Hats & Sweat

Hats & Sweat

It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s steamy.

You want sun protection or, heck, you just know you look darn good in your hat and want to wear it everywhere. You’re sweaty and you don’t want your hat to be. Not to worry. We’ve got a few tips on how to prevent sweat stains on hats and keeping your hat in peak condition all summer sweat season long. 

  • When you realize you’re having a sweaty moment, take your hat off, set it crown side down on a flat surface, and flip the sweatband up so that whatever moisture is in the sweatband dries out in the open air instead of through your hat.
  • You can also improve the likelihood that sweat won’t reach the outside of your hat by spraying the side of the sweatband that faces the hat with Scotchgard (be careful not to spray your hat - put some tissue or newspaper in the hat to protect the hat).
on straw hats, sweat shows up as a brownish stain at the point where the crown meets the brim

But, chances are you landed on this page because your brimmed hat (fedora, pork pie, diamond crown, Detroit knot, flat brim, gambler, homburg, etc.) looks a little crusty from sweat and you asked Google and Google brought you to our fount of wisdom.

The care tag on most brimmed hats will tell you to have your hat professionally and/or spot clean. The challenge is that there aren’t a lot of places to get your hat professionally cleaned, which means you’re going to try to clean your hat at home, depending on your desperation.

Before we get into the details, remember that you should not under any circumstances submerge your hat in water. Don’t dunk it in the sink and, for the love of all that is holy, do not put it in the washing machine or dishwasher (if you’re here because you put your hat in the washing machine or dishwasher, the answer is buy a new hat). Getting your fedora wet can remove the stiffener from the hat, which will cause it to loose shape. A trip through the washing machine will take all of the stiffener out and you'll be left with a shapeless blog that was once a hat. A couple of other things to be aware of before we get started:

  • Colors in both the band and the hat can run
  • Materials can be discolored
  • Do a small test area first in as inconspicuous of a place as possible
  • When you apply water or a cleaning solution apply to the whole band or the whole hat
use a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and warm water to clean your sweat stained fedora

Usually you’ll notice sweat staining your fedora in one of two places: discoloration at the break where the brim meets the crown or a salt line on your hat band.

I'm going to tackle hat bands first (they're more straight forward). The first course of action is to use a damp cloth to wipe your entire band (if you don't do the entire band, you run the risk of cleaning an area too well so that it’s so clean that it stands out from the rest of the band). If the salt isn’t lifting with just water, you can escalate to a mix of any of the following solutions, again gently with a damp cloth:

  • Equal parts warm water (not hot) and white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 cup of warm water
  • Warm water with a few drops of dish soap

Take your time and be gentle. 

In theory the same technique applies to how to get sweat stains out of hats themselves, but cleaning a fedora is harder. Some materials have specific challenges to be aware of.

  • Toyo and paper are delicate. They're easy to saturate and will show wear if you’re aggressive with your wiping, and brightly colored toyo and paper hats are likely to run.
  • Polypropylene and polypropylene/paper blends are resilient - polypropylene is used to make lawn furniture. The limitations we give people in store with polypropylene hats are 1) don’t light it on fire and 2) don’t wear it in a chlorinated pool.
  • Unfortunately, once the sweat is in natural straws such as panama, raffia, shantung, and bu, there’s not a lot you can do to remove it because the sweat gets inside the straw rather than sitting on top of it. 
clip on hat bands are an easy way to cover up sweat stains on hats

>>> Pro Tip: an alternative to cleaning your hat, if most of your sweat staining is in the band, try an interchangeable band over your existing hat band. You’ll be amazed how these easy to use bands freshen up a hat. Plus you can switch out colors to match your hat to different outfits.

If you want crisp and clean, plan on buying a new hat every season or so, depending on how careful you are and how often you wear your hat. As you add more hats to your collection, you can have different hats for how sweaty you expect your day to be. Use the one in the worst condition for vacations and yard work, one in good condition for your day to day wear, and the newest, crispest one for the days you want to look your best.

If you’re concerned about sweat, there are some things to keep in mind when picking out a new hat.
choose a light brown or dark natural hat to mask staining

Choose a color that’s less likely to show sweat staining like a brown or darker natural. My go to is the Cornell in natural (I swapped out my band to make it a little more interesting), which I’ve had for over five years. A natural panama like this or this is a good option. We made a list of our best hats for sweaty heads. Avoid white or bleach hats, which show sweat marks easily. If you want white or bleach for hot days, go for it with the expectation that you’ll replace your white every season.


Breathability is key. More airflow = less sweat. Natural fibers like panama, hemp, and raffia breath better than synthetic fibers. One compromise is to get a polypropylene hat with venting like this one. Go for vented natural fibers for the most breathability.

material effects breathability. The more breathable a hat is, the less you sweat.

Consider material. Natural fibers are permeable and will absorb sweat, while polypropylene is impermeable. The other advantage to polypropylene is that you can wipe it down with a damp cloth (or hose it off at the end of the day – you might notice a change in the band but the hat itself can take a LOT of abuse. Polypropylene is used to make lawn furniture).

Sweatband materials make a difference. Leather creates the densest barrier between your head and your hat and is will stay flipped up to dry out. If you’re bald, avoid a grosgrain sweat. The moisture from sweat and the heat your head generates can cause the sweatband to shrink. Padded cloth or athletic elastic sweats are good, middle of the road options that you can Scotchgard to decrease permeability.


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