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2023 Update: How to Clean a Baseball Cap (The Right Way)

Abi - The Captician - January 21st 2023

Discover the Secret to Cleaning Stains from
Your Baseball Cap Without Damaging It.

Have you ever struggled to clean your caps without ruining them? As a fabric restoration expert and a cap enthusiast, I've had my fair share of experimenting with different cleaning methods.

But don't worry, I've learned a thing or two along the way and I'm here to share my expertise with you.In this blog post, I'll be sharing my go-to tips and tricks for keeping your caps looking their best. From tackling tough stains to removing dirt, I've got you covered.

Even if you've had some failed attempts in the past, my methods will help you keep your caps looking fresh and new. So, don't give up on your favorite caps just yet, give these techniques a try!

Don't make the mistake of cleaning your caps like sneakers

The main goal is to remove stains or dirt from caps. While that may sound simple, the real challenge is doing so without damaging the fabric's colour, texture, or shape.

It's important to remember that caps should be cleaned differently from other clothing items and should not be cleaned in the washing machine or even the dishwasher. The shape of the crown, colour, and brim (cardboard) can easily be damaged, even with a cap-washing frame.

When it comes to removing stains, a gentle approach is key. Using harsh chemicals or scrubbing can damage the cap, we prefer to use a technique called spot cleaning, which is great for individual stains but not that great for deep cleaning.

Spot cleaning allows you to clean the cap without fully wetting it, which reduces the risk of shrinkage and damage to cardboard brims.

At The Captician, we use a spot-cleaning method that is both effective and gentle on caps. Unlike the old-school method of scrubbing a stain with a brush that can cause caps to look fuzzy and worn out. Our solution uses chemistry to remove stains without needing any elbow grease. 

Fabric types and cap cleaning: What you need to know

The type of fabric used in your cap plays a crucial role in determining the most effective stain removal method and product to use.

It's important to understand the unique cleaning characteristics of each fabric to ensure a successful and non-damaging cleaning process.

Let's take a closer look at the most commonly used fabrics in cap-making and what to keep in mind during and after the cleaning process.

Selection of cotton, polyester, nylon & wool caps.

Easy to remember summary:

Natural Fibre

Absorbs water based stains,
but resists oil based stains.

Synthetic Fibre

Absorbs oil based stains,
but resists water based stains.

Identify the stain

Understanding the source of a stain is key to effectively removing it. Different stains require different cleaning methods, and using the wrong one can cause damage to the fabric.

When in doubt, start with a mild solution like water before moving on to harsher chemicals. Keep in mind that many stains are made up of multiple components, like protein, pigments, and oil, so it's important to use a cleaner that can tackle each one of them.

Removing certain stains can be tricky, especially if they're made up of multiple components.
For example, a coffee stain that also includes milk and sugar will require different methods to remove each component.

If you're not having any luck using an all-purpose cleaner, try targeting each part of the stain with specific removers, such as a tannin remover for the coffee and a protein remover for the milk. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly between each application to avoid neutralising the cleaning agents.

The chemistry of cap cleaning

We're about to geek out - ready? Stains can be categorised based on their characteristics: if it can be dissolved by water, solvents or is insoluble. Please note, this is a simple grouping of stains that I use but there are other versions

Main category of stains

01Water based stains - drinks, mud.

02Oil based stains - food grease, hair oil.

03Non-dissolvable - graphite, ash, toner.

04Chemical change - rust, dyes.

Sub category of stains

• Combination Stain - Lip stick, shoe polish, ballpoint ink.

• Protein stains - Milk, blood, cream.

• Tannin stains
- Beer, coffee, tomato juice, soft drinks.

• Dye Stains - Mustard, colour bleeding during cleaning.

Bonus Tip!

Ever stained your cap but then noticed the stain magically 'disappear?' Don't be fooled. Some stains containing sugar can appear invisible when dry. However, these stains can reappear or turn yellow if left in the fabric for a long time or exposed to heat. Always clean a stain.

