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You probably have a favorite ball cap. You know the one: the cotton is soft, fits your head perfectly, and you never have to adjust it. If you wear that ball cap often, you’ll probably notice another telltale sign that it’s your favorite: it will develop a “patina” right around the seam that attaches the brim to the crown.
Certain things in life are better with a patina (ex: copper and bronze sculptures, soapstone countertops, antique wood furniture, and reclaimed wood flooring), but other things (like silver dishes and baseball caps) are not.
Fortunately for your ball cap, there is something you can do to get rid of the unsightly sweat stains and fading that comes with regular wear.
In this post, you’ll learn how to fix faded hats in three easy steps. All you’ll need is clean water, detergent, tape, and some color. Here’s how to go about it.
1. Wash it Well
Before you do anything to your hat, you need to give it a proper washing. It is possible that your hat just has a lot of grime on the outer layer, meaning you won’t need to dye it after you wash away the soot.
Too many people are hesitant about washing hats because they don’t know how or are afraid of ruining a beloved custom snapback in the washing machine. There’s nothing to worry about.
Admittedly, washing baseball caps has a little bit of a technique to it. However, most ball caps have a care label with washing instructions on how to clean and dry the hat, including water temperature.
Here’s an example.
Check out this blog post on how to wash your hats the right way for more details. Here’s the TL: DR of that post:
- Don’t wash your hat in the washing machine or dishwasher, and do not use bleach
- Soak the hat in warm water with a little bit of laundry detergent
- Scrub stubborn stains with a soft toothbrush
- Rinse with cool water, pat excess water, and air dry
Top tip: Choose a gentle or mild detergent with a pH level of 7. Many commercial cleaners have a pH of 10, which can irritate the skin and strip color off the fabric. For reference, the pH level of bleach is 13.
2. Use Fabric Dye
If your hat still looks grungy after its spa treatment (or you want to change the color for kicks and giggles), don’t fret! One thing you can try is to dye it in a color bath. This method works really well with cotton hats, but you have to be careful if you have embroidered patches.
Depending on the type of thread the patch uses, it might change color right along with the rest of your cap. It’s essential to note that the type of dye you buy has to be compatible with the fabric your hat is made out of.
For instance, baseball caps are made of cotton or cotton blends, while trucker hats have foam and plastic. Some dyes only work on synthetic materials, while others work with natural fabrics like cotton or wool.
If you try to dye your cap with the wrong type of dye, it may end up spotty and uneven, or the fabric might not take the dye at all. Even more frustrating is when the fabric doesn’t take the dye, but the thread does! Yes, that can actually happen.
Read the directions specific to your type of dye. Generally, here’s what you need to do:
- Fill up a large tub with hot water and soak the hat until it’s thoroughly wet.
- Remove the hat from the water. Add the appropriate amount of dye and stir it around until it is evenly distributed.
- Put the hat back in the dyed water and agitate it every few minutes until it’s the color you want.
- Rinse the hat in hot water and gradually reduce the temperature to cold water until you don’t see any colorful runoff water.
- Pat dry, then air dry.
To ensure your hat keeps its shape, dry it over a mannequin’s head or rounded container.
Another tricky thing about dyeing fabric using a color bath is that if you don’t wash and rinse your items properly, the color can bleed or run onto other surfaces. Don’t skimp on the rinsing step, and only wash it with like colors (which shouldn’t be a problem anyway since you’re not washing your hat in the washing machine, right?).
Top Tip: Spot-test the dye on the inside of your cap to see if you like how the color looks. It will also confirm if you have the correct dye or not. Apply clear paraffin wax to logos, patches, and embroidery to prevent the dye from penetrating those fabrics.
3. Choose Fabric Paint
If you don’t want the hassle of using a color bath, you can always go in the fabric paint direction. When choosing a fabric paint, look for products that say something like “soft dry.” Otherwise, you will end up with an extremely stiff (though perfectly colored) ball cap.
You can use a brush to apply some fabric paint. But some fabric paint comes in an aerosol container that lets you spray the color.
Before you do any coloring, here’s a word of wisdom for custom embroidered hats. Cover up all your embroidery, patches, and plastic accents with painter’s tape.
This step will keep your custom snapback in pristine condition and your patches looking neat and clean. Use an X-Acto knife to trim away excess bits of painter’s tape so that you get a nice edge around your patch.
You’ll also want to ensure your hat is completely dry and clean. This will help your hat take the color evenly without the possibility of it flaking off with dirt.
Additionally, the type of paint you choose will determine how you apply it, so be sure to read the directions carefully. We do not recommend painting the inside of the hat, though you should definitely touch up the color on the underside of the brim.
Your cap will be stiff after the fabric paint application, but it won’t last long. The cap should loosen up after a couple of wears.
Top tip: You may need to apply more than one layer of fabric paint to achieve your desired color saturation. Allow the paint to dry between each application.
Sweat and sun exposure cause ball caps to fade over time. While you can simply buy a similar hat, sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye to something with sentimental value.
Fortunately, you don’t have to burst out the Boyz II Men records just yet. A thorough wash and a good dye or paint job can breathe new life into a favorite hat. Remember to choose the right detergent, dye, and fabric paint for your hat, spot-test the color, and air dry the restored hat indoors. So, before you throw your cap away or donate it, try one of these options.
Even though you’ve learned how to fix faded hats, cleaning and storing them properly is important to prevent stains and fading. A clean cloth and soapy water do wonders to maintain elegant hats.