My paper straw hat gets a ‘medical’ check up

Crumpled hat

My paper straw hat gets a workout every summer. It’s comfortable and looks good, but doesn’t have staying power. Inevitably it ends up squished under someone’s bag while we’re traveling 😦 I’ve been experimenting with cleaning and reshaping my hat to restore its good looks. Here’s what I’ve found out.


Perhaps your hat is dirty because your husband dragged it through a bunch of bushes (not looking at anyone in particular, mind you!). No problem, some of the dirt will come out with cleaning. I tried brushing the hat first, to remove any big particles. I’ve seen advice to use a bristle brush for this, but I was worried that would scuff the paper straw. I have a brush for suede that’s gentler, so I used that instead. In my case, this brushing didn’t make much difference because the dirt was well rubbed in. But hey, it might help you!

What was effective, was applying a little dishwashing detergent and water with a rag. I’d recommend an old linen teatowel because that won’t spread lint all over your hat. Some dirt remained, but it was reduced enough for me to be happy to wear the hat in public again.


My second issue is that the hat gets knocked out of shape. Hats Unlimited have a helpful video showing how to reshape a hat with steam. I don’t have an industrial steamer, so I took their advice and set up a small saucepan on my stove with some water. I set the lid just off on the side so that only a little steam could get out at any time. I was trying to focus the steam, like the steamer does in Hats Unlimited’s video.

Reshaping hat with steam from saucepan on stove

I kept the hat about 15cm away from the steam for safety. It heats up fast, and you can feel it on your hands as you manipulate the hat. I steamed the inside and outside of the hat. When it is warm and soft you can reshape the hat with your fingers. I’ve never felt the hat get overwet, but if you do move it away from the steam and let the hat dry out before trying again.

I find this process helps reshape the hat. Over time, it sinks back towards its old crushed state, but never as bad as it was before. I’ve experimented with moulding the hat after steaming with some success. I use a rolled up towel pushed into the shape I want and pop the hat on top.

Hat with towel inside to reshape it

I find this a quick process that improves the look of my hat. Have you tried this before on your hats? What do you do when your hats get mistreated?

Edited to add: since my last camping trip, I stumbled across another potentially longer lasting way to restore my hat from squishyness!

  1. Get caught in torrential summer rain
  2. Reshape hat on towel mould (as pictured above) and hope for the best
  3. Leave in hot Australian afternoon sun to dry out

This methods seems to be working so far, albeit perhaps because our sun dries my hat really quickly..!

Edited to Save

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4 Responses to My paper straw hat gets a ‘medical’ check up

  1. norma says:

    Your hat looks so good. Amazing how things can be revived.

    • cheliamoose says:

      Yes, its such a relief and an eye opener to learn how much can be repaired with a quick Google and some experimentation. Check out the bottom of my post, where I’ve learnt another variation on the technique since I posted last 🙂

  2. norma says:

    Suspect the new technique would not work here even in summer. Probably have to use a heater or a hairdryer?

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