How to wash hats in the dishwasher – cleaning experts explain this bizarre hack

Yes, you read that correctly. You can wash hats in a dishwasher – but how effective is this method?

An open dishwasher in a grey modern kitchen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While most of the time we use our dishwashers for cleaning the dishes, it turns out there are some interesting things you can throw in to make cleaning and laundry a bit easier. Among them are hats. 

While there are several things you shouldn’t put in a dishwasher, it turns out your hats are not one of them. In fact, your dishwasher could be the best way to kill bacteria and remove bad smells without having to hand scrub. 

Here, cleaning experts explain how to wash hats in the dishwasher to refresh your hardware without misshaping it. 

How to wash hats in the dishwasher

This bizarre laundry hack to save time does come with a few caveats, however. It isn’t as simple as popping all your hats in and setting the cycle off as normal. This is what you need to consider.  

1. Check your hat’s material

hand wash laundry label

(Image credit: Getty images / Kinga Krzeminska)

Dishwashers generally heat up to quite high temperatures in order to kill foodborne bacteria and remove stubborn grease. As a result, it is important to only put in hats that you are sure can stand up to the heat, begins Yessica Bello, cleaning expert at Bello’s Cleaning

‘Hats can be delicate and require specific care, which makes this topic particularly interesting. However, you can wash certain types of hats in a dishwasher, especially those that don’t have a rigid structure or delicate materials. For example, baseball caps made of cotton or polyester often hold up well because they can handle the water pressure and temperature without warping. Hats with cardboard brims or made from sensitive fabrics should be avoided, as the dishwasher can damage them irreparably.’

Generally speaking, the best types of hats to use for this trick are baseball caps, visors (similar to baseball caps, visors are usually made from sturdy materials and can handle the dishwasher without losing their shape), and synthetic material hats (those made from fibers such as polyester are usually more resilient and can tolerate the dishwasher’s heat and water pressure,’ explains Donna Chambers, clothing expert and owner of Sensacalm.  

2. Put hats on the top rack

dishwasher next to a sink

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When proceeding to wash hats in the dishwasher, you want to ensure that the dishwasher is empty of any dishes and that you have recently cleaned the dishwasher to remove any lingering food particles and ensure the filter is free of clogs. Then, add the hats to the top rack, suggests Donna Chambers, clothing expert. 

‘Place the hat on the top rack of the dishwasher. This area receives less intense water pressure and heat compared to the bottom rack. Consider using a hat cage or form to help maintain the shape of the hat during the wash cycle and keep them securely in place,’ she adds

3. Use a short, cold cycle

appliances you should never buy on the cheap

(Image credit: Future / David Parmiter)

You will want to avoid subjecting the caps to high temperatures as much as possible, so use a short, cold cycle – and avoid the dishwasher detergent, warns Amber Roy, senior fashion designer at Clifton Clothing:

‘Select a gentle or delicate cycle with a low-temperature setting and avoid using the drying cycle as the heat can cause damage,' she says. 'Dishwashing detergents are formulated for dishes, not fabrics. They can be too harsh for delicate hat materials and cause fabric deterioration.' To add detergent, use a gentle, chemical-free dishwasher pod, and never add fabric detergent. This can create too many bubbles in the machine causing damage and leaks. 

‘After the cycle completes, remove the hat immediately and reshape it by hand. Allow it to air dry on a flat surface or over a rounded object to maintain its shape.’

The pros and cons of washing hats in a dishwasher

hallway with green toile de Jouy wallpaper straw hats on pegs and view to round table

(Image credit: Ton Bouwer/

Just because you can wash hats in a dishwasher does not always mean that you should. It is worth weighing up the pros and cons before charging ahead, reminds Donna Chambers, clothing expert: 

The pros

‘Convenience: The dishwasher can clean hats more thoroughly than hand washing, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

Shape Maintenance: Using a dishwasher’s top rack can help maintain the hat’s shape compared to the agitation in a washing machine.’ 

The cons

‘Heat Damage: Dishwashers use hot water and high heat during the drying cycle, which can shrink or warp hats, especially those made of wool or delicate materials.

Detergent Residue: Dishwashing detergents can be harsh and leave residues that might damage the fabric or irritate the skin.

Brim Damage: The structured brim of a hat can become misshapen or damaged if not properly secured.’ 


What dishwasher detergent is safe for hats?  

If you do not want to add laundry detergent to your dishwasher (which is generally not recommended) but still want to use it to wash hats, consider picking up a dishwasher detergent that does not contain any harsh chemicals such as bleach and is not scented. The more natural, the better.  

Is it okay to wash hats in the washing machine?  

More often than not, you can put hats in the washing machine. For more structured hats, it is best to check the care label on the inside first, as this will tell you if it needs hand washing, or requires dry cleaning to remove bacteria, stains, or odors.  

This laundry hack might be a good time saver if you have a large hat collection in need of cleaning, but it is not necessarily something people who are good at laundry always do, warns Yessica Bello, cleaning expert. ‘Washing hats in a dishwasher is a topic of debate among clothing care experts. Generally, I do not recommend washing hats in a dishwasher due to the potential for damage.’ 

Before going ahead and washing hats in a dishwasher, always consider hand washing laundry first for the safest results.   

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.