Barbara asked: I have had my grandfather’s hat since his death almost forty-five years ago. Although it is in a hat box for protection and in the top of the closet, it still got damaged over the years. It has water circles around the brim and has molded spots on it. I want to clean it and keep it as long as I can. Do you know what to clean it with, or is it too late? Thank you so much for the advice.
The exact cleaning process for an old hat will depend on the fabric or material the hat is comprised of. If you’re not sure what you’re dealing with, it’s always best to go to a professional for cleaning or advice. For an ordinary felt hat or one made from another common fabric, these steps will improve the condition. Remember to test on a hidden spot before you get started.
You Will Need:
- Hat brush or soft toothbrush
- Talcum powder
- Soft cloth
Steps to Clean the Hat:
- Choose a sunny day to work outside. You don’t want to dislodge the mold from the hat indoors. Mold spores that are brushed off could make their home in a new location, and you don’t want that to happen inside of your house.
- Use the brush to whisk away the loose mold along with any dirt or debris.
- Allow the hat to dry thoroughly before continuing if it is damp.
- To take care of stains, sprinkle a light coat of talcum powder on the hat. Allow it to sit for a few minutes.
- Next, gently brush the powder away with the hat brush or soft toothbrush. Use light pressure so the felt does not become damaged.
- Take the damp cloth and gently pat or wipe away any excess powder. It’s a good idea to wipe the whole hat for the sake of consistency. Only wiping one area may lead to spots.
- Allow the hat to air dry in a sunny location. The sun will help to speed up the drying process as well as kill any remaining mold spores.
- Once dry, remove from the sunlight to avoid fading.
- Store in a clean box, in a dry location that is out of sunlight.
Additional Tips and Advice
- Do not put the hat away until it is completely dry. Avoid storing it in damp spots or in a location where mold is already present.
- Water stains can be hard to remove. If they’re bad, it may be worth it to soak the whole hat in water and allow it to dry completely. This should “even out” any stains. Only do this on hats that are in good condition and can withstand the moisture.
- Time airing in the sun will remove most odors, but take care not to leave the hat exposed to direct sunlight for too long. The sun may fade and/or damage the fabric.
- Hats that are old and fragile should not be cleaned with water. Instead, have them professionally cleaned for the least invasive cleaning methods. Older hats may tear or become damaged with cleaning. If you are unsure, have the hat cleaned or at least evaluated by a pro.