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How to clean a Panama hat - sweat stains, mould, dirt and spills

How to clean a Panama hat - sweat stains, mould, dirt and spills

A gentleman called from Singapore today, desperate to clean his fino Panama that he had spilt a cup coffee into. Accidents happen, stains appear and they can be solved relatively easily - read on.


The most common question I get is how to get sweat stains out. Because a panama is porous, anything mixed with sweat will go into the fibres and lodge in your hat. If you wear makeup, sunscreen and hair products they will colour the area around the band. For the same reason it is so cool to wear, it will also stain. 

Getting these stains out can be done. Follow these steps :

1. Brush your hat to get out any loose dirt 

2. Wash the stained area with soap and water

3. Wipe off the moisture with a clean cloth

4. Apply gel bleach or diluted hydrogen peroxide to the area and let it sit for the recomended time. Placing it in the sun can speed this process up

5. When it looks good - clean off the bleach with warm water, pat it dry and let it dry naturally.

For spot stains elsewhere on the hat, using the gel bleach works a treat. 


If your hat gets dusty and dirty, it is time to give it a brush. Any brush will do, but I prefer a stiff bristled kitchen brush with nylon bristles. The idea is for the bristles to reach into the texture of the weave and flick out the dust particles. If your hat is very soft, then be gentle. Stiffer hats dont mind so much.

Work your way around the hat and you will be amazed at how much it improves the appearance. For mud, use a little dish soap and brush the stains out. Pat dry with a clean cloth.


The trick with these stains is to wash them out quickly before the staining sets. Your hat is already wet, so wet it more and pat with a dry cloth or paper towel. Adding a little detergent wont hurt, but you might need to check if it is an unusual liquid. I find 1 tablespoon each of dish soap and vingear is very effective. Remember to use clean white cloths/towels to ensure no colours transfer.

Red wine can be difficult, and I would recomend a hydrogen peroxide dilution to solve that problem. The wine will soak into the fibres and run along them, so you will need to be patient.


Typically your ribbons will be made of polyester so they can be cleaned with diluted dish soap and water. Pat them dry and everything will look like new.


Now this can be tricky. Once the mould is alive in the hat fibres it can spread like crazy. It is very rare, but it does happen, particularly in the tropics where it is a common problem in houses. When your hat is stored wet from wearing, and the right fungus has found a home, it will destroy your hat.

First off you need to kill the fungus - spraying it with vinegar is a good start. Give it a light mist and let it soak in for several hours. Then pat it down to remove the vinegar. If that doesn't work, you may need to use professional mould treatments. Be aware, that your hat contacts your skin, and those nasty chemicals should be treated as such - rinse and remove them carefully.

Once the mould is stopped, you will need to use a hydrogen peroxide dilution to get the black stains out. This may not work, depending on how bad it is. Try it on a small area to see first.


Your Panama is very much like linen in terms of its texture, qualities and behaviour. If you are unsure what to do for an unusual stain, then look up linen! Like all stains, you may need to do a little research to solve your problem.





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