Why do some stains never come out? How to tell if your stain is one of them.

Not all stains can be removed, some stains are simply too stubborn to come out completely.

The chances of removing a stain can depend on various factors, such as the type of stain, the material of the cap, and even the length of time the stain has been sitting.

When trying to remove a stain from your cap, it's important to consider these factors in order to choose the most effective stain remover and estimate your chances of success.

The Captician old New Era cap stain

Extremely old and saturated sweat stain.

1.Type of stain: Some inherently more difficult to clean.

2.Temperature and potency of the stain when it hit the fabric:
Did you know cleaning a stain caused by a cold cup of tea maybe easier to clean than piping hot tea?

3.The material of your cap. Natural fibres absorb water based stains and synthetic fibres absorb oil based stains.

4.Length of time the stain has been sitting on your cap. The longer the stain remains on a cap the greater the chance of it 'fixing' to the fabric.

5.Number of attempts made and the type of cleaner previously used to treat the stain: Some cleaners that are not suitable for the particular fabric, especially if not properly rinsed can actually 'seal' the stain.

How is a stain set?

Unfortunately, not all stains can be removed. In some cases, the colour component of the stain has bonded with the fibres of the fabric, making it impossible to remove without damaging the fabric.

This can happen if the wrong cleaning product is used, or if the fabric is washed or dried at high temperatures.
It's important to act quickly when a stain occurs, as fresh stains are much easier to remove than old ones.
In the case of white fabrics, an oxy-bleach solution can often provide good results.

Master these simple techniques for spotless caps.

 Rinsing, water mark prevention and blotting.

Rinsing

Some stain removers need to be rinsed out afterwards. Rinsing removes the cleaning chemical and any remaining stain and dirt. Removing the chemical is particularly important as left over residue attracts new dirt.

How to rinse:
Place the area directly under cold water or use a spouted water bottle to focus the water onto the space where the stain used to be. Position the cap so the stream of water passes right through the area and not onto other parts of the cap.

WARNING! WARNING!

There are two areas of your cap which are particularly important to keep from getting excessively wet. It's the brim  (if cardboard) and the front panels of the crown.

The front panels are reinforced with a material called Buckram. Too much exposure to heat and water can effect its stiffness.

Instead of directly flushing the front panels and brim with water, blot the area repeatedly with a damp cloth. Remember to use different sides of the cloth, so you don't reintroduce the residue to a clean area.

Preventing water marks

Water marks and water rings develop when water is left sit­ting on the fabric for too long. You can reduce the chances of this by taking the following easy steps:

  • Don't over wet the stained area with water or stain removing solution.
  • Blot carefully from the outside inwards, all the way to the stain's centre Blotting inside out spreads the stain more.
  • Place two cloths or tissues on both sides of the area to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Use a fan or a hair dryer on cool setting to speed up the drying process.

Another way to pre­vent water marks is to apply a light mist of water onto the cap whilst working on the stain .

This works by moving any small remaining particles of the stain away into the wet fabric. However, if the fabric around the stain is dry then particles can disperse, the dry fabric acts as a border and create another stain (tide mark). Frustratingly, this creates another stain for you to clean.

Luckily, there's an easy way to prevent this. Lightly wetting the cap (preferably with distilled water) will give any small remnant of the stain more area to disperse into. This makes it easier to fully clean the stain using further treatments.

Here where to apply the mist of water when cleaning:

Crown: Apply a light mist of water over the entire crown.

Brim: Apply a light mist to the brim on both sides.

Sweatband:
Apply a light mist on both sides of the brim and crown.

The Captician misting spray bottle

The Captician - Fine misting bottle,
reduces the chance of tide marks.

Blot and wipe cap stains - Never scrub

To effectively remove stains from your cap without leaving it fuzzy or faded, it's essential to use a blotting technique rather than scrubbing. Blotting involves gently patting the stain with a damp cloth, being careful not to press too hard and push the stain deeper into the fibres. To ensure the best results, constantly check your cloth and switch to a clean area when you see the stain transferring onto it. Remember, blot and wipe, don't scrub.

