Most hats aren’t exact fits for every head, so knowing how to shrink a hat is a useful trick. Shrinking a hat involves water and heat. Hats made from resistant fibers like cotton and polyester stand up better to extreme heat from dryers and ovens. More delicate material, such as felt and straw, needs to be steam-treated or heated carefully. The alternative to treatment is adhesive foam sizers, leading to the perfect fit without damaging a good hat.
Spray the sides of the hat with cold water. Load a misting bottle full of cold water, then use it to dampen the outer portion of the hat. Spray the sides and back, but don’t soak them. If your hat doesn’t have a bill, also mist its front end.
- Soaking the hat increases the chances that the colors run. Use a little bit of water at a time and make sure the fabric isn’t dripping wet.
- For a hat with a bill, such as a fitted baseball cap, leave the front panels above the bill dry. This helps the cap keep its shape.
Dry the hat with a hair dryer set to a high setting. Hold onto the cap with your other hand, rotating it as needed to reach the other sides. Point the dryer directly at the cap, but keep moving it back and forth to prevent the fabric from getting too hot. Stop when the cap feels dry to the touch.
- Concentrate the heat on the main portion of the hat rather than the brim. Most hats have an elastic band or sweatband in the brim, and heating it causes it to lose shape over time.
- You may need to repeat the treatment 3 or 4 times before the hat reaches the size you need.
Soak the elastic band for 10 minutes if the hat still feels loose. Fill the sink with a little bit of water, enough to cover the band but not the rest of the hat. Use water as hot as you can get from the tap. Then, set the hat in the sink, making sure the elastic band or sweatband around the brim is submerged.
- Concentrate the water on the elastic band, since that is the part that determines the hat’s fit. Avoid wrinkling the exterior portion of the cap.
Heat the hat for 5 minutes in an oven set at 300 °F (149 °C). Preheat the oven as you prepare the hat. Line a baking tray with paper towels, then set the hat on top of them. Once the oven heats up, move the tray into it.
- Be careful when putting a hat in the oven. Using a higher heat setting can cause the hat to melt. Also, if you don’t use paper towels, the bottom part of the hat will scorch and turn an unpleasant brown color.
Place the hat in a dryer set for a maximum heat cycle. If the hat still feels a little loose, move it immediately from the oven to the dryer. Set the dryer to the hottest setting and the longest cycle available. Let the hat cool before wearing it again.
- Machine drying cycles are rough on clothing, so expect the hat to change shape a little. For instance, the back end of a fitted cap may get flattened a little so it no longer has a perfectly rounded shape.
- Wearing the hat improves the fit even if you choose not to risk the oven or dryer. To speed up this process, try wearing the hat during a hot shower, for instance. Keep it on until it dries.