How Do You Get a Bad Smell Out of a Hat?

How do you get a bad smell out of a hat? A smelly hat can be annoying, but it is not the end of the world. There are several ways to remove that nasty odor. You just need to experiment with different approaches until you find one that works best for your particular situation.

A Simple Guide On How To Get Rid Of A Musty Hat Smell

As many hat types and uses, as many smells that can come from a hat. Depending on many factors, there is more than one unpleasant odor that can come from your cap. An unpleasant odor can be just the smell of the new hat, it can appear from dirty hair (or an unwashed bald head), from sweat, the cap can have odor-causing bacteria, or from the dirt around you. In order to save the fibers in your cap, remember to clean it appropriately and not ‘over wash’ your cap. 

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As many hat types and uses, as many ways to clean the hat. Depending on the style of the hat, materials, and processes used to manufacture the hat, there is more than one way to wash the bad smell from the hat.

The process of cleaning is not the same for cotton material, wool hats, and synthetic materials. 

Some hats can be easily washed by the washing machine, but the most common case is that your hat needs to be hand washed. If you are not sure how you should clean it, just look for the care label inside your hat. You can get all information you need from there. 

And remember to be extremely careful, since you do not want to destroy your hat. 

how to clean a hat

How To Get Odor Out Of The New Hat?

You all have experienced that moment when our new piece of clothing has that weird smell that comes from the fabric itself. But the more we wash the cap, the more the fabrics get damaged. So, in order to preserve textile from damage, the best way to get rid of that smell is to simply leave your cap / wooly hat in an open space where it can be naturally aerated.

This way you will get your cap to still look completely new, but you will get rid of that weird odor. If you want your hat to smell nice, you can always use textile perfume. 

If your cap still has a bad odor, after you aerate it, you can soak your cap in some cool water mixed with a little fabric softener, rinse it, and air-dry it. But don’t use warm water, if you do not want to change the shape of it.

How To Clean The Hat?

There are two possible ways for getting the bad smell out of your favorite hats: hand-washing and machine-washing the hat. Which way will you choose, first depends on the fabric the cap is made of, and second on the way it is soiled. 


Hand-washing is a much more gentle way of cleaning textile, so even if the hat can go in the washing machine, if it can be washed by the hands, it should be.

Most hats have a label inside that has care instructions on the proper way to wash them. It is strongly recommended to follow those instructions in order to keep your hats as good as new for the longest possible time.

How To Hand-Wash a Hat With Odor Smell

Most of the hats have a label that says ‘hand-wash only’. Those hats could be totally ruined if they’d go into a machine so in order to save the hat, don’t be lazy to clean your hat the proper way. 

how do I keep my hat from smelling

Hand-wash is more gentle, which is great for the hats that just have a bad smell like sweat smell on a baseball cap, without stains on them.

In those cases, it is enough to just soak the entire hat in cold water and some mild laundry detergent, fabric softener, or baking soda, rinse them and air-dry them after. 

If besides the bad odor, your cap has stains too, you have to pre-treat stained areas by gently rubbing the stained area with a mild cloth and some laundry detergent or baking soda and white vinegar, or stain remover, and gently scrub the area with the damp cloth, especially rub hat inside. 

After that, soak the whole hat in cool water with laundry detergent, and if needed rub the stained area for a little bit longer, remember not to use warm water. Rinse it, and air-dry the hat until it is completely dry. After that just hang the cap on the hat stand.

Washing Machine: Pros And Cons

Oh, it’s so much easier to just mix all the smelly clothes and drop them in the washing machine, so why should I go through the trouble of hand-wash anything?

This is the question all of us are asking when we feel a little lazy. But think about that favorite hat of yours for a few moments. For many people, it’s the cap. So, do you really want to risk it and ruin your favorite cap by cleaning it inappropriately?

how to wash a hat

As pros for washing machines, we should list simplicity to use, you can tune whatever program you want. For hats, it is best to go with some gentle cycle program and cool water. 

The machine will clean your hats better than hand-washing because it is stronger, especially if there are some dried-up stains that can’t be washed any other way.  

It is also great for saving skin on your hands because hand-washing clothes can dry your skin. And of course, saving your time. You can just turn it up, and the machine is doing all job for you.

As for cons, we should say, it is not as gentle as your hands, so the fabrics will get ruined faster. There are some materials used for manufacturing hats that can’t be washed by machines because they will be ruined immediately. And you would have to have a full load of gentle wear to fill your machine. So you should try to avoid cleaning your hats by the washing machine as often as you can. 

To Wrap Things Up

Depending on the source of the odor smell on your stinky hat (you may want to stop wearing it indoors for a while), and the materials your hat was made of, you can choose between hand wash and machine-washing your hat.

If the hat is new and has that weird odor, you should avoid cleaning it at all and just aerate the hat or use fabric perfume. 

If your hat has a bad smell but no stains on it, try soaking it in cool water with mild detergent, or baking soda, and air-dry it afterwords. 

If your hat has a bad smell and stains, you should pre-treat stains with a mild cloth and mild detergent and then soak it in cold water with laundry detergent. 

If the label on your hat says that a hat should only be hand-washed, do as the label says. If the label says you can wash it in the machine, you still should avoid it as often as you can, in order to save the textile.

how can I remove the sweat smell from my hat

Most Frequent Questions

Why does my hat smell so sad?

It can be because of your sweat, diary hair, body oils, conditions around you when you are wearing the hat, or, depending on the material, erosion halos due to melting material. You should factor all of these in before deciding whether you are going to wash it or dump it.Fdi

How do you freshen up a hat?

You can aerate it, use a textile perfume, hat conditioner, or soak it in cold water with some fabric softener.

How do you deep clean a hat?

The easiest way to deep clean a hat, especially a wool hat, is to run it under warm water in the clean sink and scour it with a kitchen brush. Then, shake it off, reshape it if need be, and set it out in the sun to dry. Once the hat is dry you can store it in a hatbox if you so choose. If you want to you can also lightly stuff the inside of the hat with paper to help maintain its shape.

How do you clean a smelly leather hat?

Never use water to wash your leather hat. Water may destroy it. Use a dry cloth to wipe it or a wax-based liquid cleaner.

How do you remove sweat stains from a hat?

All you have to do is soak a sponge in a bowl of lukewarm water and gently squeeze the hat. The sweat stains will be absorbed into the sponge. Alternately, you can use a fine-bristle hairbrush.

Can you put a hat in the dryer?

If the hat is made from a material that can be damaged from heat then NO. Putting a hat in a dryer can shrink it in an unexpected way, which would change the fit and look of the hat. So it is best to hat air dry, or have it dry cleaned.

Can you wash a hat in the dishwasher?

Technically it should be able to handle it. You should always check the care label first though. If the label says it can be machine washed, you can put it in the dishwasher

Just remember to compare detergents, mild laundry detergent meant to use for this probably can’t go in the dishwasher, and dish detergent could be too strong for your cap. So you should think of using either dish detergent or mild sour.

Author - Fred Felton
Fred Felton          

Content Creator / Editor

Fred Felton is a copywriter, editor and social media specialist based in Durban, South Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in creating high end content. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Currently Fred specialises in the winter outdoors space, focussing on skiing and snowboarding. He is also a keynote speaker and has presented talks and workshops in South Africa.


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