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September 01, 2016 4 min read

So you’ve purchased your first Panama hat but aren’t sure how to care for it. A genuine Panama hat is a woven straw hat made from toquilla straw using an Ecuadorian weaving process. This process takes a lot of time and precision, making a genuine Panama hat cost significantly more than just any woven straw hat. You need to care for it to maintain its quality and condition properly.

Caring for a genuine Panama hat is not the same as caring for a cloth hat or a baseball cap. Due to its woven materials, the Panama hat has to be treated gently so that the fibers do not become unwoven and give the hat a frayed appearance that is not fixable.

Let’s look at how you can care for your Panama hat properly and avoid any unnecessary damage.

Wearing Your Hat

Panama hats were designed to be worn in hot weather to protect your face from the sun. They weren’t created to for the rain, so if you get caught in a storm with your hat, you will need to dry it out naturally without applying artificial heat. When you dry it out, make sure to store it in the correct shape, so it doesn’t dry out in an irregular or different shape than it originally was.

Maintaining Your Hat

Maintaining your Panama hat requires it needs to be brushed periodically to retain its appearance. Use a soft whisk brush to remove dust from your hat. Brushing your hat prevents dirt from settling down into the fibers, which can permanently darken the appearance of your Panama hat over time. Clean your hat once a week to avoid permanent staining.

Next, maintain the shape of your Panama hat by being careful of how you pick it up and put it down. When you pick up your hat, use the brim rather than the crown of the hat. When you put it down, put it with the crown facing down to avoid distorting the shape of the brim. If you do need to straighten the brim of your hat, you can iron it on low heat with a cloth between the iron and the hat to prevent the delicate fibers of the hat from burning.

Storing Your Hat

Proper storage of your hat can prolong its lifetime and avoid damage to its overall shape and color. A Panama hat needs to be kept in a cool, dark place when you are not wearing it. The straw fibers are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so storing it in places such as the back of the car on a hot day is a bad idea. Extreme heat will cause the fibers to dehydrate and crack, leading to a frayed appearance. If your hat is subjected to hot weather, spraying your hat with water from time to time will prevent the fibers from cracking. 

When it’s time to take off your Panama hat for the day, place it on a hat rack or a block specifically made for storing hats. Leaving your hat on a flat surface will cause it to bow in the front and the back. 

Removing Stains

Stain removal from Panama hats can be tricky without permanently damaging your hat, especially if the stain has soaked in to the hat’s fibers. First start by taking a damp cloth with cold water and gently rubbing the stain with the grain of the hat. This will work best for stains that are just on the surface of the fibers. If the stain or dirt is not embedded in the fibers of the hat, you can also try using a soft-bristle brush to remove it. Remove stains as quick as you can to avoid them soaking and setting into the fibers, causing permanent damage.

One of the more common stains is from sweat. Dark water or sweat stains can be dealt with by a professional cleaner or restoration expert who will use special chemicals and tools to remove deep stains from the fibers. There are also straw hat cleaners you can purchase at home, but carefully follow the instructions! To avoid sweat stains, turn the hat inside out when you have a wet sweatband, and rest the hat on the band. Ultrafino does offer restoration services; if you are interested you can get a quote by contacting us.

If you want to attempt cleaning your hat at home, you will need mild uncolored soap, a soft cloth, and warm water. First, put some warm water in a cup or bucket and add a soap to the water. The soap needs to be undyed to avoid discoloring the fibers of your hat. Stir your soapy water until it is blended without bubbles. Soak your cloth in this mixture and rub along the grain of the hat where the stain is until the stain is gone. Using baby wipes or facial wipes often works just as well, too.

If you spill something tougher on your hat such as juice, oil, or blood, you may need to add a few drops of ammonia to your soapy water. Use gloves so that you do not make skin contact with the ammonia and apply the mixture with a brush directly onto the stain. You may need to let it sit for a minute or two before again using a soft cloth to rub along the grain until the stain is gone.

The final step is to dip a cloth into warm water and pass this over the entire hat being careful to always follow the grain of the fibers. Afterward, let it dry somewhere clean and dark. Your hat will be good as new and won’t lose its shape as long as you follow these steps.

Panama hats are an excellent accessory for both men and women, and they come in many different colors, shapes, and styles. Maintaining your hat will ensure you have it for many years, rather than having to purchase a new hat every few months. Panama hats are made with care and attention to detail. Maintain them with the same respect, and they will last a lifetime!