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Is it safe to wash caps in the washing machine or dishwasher?

Is it safe to wash caps in the washing machine or dishwasher?

At some point, as a cap wearer, you will have faced the dilemma of ‘is it safe to wash my cap in a washing machine or dishwasher?’.

A quick internet search on cap cleaning, brings up numerous blogs and YouTube videos each showing a million and one ways to do so.

With so much information it can be hard to know what is the best way is to clean your cap without ruining it. From my experience as a professional cap restorer, I will walk you through the pros and cons of doing so.

What do the manufacturers recommend?

What happens when you spill something on your cap or drop it in a muddy puddle?  Will putting it on a short cycle really do much harm?If you look at the label inside your cap, it most likely advises against using a washing machine. It may even say it’s unsafe to wash at all.It’s unlikely that your cap is going to instantly self-destruct but the way fitted and most snap back caps are made means this method of washing will ruin the shape, colour and size.

Baseball cap do not wash label

What are the risks of putting my cap in the washing machine or dishwasher?

From the jump, I’m going to eliminate using the dishwasher as an option. I wouldn’t wish this on any cap, not even a Manchester United one. Dishwashers are not designed to clean any type of fabric or clothing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cleaning caps they are often treated as an ordinary item of clothing (put in the washing machine) or as sneakers (scrubbed within an inch of their life with a toothbrush). It’s not until after the deed that you will be faced with a wrinkled, faded and warped cap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying caps are so fragile that they shouldn’t see the light of day. However, if you want to keep them looking their best for as long as possible (plus saving you a fortune on replacing them) it is important to understand how caps should be cleaned.

Too harsh: shrinkage, colour fade and a soggy brim.

Laundering any item of clothing will eventually affect the look and feel of the fabric. There are chemical and physical changes which take place during a washing cycle. Have you noticed how the colour of your t-shirts start to fade and they feel ‘flatter’ in just a few washes?

Washing machine ruins baseball cap

The temperature of the water, water hardness, detergent quality and the mechanical agitation of a washing cycle all play a part in speeding up signs of wear in the fabric. Not only does a cap have to contend with those effects of laundering in a washing machine, but the same process also damages the shape, size and structure. This occurs even using a cap washing cage.

The front panels of the crown are reinforced with a rigid material. This is called buckram, which helps provide structure and supports the shape of the cap. During its manufacturing process it’s treated with starch or glue. Because of this, you need to avoid wetting your cap’s front panels.

Completely soaking the cap in water increases the chances of it drastically shrinking. This is especially true for wool caps. This is why I recommend removing individual stains using the spot cleaning method (I will give you some tips on this later).

If you are reading this after a run in with a washing machine, all is not lost.
Check out the videos below from Dre 616 on how to remove creases and reshape your cap.

With that being said…

However, there are a few occasions when you may be able to get away with cleaning your cap in the washing machine - for instance, if it’s an old cap that you wear for gardening, painting etc. and you just want it clean and are not worried about wrinkles, creases or a wobbly brim. Please note that cardboard brims come out soggy from using a washing machine and rarely retain any stiffness once dry.

How to clean your cap the right way:

My mantra is use water only when necessary. Going in guns blazing puts the fabric and structure of the cap under unnecessary stress, which causes the cap to look worn out much quicker. Learn these safe methods to maintain and clean your caps to keep them looking their best for longer:

Spot and deep cleaning: 

There are several ways to clean a cap. The size of the stain or how dirty the cap is will dictate the best cleaning method for your cap. Spot cleaning is a great way to clean stains off small areas of your cap without having to expose your cap to a full-on clean.

Deep cleaning is required for the occasions when your cap is completely totaled by a muddy puddle.  For more tips and step by step methods on how to clean stains from your cap check out our ultimate guide to cleaning cap stains here:

I hope this has helped you decide the best way to keep your caps without turning them into a waffle. Have any washing machine horror stories or fancy sharing your restoration triumphs? Feel free to send your stories to abi@thecaptician.com

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