The trucker hat. Could it be any more iconic? From 1960s…
You probably have a favorite ball cap. You know the one: the cotton is soft, it 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 that you can do to get rid of the unsightly sweat stains and fading that comes with regular wear.
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, and you may not need to dye it after you wash away the soot. Washing baseball caps has a little bit of a technique to it, so check out this blog post on how to do it the right way. If you don’t have very much time, here’s the TL:DR:
- 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 troublesome areas with a toothbrush
- Rinse, pat dry, air dry
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. To prevent that, try hand-painting or spraying the patch with a clear coat of fabric paint before moving on to the dyeing process.
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. Some dyes only work on synthetic fabrics while others only work with cotton. 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! #truestory #personalexperience
You’ll want to read the directions specific to your type of dye, but generally what you’ll need to do is the following:
- 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 until it is cold, and you don’t see any colorful runoff water.
- Pat dry then air dry.
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 be sure to 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?).
If you don’t want the hassle of using a color bath, you can always go the fabric paint direction. When you choose your fabric paint, look for products that say something along the lines of “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, and other fabric paint comes in an aerosol container that you lets you spray on the color.
Before you do any coloring, however, here’s a word of wisdom for custom embroidered hats. You will need to cover up all of your embroidery, patches and plastic accents with painter’s tape. This step will keep your custom snapback looking pristine 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 make sure that 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 that 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.
A thorough wash and a good dye or paint job can breathe new life into a favorite hat. So before you throw your cap away or donate it, give one of these options a try.