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Are you washing your baseball hats often enough? A cleaning expert weighs in

There's more than one benefit to washing the trendy accessory.
TODAY Illustration / Athleta /Alo

Baseball hats have been a trending accessory that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. They’re the perfect accessory for your errand-running fits or to balance out your go-to everyday office look. You might even have a favorite that you pop on most often. But how often do you wash it?

If you’re anything like me, probably not enough. Wearing your hat often, especially during warmer, humid weather, calls for washing just as often. But you don’t have to just take our word for it. We asked a cleaning expert and a dermatologist about how often we should be washing our hats and the best processes to keep it in mint condition.

How often should people be washing their hats?

Jessica Ek, senior director of digital communications at the American Cleaning Institute, and Dr. Paul Friedman, director of Dermatology & Laser Center in Houston, Texas, both said how often you should wash your hat mainly depends on how often you wear it, how dirty it gets and the activities you’re doing.

“Clean it when it looks dirty, has gotten sweaty or you can’t remember the last time you washed it. Your favorite baseball hat may need to be washed several times a year,” Ek told Shop TODAY in an email.

Friedman added that hats that come in contact with skin when you’re wearing sunscreen, makeup, moisturizers or hair products or that are worn during physical activities should be laundered between each use.

“Our bodies shed dead skin cells, exude salt, sweat and sebum every day,” he wrote in an email. “For hats that come into contact with the skin for casual to daily use, I recommend washing your hat at least once a week.”

What are the effects on skin?

Like Friedman said, our bodies secrete a lot of things that hats can come into contact with, which is why it’s so important to clean them regularly. Not doing so could result in various types of acne breakouts, skin irritation and, if worse comes to worst, a skin infection. He stressed the importance of people with acne-prone or sensitive skin to “be diligent in maintaining hat hygiene.”

Things to consider before washing a baseball hat

Before you get right into washing your hats, there’s a few things Ek recommends keeping in mind:

  • Material. “A hat with a cardboard brim may not hold up to the washer. A wool baseball hat should be cleaned more delicately than a cotton one,” she advised.
  • Dirt level. Ek suggests assessing how dirty your hat actually is before diving right into a cleaning process. For pieces with a lot of sweat stains, she says using a stain remover with enzymes can help break it down. But for hats with just a few marks, you’ll probably be able to get away with just spot cleaning.
  • Wash history. If you’ve never washed the hat before, Ek says you might want to try cleaning a small spot first to see if any colors run. “This is less likely to be an issue with newer hats, but if you’re washing a vintage hat for the first time, it should be a consideration,” she added.

Tips for washing hats

When it’s time to wash your hats, Ek shared some best practices to optimize the cleaning process.

Firstly, you’ll want to check for a fabric care label — a tip that Friedman also echoed — to learn specific washing instructions for whatever material your hat is. If it’s washer-safe, she suggests using cold water on a gentle cycle. If it’s not, she says the best process is to hand wash with water, a little bit of detergent and a clean cloth. In this case, you can just spot clean, rinse and let it air dry.

If you don’t want to hand wash it but it’s not washing machine-safe, Ek says you can use the dishwasher! In this situation, you’d use the top shelf (free of other dishes) and take it out before the drying stage so that it can air dry. She noted that there are crown inserts you can buy to help the hat keep its shape if you choose this method.

No matter the method, Friedman suggests using a gentle, fragrance-free detergent to prevent irritation.

Trendy baseball hats to shop

Asos Design Plain Baseball Cap

A plain black baseball cap is a staple in any wardrobe the same way a plain black T-shirt is. You can get creative and apply pins or patches to make it your own or keep it plain for the sleek look. It also has an adjustable strap in the back so you can have the best fit possible.

Kbethos Original Classic Low Profile Cotton Hat

A bestseller with 14,700+ verified five-star ratings, this hat comes in 45 different colors and patterns. The reviews are filled with satisfied shoppers raving about its fit, durability and value.

Gap 100% Organic Cotton Washed Baseball Hat

Although fall is usually when people break out deeper tones, don't be afraid to stand out and embrace pops of color. This particular pop comes in the form of Pantone's color of the year, very peri. (But if you prefer something else, it comes in 10 other colors.)

HGGE Criss Cross Ponytail Baseball Cap

Wearing a baseball hat when your hair is in a bun or ponytail can be both annoying and uncomfortable. This hat is designed so you won't have to worry about that anymore. It has an open criss-cross style in the back so you can put your hair through whichever slot is most comfortable. It also has mesh paneling toward the back to provide some breathability.

Altar'd State Smiley Baseball Cap

Baseball caps don't have to be all plain! Have a little fun with styles like this smiley face from Altar'd State. It's the perfect hat to elevate your basic jeans-and-a-white-tee 'fit.

Nike Sportswear Heritage86 Hat

Give yourself and the people around you an encouraging reminder with this Nike hat that dons the company's slogan: Just do it. It's currently available in four colors.

'47 New York Yankees Classic Baseball Hat

This six-panel style is a welcome addition to any hat collection. It pairs perfectly with workout gear if you're getting ready to hit the gym or with a blazer and jeans if you want to give a little edge to a polished look. It also comes in navy blue, light gray and maroon — all colors that are perfect for fall.

Athleta Kinetic Baseball Cap 3.0

Made with recycled nylon and water-repellant fabric, this hat is designed to stand up to some light mist if you like to take your workouts outside or you just work up a sweat. One reviewer raved about its versatility, revealing that they wore it to the beach, bike riding and shopping.

Alo Off-Duty Cap

Pair everyone's favorite dad shoes with this dad cap from Alo. It comes in several shades and is a fan favorite with a strong average rating from almost 500 shoppers.