Cap Cleaning: Expectations vs. Reality
Have you tried cleaning stains from your fitted or snapback caps without success?
I understand how frustrating removing stubborn stain are. Unfortunately, not every stain can be completely cleaned.
I will share with you the most common reasons why your stain won’t budge, what result you can expect and my top stain removal tips to help you beat the odds.
When stain removal doesn't go to plan...
It’s a great feeling when an angry looking stain easily comes out of your cap. Here are some of the reasons why it’s not always that simple…
1. Type of stain
Certain stains are easier to remove than others. This is down to the chemical makeup of the stain. Some stains are happy to sit on the surface of the fabric whilst others are readily absorbed and easily bond to the fabric. It’s important to remember that a single stain remover is unlikely to work on every stain you face. Knowing what the stain is will help you choose the right one.
Stains are broken down into four main categories:
- Water-based (food and drinks).
- Oil-based (lipstick, hair oil, face cream).
- Non-dissolvable (toner, ash, graphite).
- Chemical change stains (rust and dye).
These have additional sub categories. You can now download my stain guide here, if you want to get a better understanding of the chemistry and become a stain removing Jedi! Some stubborn stains may need to be cleaned with a few stain removers that target each individual ‘part’ of the stain.
For instance, if you are having trouble cleaning an ice cream stain with a ‘general’ stain remover. Try several stain removers that will act on the protein, pigment and oil parts of that stain.
Unfortunately, stains caused by loss of colour (bleach) or from a chemical change (rust) can’t be ‘cleaned’ will require restoration from a professional. Don't forget to thoroughly rinse/flush the stain after using each cleaner, before using another one. Otherwise, you will end up mixing the cleaners together on the fabric.
Did you know that heat and stains don’t mix?
If the stain was hot when it landed on or cap or if you used really hot water to clean it, then unfortunately your job is now a lot harder.
Too much heat will cause the stain to set.
If your cap is stained with something that is highly concentrated it will be more difficult to remove. For example, spilling undiluted squash syrup will be harder to removed compared to a diluted squash drink. This is also why blotting the stain as soon as possible helps to cleaning process, instead of leaving it to dry.
4. The material of your cap.
The material of your cap plays a big part in how successfully a stain can be cleaned. Polyester is a synthetic material, it maintains the colour, texture and shape during the cleaning process better than natural fabrics.
- Natural fibres (cotton and wool) absorb water-based stains and resists synthetic stains.
- Synthetic fabrics (polyester) absorb oil-based stains and resists water-based stains.
5. How long the stain has been on your cap.
Fresher stains are easier to remove as they have not had a chance to fully penetrate and bond to the fabric.
6. Previous cleaning attempts
This is particularly true when trying to clean stains from second hand caps. Unless the cap came with a service history manual, it’s unlikely you will know how the cap has been previously cleaned.
Stains can be made worse or even set if:
Unsuitable cleaning product was used.
The wrong technique or method was used to clean the stain (hot water, scrubbing or heat transfer with an iron).
The cleaner/stain remover was not rinsed out properly.
A stain is set when:
The colour part of the stain permanently bonds with the fibres of the cap, making it impossible to remove without damaging the fabric.
The most common way a stain becomes set is:
When heat (using hot water to clean the stain or hot air to dry it) is introduced or if it has been left on the fabric for a long period of time. In every case, your best chances of getting rid of the stain on your cap is to act fast. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than old ones.
Do's and dont's for making stain removal easier.
- Blot the stain straight away and properly clean when possible. A fresh stain is easier to clean.
- Dry your cap, especially white or light coloured ones; this will help to avoid water marks.
- Use a cleaning product that is safe for your cap. Only use woolsafe solutions on a wool cap. The Captician stain remover is safe to use on wool.
- Brush or scrub the stain. This will push the stain deeper into the fabric. It also damages the fibres, making the area look fluffy or lighter in colour.
- Use hot water when blotting or cleaning. This will increase the chances of setting the stain.
- Use harsh cleaners or chemicals. First, try blotting with cool water. Work your way up to a stain remover if that doesn't work.
What to remember when you face a stubborn stain
1. It can take several attempts to successfully remove the stain.
2. You may need to use more than one type of stain remover.
3. Stains are often made up of several 'parts', these will need to be treated as separate stains.
4. The stain may have set and will not come out...A cap pin or a re-dye can cover a multitude of sins 🙂.
I hope this helps you feel less frustrated when restoring your caps. Of course, give cleaning the stain your best shot but it's important to remember that there is no guarantee a stain will come out. Sometimes the best result you can expect (without damaging the fabric) is a lighter stain.