Apparel Tips

Cleaning Your Cowboy Hat: A Helpful How-To Guide

man steaming a cowboy hat
Written by Natalie Gasper

Cowboy Hat Cleaning Made Easy

Dirt may be inevitable, but a dirty cowboy hat doesn’t have to be!

Keeping a cowboy hat clean doesn’t need to be hard. How you clean your hat depends on the material it’s made from (wool, leather, felt, or straw). Fortunately, a soft brush or white cloth usually does the trick.

When not wearing your hat, hang it on a hook, lay it crown-side down, or store it in a hat box. No matter how dirty your hat gets, NEVER put it in a washer or dryer. A bit of cornstarch works great to remove stubborn dirt or stains.

man wearing dirty cowboy hat with horse and dog

This hat needs a good cleaning! Source: Canva

Caring for Your Cowboy Hat

While some care varies based on your hat’s material, one thing is true for any hat: regular cleanings, even if it doesn’t look ‘dirty,’ can save you a lot of elbow grease down the road.

Wearing 101

Make sure the bow on the hat band is at the back of your head. Hats can take time to break in, so be prepared for your hat to feel snug for a few weeks.

Proper Hat Storage

If you’re not wearing your hat, hang it on a hook or place it crown-side down to preserve the brim. A hat box is a worthwhile investment!

Cleaning Basics

Using a hat brush or soft brush once a week can prevent dirt from seeping in. If you’re dealing with a stain, there are lots of options for removal, including cornstarch, mild soap, and hydrogen peroxide.

Cowboy Hat Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO put hats down on the crown
  • DO alternate between straw and felt hats depending on the season
  • DON’T touch another person’s hat
  • DON’T place your hat on the bed

For more cowboy hat etiquette, check out this article

Material Matters: Felt vs. Straw Hat Care

Cowboy hats come in a range of materials, with felt and straw being two popular options. Both require different types of care to stay clean.

How to Clean a Cowboy Hat

Here are a few cleaning basics for each type of hat.


Start with a soft brush (natural fibers or horsehair is best) and gently brush the hat counterclockwise, crown to brim. If you have a stain, sprinkle on some cornstarch and let it sit for several hours before brushing it off.

Avoid using water, detergents, and heat, as that can alter the shape of your hat.


Some straw hats can be cleaned with water, so be sure to check the label. If water is OK, you can mix it with a small bit of mild soap. For a dry cleaning, use a dry cloth or soft brush.

No matter what type of hat, NEVER use the washer or dryer.

How to Reshape a Cowboy Hat

If you’ve never shaped a hat before, it’s best to take it to a professional, but here are a few quick at-home tricks.


Leather hats are relatively easy to reshape yourself, and all you need are your hands! Place the hat crown-side down on your knee. Then, use both hands to pull in opposite directions for 5-7 seconds at a time.

Felt / Wool

This material is a bit trickier, as it involves using steam to soften the material before shaping it. Once the brim is soft, use your hands to bend the brim into your desired shape.


If your straw hat has a wire brim, you can easily reshape it by adjusting the wire with your fingers. If there’s no wire, you can’t change the shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you clean a cowboy hat at home?

Start with a dry cloth or (clean) horsehair brush to remove loose dirt. If that doesn’t work, you can use a damp sponge or cloth to remove dirt and stains. If the stain is more deeply ingrained, try using a bit of window cleaner. However, always test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it won’t discolor your hat.

Q: How do you clean a Stetson cowboy hat?

For a fur felt hat, use a soft brush to remove dirt and dust. For a straw hat, use a bit of mild soap mixed with water, then use a soft brush or wipe to gently clean the hat. Let it dry fully before wearing it.

Q: Is it OK to get a cowboy hat wet?

Some materials handle water better than others. Wool cowboy hats can tolerate light rain but must be patted dry. Fur felt has some inherent waterproof qualities. Avoid getting a leather hat wet (it affects the oils and will turn the hat brittle). Straw hats are the best choice for heavy rain or consistent rain exposure.

Q: Are cowboy hats washable?

They can’t be tossed in the washing machine, but all cowboy hats can be cleaned by hand (NEVER clean a wet hat).

Q: How do you get dirt and sweat stains out of a hat?

Pro tip: if a brush isn’t enough, use a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water with a white cloth.

Q: What is the best homemade hat cleaner?

Cornstarch! It’s the perfect solution for removing mild stains.

Parting Thoughts

It’s easier to maintain a clean hat than to spend hours removing deeply embedded dirt or stains. Treat your hat like you would your saddle, and it will last for years.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to: 


American Hat Makers – Hat Cleaning Techniques

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About the author


With a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Central Florida and an editing certificate from the University of Washington, my decade-long writing journey has been a kaleidoscope of diverse experiences. I've had the privilege of contributing to a spectrum of platforms, including newspapers, print and online magazines, literary journals, and individual clients on subjects spanning from horse care, gardening, motorcycles, to exploring East Asia.