Sweatbands: To clean the sweatband, use a small soft bristle brush dipped in soap and water and scrub lightly. Be careful to only get the sweatband wet. If this does not get it clean, consider replacing the inner sweatband. Use a millinery belting, also called “petersham or French belting”. It looks a lot like grosgrain ribbon but differs from regular grosgrain in that it has an open, saw-tooth edge which allows it to form a curve, and to lay flat, rather than create puckers or gaps when laid against the inside or outside of a hat crown. Remember that moths are attracted to human sweat and are more likely to settle on your favorite hat than the one you rarely wear. For more instruction on how to do this visit our FAQ at Swirling Ribbon

Spots: Additional tricks to try include gently daubing the spot with white or colored chalk, baking soda, or talcum powder. Or try lightly sanding the area with emery or extra fine sandpaper.

Steam: will perk up wilted flowers, ribbons, and bows. Be careful not to over steam them. Use a dress steamer or teakettle steam if you do not have a hat steamer.

How you handle your hat will also add life to your hat. Remember to pick up your hat by the brim and that two hands are better than one. Try not to pick up a hat by the crown.
-Do not store a hat inside a plastic bag if the hat is made of a natural fiber (straw, felt, etc). Natural fibers need to breath.
-Do not store a hat on its brim. Some suggest storing a hat upside down. I prefer to rest the hat on a circle of posterboard stuffed with tissue. It is simple to make. Using regular poster board, cut a strip slightly wider than the depth of the crown. Form a cylinder, staple or tape the overlapping ends and stuff it with tissue. This creates a perfect “hatstand”.

This is very basic info and does not cover everything. Let common sense be your guide and err on the side of caution. You can probably live with a small stain easier than a large spot that lost its color from misguided attempts to remove the stain.

Remember, all of our instructions are general in nature. You will need to experiment to find what works best for you in your hatmaking situation.