Here's How To Clean Your Favorite Straw Hats Without Damaging Them

It's safe to say that no accessories transform your look as decisively as hats. Beyond adding a finishing touch to your ensemble, hats serve as an affirmation of style and a marker of social class. For instance, a pillbox hat or a fascinator makes you look as if you're going to a royal wedding, while a cowboy hat, even when paired with a girlish skirt, lends a country-style grunge to your outfit. Headwear that gives you an elevated on-holiday, surf-and-sunshine vibe? Straw hats are your best bet. From Reese Witherspoon to Hilary Duff, Hollywood's A-list celebrities never stop serving shady looks in this lighthearted SoCal-inspired staple.

Woven out of stiff sennit straw, straw hats used to be a marker of the gardeners in the rice fields or gondoliers rowing across the Venetian lagoon. Fashion-wise, straw hats are commonly referred to as boaters or Panama hats. Straw hats have ingrained themselves in American pop culture over the past few decades as a symbol of the much-hyped relaxed look and the star in every Insta-worthy summer outfit. In the U.S., April is designated as National Straw Hat Month. While the charm of straw hats is timeless, their shelf life depends a lot on their maintenance. Just like how you can't wash haute couture items together with other fast fashion laundry, straw hats can't survive a mass cleaning cycle. If you want to extend the shelf life of your straw hats, below are some tips to help you get started.

Never wash straw hats in a washing machine

The first thing you should do before washing any hats is to look for the washing instructions in the tag. Most straw hats, for example, are not machine washable. "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 (via Martha Stewart). First, to loosen and remove specks of dirt from a straw hat, use a vacuum cleaner or packing tape. Then, grab a straw-friendly cleaner and test the formula on a small part of the hat to see how the material reacts. Or, you can create a cleaning solution by mixing ΒΌ teaspoon of mild dish soap per every 2 cups of water, A Clean Bee recommends.

If everything goes well, dab a small amount of the cleanser onto a soft, clean cloth and use it to gently rub any spots on the hat that are easily seen. Then, beginning at the crown, thoroughly wipe the hat's exterior. Use a dry, clean cloth to gently dry the hat after cleaning it. Afterward, use a clean cloth wet with a tiny amount of diluted laundry detergent to clean the hat band or the ribbon. If you see any sweat or sunscreen stains on the fabric, apply a 1:1 mixture of hydrogen peroxide diluted with water to a cleaning cloth and scrub the stains off. Then, use another dampened towel to wipe the treated areas once more.

How to store a straw hat

To keep your straw hats in their tip-top shape, always put them in a cool, dry place away from the sun, The Spruce advises. To prevent your curved-brimmed straw hat from becoming misshapen and to keep dust out, put the hat upside down in a hatbox or in a place that isn't airtight. Never keep a straw hat in a plastic bag, for doing so might cause the color to fade, make the material more prone to breakage, and promote mildew.

According to Soleil Blue, you should not leave your hat in the sun for a long time because it can cause the color to fade or result in complete discoloration. If your straw hat gets wet, gently blot the excess water out of it with a towel before setting it upside down on a cushioned surface to air dry. Refrain from drying your hat with a hairdryer or any heat tools, which can shrink your hat and alter its shape. If your hat has lost shape, hold it 6 inches away over a steamer or a steamy tea kettle for a minute and reshape it with your hands. While these tips, if followed correctly, might help you keep your straw hat as good as new, it's not always easy to revive a crooked hat. If your straw hat is damaged to the point of no remedy, just get yourself a new one.