A Concise Guide on How to Clean Suede or Leather Hats

Lea W

Posted on December 02 2020

a concise guide on how to clean suede or leather hats


Surely, worn leather hats are the most comfortable to wear but have you ever thought of giving it some TLC? Due to the exquisite nature of leather and suede hats, owners seem to ignore cleaning them altogether. Some believe that cleaning leather is unnecessary, while some feel that cleaning suede hats will result in the loss of its good qualities. And there are those who express reluctance in cleaning leather or suede hats because doing so typically means seeking costly professional cleaning services. 

To convince you in giving your hat a thorough clean, let’s look at the importance of the activity first. Hats, regardless of material, need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The scalp and forehead region accumulate oils and sweat- both of which are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. When you factor in external stressors such as pollutants, hats quickly become a storage space for nasties. To keep things short and simple- dirty hats are like dirty socks - yuck! You can get irritation from wearing them for extended periods and cause irritation for others who may come in contact with your hat. 

Secondly, the aesthetics and integrity of your leather or suede hat are attributed to the level of care it receives. Again, external factors such as pollution, dirt, dust, moisture and other particulates can play in the premature disintegration of leather materials. Regardless of quality, leather hats suffer from damage and decay when they are not cleaned using the proper techniques and materials. 

If you’re tight on budget, this guide will help you in cleaning leather and suede hats like a pro. 

Leather Hat Cleaning Pointers

There are two grade classifications for tanned leather:

  • Aniline, a full-grain leather treated with the chemical aniline. This is a tanning technique used for leather jackets and hats.
  • Nappa, a superior-grade quality leather that comes from full-grain sheep or lamb hide. This leather is characterised by its soft and supple texture 

The secret to keeping tanned leather hats at its best and protecting it from external stressors is by treating it before initial use. Confirm the leather finish from the hat maker, so you can treat it with the right cleaning and protective solutions. 

If you own a second-hand leather hat or a less expensive hat, you may clean your hats with standard leather protector products that usually come in liquid and spray-on formulations. A protector prevents your hat from accumulating dirt once you use it outdoors. It also repels water and prevents stains from reaching the leather surface. By rule, leather protectors should be re-applied on surfaces at least once a year or more. Depending on frequency of use and local climate conditions, you may need to re-apply the protector two or more times in a year. 

To prevent damage to your leather hat, refrain from doing these things:

  • Do not apply spray hair products and fragrances while wearing a leather hat. The alcohol content in these products will ultimately dry and stain the leather. You may still use fragrances and hair spray for instance, but make sure to wait until completely dry before putting your hat on. 
  • Avoid attaching pins, tape, stickers, and badges on leather. These will mar the finish of your leather hat. 
  • If you want to attach embroidery or patchwork on your hat, have a professional do this for you. Precision is crucial when attaching emblems on leather hats. Incorrect or inaccurate stitching methods are impossible to remove and cover. 
  • If you own a tanned leather hat, treat it with a commercial leather conditioner to retain its aesthetics. Do not use saddle soap or harsh cleaners. 
  • If your hat gets dirty and needs to be washed, make sure to finish off with the application of a leather conditioner as soon as it dries. 
  • If your hat gets wet, wipe the surface with a soft, white cloth. Immediately turn down the inner sweatband and allow it to dry naturally in a cool and dry place. 
  • When drying leather hats, you need to dry upright to prevent them from shrinking or misshaping the brim. Once dry, apply a small amount of conditioner to keep the leather soft and supple. 

Suede Leather Hat Cleaning Pointers

Natural suede comes in two classifications:

  • Natural suede leather comes from the soft underside of split-grain animal hide. It has a nappy finish that is easily stained. You need to follow specific care and cleaning procedures for suede accessories such as hats and jackets. 
  • Nubuck suede leather looks similar to natural suede. It comes from the top portion of the animal hide and is typically sanded and buffed to produce a soft, velvet-like leather finish. Care and cleaning procedures for Nubuck are similar to natural suede, however stain removal requires professional treatment. 
  • If you plan to wear your suede hat regularly, it’s best to treat it with a spray-on suede and nubuck protector as soon as you get your hat. As the name implies, this product will help repel moisture and protect it from staining. 
  • Use a soft bristle brush to keep the hat looking at its best. Hats usually come with cleaning kits, so make sure to use them regularly to remove fine dust and other particles from the surface. 
  • For matter portions of a suede hat, you can use an emery cloth to buff and raise the nap successfully. 
  • Remove oily stains with talcum powder or cornstarch. Let the powder sit on the stain for a few hours, so that it absorbs all the oil from the surface. Simply brush the powder away once all stains disappear. 
  • For stubborn stains, we recommend spot treatment. Use a mixture of mild detergent and water. Rinse the mixture with a clean white cloth dipped in water. Air dry the hat and brush to restore the nap. 
  • Do not get your suede hat excessively wet. Shake off excess water and allow it to dry naturally. Dry on its hat form to prevent misshaping the brim and shrinking. Once dry, you may brush the surface to restore the nap. 
Now that you’re aware of the proper cleaning and maintenance techniques for leather and suede hats you can get a new lease of life out or your old faithful.  When you think it’s time to finally replace your old hat or to get a new one to add to keep things fresh, Kakadu Traders Australia is one of the most renowned hat makers in Australia. For fine hats and leather goods check out their extensive collection here.

More Posts