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How to Clean a Hat or Fascinator

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Regardless of how sturdy they may look, hats and fascinators are delicate pieces that you’ll want to handle with love and care. You cannot simply throw your favorite hat into a washer and dryer and hope for the best – that’s a recipe for disaster.

So, if you want your go-to Kentucky Derby hat to look impeccable after years of use, you need to store and clean them properly. Don’t worry, it’s much easier than it seems, and it will help you keep your most cherished accessories looking their best.

Tools You Need to Clean a Hat

The first thing you’ll need is the right brush for your hat. You’ll choose your brush based on the material that you’re cleaning.

Fur and wool felt hats such as this wonderful piece by Eugenia Kim seem more resilient than your typical fascinator, for example. Still, these materials are quite delicate and need a soft bristle brush and a gentle touch when cleaning.

Silk, leather, and suede are best cleaned with a slightly firmer and stiffer brush, while straw and sinamay hats only require a damp cloth or a small whisk broom.

You don’t want to use harsh cleaners on your hats and fascinators as they could easily lose their color and get stained. Just imagine cleaning your Emma Disc Hat with bleach – it would be ruined!

Use a mild clothing detergent and always mix it with some water when cleaning your hats.

Additional tools and equipment you may need for cleaning your hats are lint rollers, leather cleaning products, and a damp cloth.

How to Clean A Hat or Fascinator Sweatband

While certainly not the most visible part of your hat or fascinator, the sweatband is definitely the dirtiest; it comes in contact with sweat, makeup, and hair products daily, and it quickly becomes stained and smelly.

Fortunately, it’s easy to clean.

Fold the sweatband down, and be mindful of how you’re holding your hat! Don’t pull on the brim or press on the crown. Otherwise, your hat might lose its shape.

Mix some mild detergent with water, dip a soft bristle brush into the mixture, shake off any excess water, and gently scrub the sweatband. Use a damp cloth for more stubborn stains, and leave your hat to air dry.

Exposing your hats and delicate fascinators to high temperatures can ruin their shape and color, so don’t place them by heaters or fireplaces, and don’t use blow dryers on them (this can shrink a hat). It’s also important to make sure not to store hats near a window, as leaving a headpiece in direct sunlight will make it susceptible to sun damage and fade its color.

How to Clean the Outside of the Hat

To clean the outside of your hat – aka the most visible part of it – you can first use a lint roller to eliminate any dust or loose dirt. Don’t press into your hat; be gentle, and work carefully around the edges.

If your hat has fine details such as flowers or feathers, you can use your blow dryer to remove dust from them – but only use the lowest setting! As mentioned, hats and high heat typically don’t go well together.

Use the corresponding brush to clean the outside of the hat with some water and mild detergent. Soft, gentle strokes are the way to go.

Avoid soaking your hats and fascinators in water as they will shrink and sinamay will lose its shape. If you’ve used too much water on your hat, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth, and leave to air dry.

How to Fix Hat Dents

The only time when you could expose your hat to a slightly higher heat is when you’re fixing crown dents.

If you have a hat made out of sinamay, all you need is a garment or hand-held steamer. A second, less easy, option would be to boil some water on the stove and hold your hat over it for a few seconds. Your hat will soften up in the steam, and you will be able to easily push the dents out. Sinamay material is the most malleable after using steam. Once the headpiece is in its desired shape, leave your hat to air dry. Repeat using steam if needed and dry again. As long as the your sinamay hat was not completely damaged by heavy rain or crushed, causing rips in the material, the creases or dents should be able to removed or minimized.

However, please use caution when using steam near embellishments that may be glued on, as the steam will make the glue hot and cause damage to a hats’ embellishments.

How to Repair Feathers

If you’re dealing with droopy or bent feathers, you can fix them the same way you would dents. Holding your hat over steam for a few seconds works wonders! If you are using a clothing steamer, use the lowest heat setting possible to avoid burning them or causing further damage. You may also want to use the brush attachment on your steamer in order to brush the feathers back into place.

Storing the Hat Properly Will Keep It Looking Brand New

If you handle and store your hats and fascinators properly, you’ll get to enjoy them for a lifetime. There’s really only one way to store your hats – in a hat box. Hat boxes will help your hats to retain their shape and will keep them safe from dirt, dust, and sunlight.

Store your hats and fascinators either right side up, or upside down (depending on the hat’s shape), using plain tissue paper, and make sure that embellishments such as flowers, feathers, and ribbons are not bent. Tissue paper should always be supportive of any adornments or bows.

Final Thoughts on Hat Cleaning

If you’re good to your hats and fascinators, they’ll be good to you. Bottom line, it’s important to clean and store your treasured headpieces properly so that you will be able enjoy them for years to come. Lastly, if you’re dealing with stubborn stains or fragile hats, then sending them in for a professional clean might be your best option. 

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