How to Keep Hats Stiff

by Natalie Smith, Ph.D. ; Updated September 28, 2017

Avoid grabbing your felt hat by the crown. Images

Some hats, like baseball hats, are at their best when they are slightly soft and broken in. Felt hats, such as cowboy hats or felt fedoras, do not need to be broken in because the felt will gradually form to fit your head without softening. These hats should remain stiff otherwise they lose their shape. To ensure that your felt hat remains stiff, keep it clean and dry so that the felt doesn't have the opportunity to absorb liquids or dirt that can make it lose its shape.

Take the hat off by holding the front and back edges of the brim. Do not touch the crown of the hat because over time, the pinching from your hand will cause the hat to become soft and pliable at the crown, which may cause it to lose its shape.

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of baby talc or cornstarch on any stains on a light-colored hat. The talc or cornstarch act like a dry shampoo, cleaning the stain without making the hat wet. Avoid using liquid cleaners because these can soak into the felt and make the hat soft.

Brush the hat with a stiff cleaning brush meant for felt hats. The brush will remove the talc or cornstarch as well as stray hairs, dust or dirt. Start on one side and brush the hat in a counterclockwise motion, working around the hat until you return to the place you started.

Turn out the sweatband from inside the hat by pulling it out so it sticks out of the crown. This allows the sweatband to dry naturally. Never use a liquid cleaner on the sweatband or it may soak into the felt. Tuck the sweatband back into the hat when it is dry.

Place the hat on a hat rack or upside down by itself or in a hat box. Never set a felt hat down on its brim because the weight from the crown will cause the brim to bend. Over time, the brim will become soft and lose its shape.


  • If your felt hat becomes wet, shake off the water. Most felt hats are treated to be water-resistant so as long as you do not let the water soak in or rub it in, the hat will dry without softening.

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About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.