These are exceptions to the rule:

POLLEN: Blow off loose pollen away from the cap. A clean vacuum hose nozzle or tape can be used to lift off any remaining traces.

INK: Adding any amount of water to the area can cause it to spread.
Remove excess by blotting with a dry cloth. Then apply a dry cleaning solvent if suitable for your type of fabric.

On-the-go cap cleaning made easy: Tips and tricks.

What to do when you don't have cleaning products on hand  

Imagine you're out having a good time and suddenly, something spills on your cap – maybe it's wine or ranch dressing. What do you do? Don't panic! These quick and easy tactics will help you in emergency situations when you don't have access to cleaning products.

By using these tactics, you can greatly increase your chances of completely removing the stain later.The key is to act fast. The time immediately after your cap gets stained is the most critical for removing the stain. So, take a few minutes to spot clean it right away. Here's how:

Step 1.Treat the stain immediately by blotting the area with a dry clean cloth or tissue. Absorb as much of the stain as you can.

Step 2.Once the stain is absorbed, gently blot it again using a cloth or tissue dampened with a small amount of cool water. Use as little water as possible to avoid over-wetting the area.

Step 3.When you are satisfied the stain is gone (or you've removed as much as possible) use a dry cloth to dry the area. Sandwich two on both sides of the cap, adding firm pressure for a few minutes; this should do the trick. If your cap is light coloured, it's especially important to dry it quickly without heat. This helps you avoid ring marks.

TOP 5 TIPS FOR REMOVING STAINS

1. Don't scrub stains - Never use a brush on a wet cap. 

Scrubbing caps with a brush whilst wet will cause them to look fuzzy and worn out prematurely. Unfortunately, this sneaker cleaning method has been adopted to clean caps, this is not suitable for caps.

Caps should only be brushed when dry in order to remove dust, dirt and lint. For the best results use a clean and absorbent cloth to blot and wipe the stain.

Bonus Tip

When selecting a brush for your cap, don't get hard bristles. Stay away from nail brushes. Invest in a cap brush specially designed for use on caps.

2. Clean with warm water, never hot.

Exposing the stain to high heat may cause it to 'set' the stain inside the cap 's fibres. This also applies to drying. Don't put your cap (clean or stained) on a radiator, and definitely don't use a tumble dryer.

After you clean your cap the best way to dry it is to use a hair dryer on a cool setting or let it air dry in a well ventilated area after spot cleaning. If you put it outside, make sure it can't get rained on. Keep wool caps out of direct sunlight when drying. Put your cap on a mannequin head or pad the inside with a balled-up towel.

Don't overstuff it as this can stretch the cap. If you 're in a rush, you can use a hair dryer on the cool setting (RE­ MINDER: COOL, NEVER HOT AIR) to speed up the pro­ cess.

3. Only use cleaning products made for the fabric of your cap.

Do not use washing up liquid or similar non laundry de­tergents. It takes forever to rinse them out. Any left over residue will attract more dirt to that area. What a nightmare! 

Our stain removing formula is specially designed to clean caps. It tackles the most common stains without the need to rinse or soak in water, all of which can shrink and fade caps. You can check out our complete stain removal kits HERE.

4. Remember to treat stains immediately, or as soon as possible.

If you should have done it yesterday, and you didn't, can you guess what the next best time is? Today!

5. Don't give up right away.

Some aged or tricky stains may need more than one treatment. Work patiently and with care. Work patiently and with care. You can only assess the full results once a cap is completely dry. Don't rush or skip steps, and you will be rewarded.

HOPE THIS HELPS!

Use these simple principles in stain emergencies to keep your caps looking fresh and fine for many years to come. To help you achieve the best clea­ning results, I'm committing to compiling a database of how to videos with step by step instructions for removing the many types of stains.

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