The secret to keeping your favorite cowboy hat in pristine condition for years to come? It starts with keeping it clean and storing it safely. Following are a few other tips from the Nigro’s that will keep your prized hats looking great for years to come.
General Tips for Maintaining Cowboy Hats
Many have heard the old saw over the years about placing cowboy hats upside down as it’s bad luck to set your cowboy hate brim-side down as all the luck will run out of the hat. That superstition may be a stretch, but it’s still good advice as setting your hat down on its brim puts pressure on it and, over time, this will cause the brim to flatten or warp. So, always leave your hat crown-side down. Hat stands designed for cowboy hats or even a regular wall hook are fine for temporary storage, but gravity will still cause the hat to lose its shape over time.
The temperature and humidity where you store your hat can also affect its condition – ideally a cool and dry indoor space. Repeatedly leaving your hat in a hot truck or in direct sunlight will, over time, cause bleaching and fading which is usually irreversible.
Cowboy hats should also be kept dry when possible. Never fully submerge your cowboy hat in water, not even when cleaning it. If rain or snow dampens your hat, once back inside it’s best to use a hat brush or hat sponge to brush away moisture. If your hat does become especially wet, never place your cowboy hat near a heater or use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process. In fact, any drying method involving direct heat of any kind should be avoided, as this can shrink or otherwise damage your hat.
To care for a wet hat, let it dry naturally while sitting on its crown. Although you’ll find the results are better than heat drying, there can still be an issue: even while air drying, as the hat dries, the fibers will shrink and tighten, which can change the shape and fit of your hat. If you have access to a hat retainer or hat stretcher, you’ll get the best results using one of those tools to maintain the hat’s shape as it slowly air drys.
Another tip, when you’ve sweated heavily in your cowboy hat, be sure to set it crown-side down and flip the sweatband up so all surfaces can fully air dry. It’s also a good idea to periodically use a damp cloth and mild soap to clean the sweatband since the buildup of acid from sweat can, over time, cause long-term damage to the hat, as well as skin irritation.
Felt Cowboy Hat Care
Felt is the number one choice of material for cowboy hat construction because of its extreme durability, natural resistance to water, and its relative light weight. As to the age old question of when to wear a felt versus straw hats, most cowboy hat wearers don a felt hat during the winter and switch to a cooler straw hat during the summer months. No matter the season, when attending a wedding or other formal event it’s customary to wear a felt cowboy hat versus a straw one.
Keeping felt cowboy hats fresh and looking sharp is reasonably easy as long as they’re cleaned regularly with the proper tools. For general dirt and dust removal, use a hat brush or hat sponge to loosen and remove debris without damaging the felt. When cleaning or brushing the top side of the brim and crown, start on the left side of the hat and work your brush or sponge with the grain (counterclockwise) around the hat. Although brushing clockwise won’t cause immediate damage to your hat, but over time brushing in the reverse direction can cause the felt to fray and become fuzzy.
Avoid transferring contrasting color fibers between felt hats. Keep separate brushes for your light hats and your dark hats. For stubborn lint or hairs stuck to the felt, just use a piece of tape – sticky side toward the hat – and easily remove these and other light debris. For the inevitable deeper stains that happen to hats now and again, carefully work the affected spots with a non-detergent soap, lukewarm water, and a sponge. (Pro tip: When you purchase a felt cowboy hat from Nigro’s Western Store, you’ll also receive a free hat sponge!)
Straw Cowboy Hats
Caring for a straw cowboy hat is similar to caring for felt hats – and perhaps a bit easier. Of course, you want to keep it dry as much as possible. Even more so than felt, when a straw hat becomes saturated with water, it will swell and begin to lose its shape. You can help protect straw hats from water damage by applying a linseed oil treatment or a waterproofing spray, just be sure to check that the product you choose is safe for the type of straw used to make your hat.
You’ll want to store straw hats the same way as your felt ones. Don’t set it down on the brim or leave it hanging on a hook for too long. And, even more so than felt, if your straw hat is not kept in a cool, well-ventilated area, it is at risk of growing mold or even rotting. Never leave your straw hat in direct sunlight either as this will quickly dry out the straw and cause it to quickly crack or fray.
Keep your straw hat clean by periodically wiping it down with a slightly damp cloth. If there are stubborn stains that water can’t eliminate, you can use a very small amount of dish soap to help clean it up. Make sure to use a white or light-colored cloth when cleaning as darker cloth may leave behind dye on the straw that can be extremely difficult to remove. For extremely wet straw hats, just like with felt, let them dry naturally (on a hat stretcher if you have one), and never use direct heat to dry them.