Straw Hats Should Never be Placed in the Washing Machine—Here's the Correct Way to Clean One

Straw hats need special care—here's how to get yours looking new again.

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Photo: Getty / Eric Audras

As stylish as straw hats can be, cleaning and caring for them is tricky. "If a straw hat gets soaked in water, it will likely lose its shape," says Christina Dove, e-commerce general manager at Hats in the Belfry. "Additionally, oils on even the cleanest of hands can stain the brim or the crown of a straw hat over time, so you should avoid handling the hat as much as possible, and when you do, handle the smallest area possible."

Fortunately, with the right cleaning methods, Dove says you can keep a straw hat in tiptop shape. "When it comes right down to it, a straw hat is remarkably durable and resistant," she says. "As long as you know the limits of the hat, take proper care of it and also how to best clean it, you'll be pleased with how long your straw hat will stay with you."

How to Clean a Straw Hat

1. Test a Small Patch

Since straw naturally absorbs water and is prone to breaking or tearing, Dove says it's crucial to clean a straw hat with a gentle, straw-safe cleaner, like NuStraw ($16.89, "Always test an inconspicuous part of the hat to ensure it's not going to have an adverse effect on the straw," she says.

2. Spot Clean Stains

Once you know your cleaning mechanism won't cause damage to your hat, you can begin working out obvious blemishes before moving to the body. "Using a small amount of NuStraw cleaner on a soft, clean cloth, spot clean any heavier or more noticeable stains working in small circular motions."

3. Clean the Body

Next, Dove says to clean the entire body of the hat, still working in small circular motions, starting from the crown and working outwards. "Once you've finished cleaning, gently wipe the hat down with a dry, clean cloth."

4. Clean Any Cloth Pieces

Dove says you may find that the cloth pieces of your straw hat, such as the hat band, may need a gentle cleaning as well. "For these pieces you can use diluted laundry detergent," she says. "Add a very small amount of detergent to warm water and slightly dampen a clean cloth with your solution. Gently scrub in a circular motion. Follow this up with a second cloth dampened with just water to wipe the cloth areas again."

How to Dry a Straw Hat

The best way to preserve the integrity of your straw hat over time is to avoid getting it wet. However, if you get caught in a rain storm or your hat gets swept into the pool by a gust of wind, there is a way to fix the damage.

Use a Clean Cloth

If your hat gets wet, the most important thing is to make sure it maintains its shape. For this reason, Dove recommends using clean cloth or cotton shirts to stuff inside the hat so that it maintains its original dimensions as it dries.

Use a Hair Dryer

If you need your hat to dry quickly, Dove says you can even use a hair dryer on low to help speed the process along. When drying cloth sections of a straw hat, she suggests allowing them to air dry, or using a hair dryer on a low, cool setting to gently dry the fabric areas.

How to Reshape Your Hat

If you need to reshape a hat that may have accidentally been squashed at the bottom of your bag or in a small corner of your closet, Dove says to first try popping it back into shape by hand. If that doesn't work, there are several other methods you can try.

Use Tissue Paper

Like you do when shoes begin to crease and lose their shape, Stuff recommends using tissue paper to help return your hat to its former glory. "Put some tissue paper or a clean cotton shirt into the crown to hold the shape for a few hours," she says.

Steam It

If this doesn't do the trick, she says you can try steaming the hat, as long as it doesn't have any inner wiring. "Using a clothing steamer, slightly dampen the straw of the hat, then smooth and reshape with your hands," she says.

Lay Something Heavy on It

If the brim has curled, flatten it out by setting the hat down on a flat surface and laying something heavy, like a coffee table book, along it. "You may want to place a clean cloth or cotton tee shirt between your hat and your heavy item to keep your hat clean," she says.

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