Sometimes it can feel a bit daunting to know how to properly care for a hat--straws especially! Let's cover some things to consider and some easy hat care tips to keep your summer straws going strong this season.
It should come as no surprise that the first way to manage any dirt or stain on a straw hat is to prevent it in the first place. The oils on even the cleanest hands will eventually stain the brim or the crown of a hat over time, so you should avoid handling the hat as much as possible, and when you do, try and handle the smallest area that you can.
Another concern with a straw hat can be cracks along the crown near the pinch, and this can be avoided by not handling the hat by the crown at all, but rather by the brim. The straw tends to crack in that area due to repetitive pressure applied to the blocked flat weaves of the material. Milliners will try to help you out by sometimes gluing in a supportive patch inside the crown for extra support, but also in the case that cracks do happen, the patch will try to help keep the straw from fraying.
It may take some retraining of your habits if you tend to gravitate toward handling it by the pinch, but that's okay! Be patient with yourself, and stay mindful of how you're handling your hat.
If you are prone to heavy sweating, try to shop with that in mind, looking for a summer hat with a liner, a hat with woven holes in the crown to promote air movement, or more moisture-durable straw materials like seagrass. Hats that tote a moisture wicking inner band are helpful too, because they'll try to cut back on the saturation.
The three cloth pieces of a straw hat--the liner, the headband, and the hatband--can all be cleaned easily with a light detergent like a Woolite, diluted 1 part detergent, 2-3 parts water. It's not unusual for all three of these pieces to become sweaty or dirty, so they should be cleaned regularly not just for the appearance of the hat, but also for the comfort of the wearer and the health of their skin. These pieces should be cleaned gently, and scrubbed in a circular motion with a wet (but not overly saturated!) cloth that has a touch of the diluted detergent mixture. The cloth pieces should then be gently rinsed of the soapy mixture with a second wet cloth sans the soap.
For stains that have accumulated from handling the hat and transferring the oils from your fingers to the straw body, we tend to recommend first packing a bit of corn starch over the area to let it try to draw up the oils. Leave it there for a couple hours before gently brushing it off to see how much or if more cleaning needs to be done.
If the stains remain, we recommend a straw cleaner like NuStraw. As with any cleaner or treatment, you should test the NuStraw on an inconspicuous part of the hat first to see how it changes the color, if at all, just in case!
Putting a small amount of NuStraw on a soft, clean, cloth, you should spot clean any of the more in-depth stains using a gentle, circular motion, then wipe clean the area with a clean, dry, cloth. Once any specific stains are taken care of, you should clean the entire body of the hat with a little bit of NuStraw on a cloth, still working in small circular motions, but this time starting from the center of the crown of your straw hat, and working outwards. Once the entire hat has been cleaned in this way, wipe the whole straw hat down again with a clean, dry cloth.
That’s all there is to it, really. Just a little bit of love and care can greatly extend the lifetime of your straw hat and, as you can see, cleaning a straw hat is a piece of cake. Once the worry of taking care of a hat is lifted, you can really start to live in it, and your summer wardrobe will never be the same!