4 ways to remove sweat stains from your favorite golf hats

two golf hats

Dirty golf hats? We have solutions to clean them.

Josh Berhow

Welcome to Stuff Golfers Should Know, a GOLF.com series in which we reveal all kinds of useful golf (and life!) wisdom that is sure to make you the smartest, savviest and most prepared player in your foursome.

Every golfer has a go-to cap; most have several. The challenge is keeping them mint. One day — from overuse or too much yard work — they’ll get grimy, sweaty, smelly and maybe even unwearable.

But fret not, dear reader, because there are solutions — you can remove those gross sweat stains!

As a service to golf-hat-lovers everywhere, I scoured the web and even performed my own tests at home on a few of my favorite hats that were on life support. Here are my findings on what worked, and what didn’t. Will they work for you? I hope so, but results may vary. (There are also some sprays you can buy, but these tests were done with the idea you wouldn’t need to get anything extra outside of typical household items.)

1. Dishwasher

I took out the dirty dishes at home and dropped my favorite hat, one I got from Bandon Trails five years ago, on the top rack and threw detergent in there like it was any other load. Just make sure your detergent doesn’t contain bleach, which could change the color of your hat. I used Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent.

The result? Pretty good! Check out the before and after below. I put it over a bowl to dry so it kept its shape. The sweat stain came off, although another unidentified stain did not. There was one setback, though. That little leather logo in the corner hardened in the dishwasher and is now darker and tougher to read. Some might say it looks worse, but others might argue the added distress looks better. I kinda like it.

two golf hats
Before (left) and after: The sweat stains are gone! But the leather patch didn’t hold up so well… Josh Berhow

But that brings up one key reminder in this entire process: Be aware of the material your hat is made out of; that might dictate the best way to clean it.

Overall, the dishwasher method deserves a quality grade, and you can round that up even higher if your hat, unlike mine, doesn’t have leather patches or other troublesome material. For your typical cap, this might be your best, and easiest, option. Grade: A-

2. Washing machine

While the Bandon Trails cap was in the dishwasher, I threw a Pebble Beach/2019 U.S. Open cap — which was also in need of some TLC — into the washing machine and dumped in a little detergent. After a normal cycle I let it air dry. (I skipped the dryer.)

It kind of looks like you took a trusty used car through a car wash. It looks somewhat refreshed, but is still the same old car. Grade: D

3. Hand-washing

I rolled up my sleeves for this third option — which I have done twice before with mixed results — and grabbed the Pebble Beach hat again. I snagged an ice cream bucket, poured in a bit of laundry detergent and filled it with warm water. Meanwhile, I dabbed a cloth in the bucket and scrubbed the dirtiest parts of the hat before dropping it in. Per a few suggestions I found online, I let the hat soak in there for 15 minutes before pulling it out and lightly scrubbing the problem areas for a few more minutes before rinsing it with cool water. I again placed it over a bowl to keep its shape, waited for it to dry and… not bad.

Not perfect, but a definite improvement, and I think some of those wrinkles on top will go away with time. Grade: B

pebble beach hat
Before (left) and after. Josh Berhow

4. Bonus option: Showering with your hat on

In all of my online searching, this was among the most recommended (and surprising) options. Many people swear that showering with their hat on works wonders. Simply put it on, jump in the shower, use some shampoo on it and that somehow takes out all the sweat and oils and nastiness. Truth is, I couldn’t test it — I ran out of dirty hats to clean! — but give it a go if you are game. As for now, we’ll give its grade an incomplete, due to lack of testing. Grade: TBD


Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.