What To Do When Your Hat Gets Wet

Updated Article: February 21, 2019

Springtime brings longer days and more sunshine but it can also bring more rain showers. While the sunshine might convince you to bring out your straw hat, there is a chance that you might get caught in a rain shower.

If you’ve invested in a beautiful straw or felt hat – it’s important to do your best to avoid getting it wet. However, sometimes a wet hat is unavoidable. You got caught out in an unexpected rain shower, and now your stylish hat is damp and looking a little bit worse for wear. It is important to care for your hat correctly when it gets wet so that you can reduce any further damage and avoid distorting the shape. So, what should you do?

A damp hat that has been unproperly cared for can permanently lose its original shape

What To Do If Your Straw Hat or Panama Hat Gets Wet

The main issue that occurs when straw hats get wet is that the straw will swell, which can cause the hat to lose its shape. The straw then loses its tightness and if the hat is not dried correctly it can acquire a new unsightly shape or crease. However, it should be noted that most straw hats, especially ones pre-treated with stiffener, will resist slight rain. And by slight rain we mean the walk from the hotel entrance to your taxi. On average, Toquilla straw — the straw used in Panama hats — resists losing its shape when you sweat so it can naturally handle some moisture.

swelled straw
Swelled straw will expand the shape of the hat in unfavorable ways

But if you do get caught in a rain shower, particularly in a heavy one, the first thing you should do is remove the hat from the rain (obvious). Next, you should avoid returning the hat to its box or worse, placing the hat inside a bag. It can be tempting to place your hat inside a bag to protect it from further rain but this will actually cause the bag to steam up (the hat will be warm from wearing it) which will then drastically damage the weave and the shape. The best way to transport your hat out of the rain is by placing it under an umbrella or using some items such as newspaper to shield the hat from the rain. We want the hat to begin airing out as soon as possible. 

place newspaper over hat
A newspaper can work in a pinch. Just remember don’t use a bag!

You should never use a hairdryer to dry a wet hat, as this will damage the hat and could cause it to warp from drying too quickly. This is true for all types of straw hats, even an Ecuadorian woven Panama hat or other straw hats. Blow dryers cannot evenly dry the straw which leads to some strands being swollen from the moisture and some not, hence the warping. Likewise, you should not place your hat near a heater or leave it on a sunny windowsill to dry. Any method that dries the straw too fast is not good for the hat.

wipe off wet hat
Wipe off as much moisture as soon as possible.

So what is the best way to dry your hat? If your straw hat is still visibly wet, wipe off the extra water with a clean and dry cloth. Paper towels will also work. The best thing to do next is to turn out the sweatband and let it dry slowly. A cool and dry spot with good airflow is ideal. Some customers report that leaving your hat next to an open window away from direct sunlight seems to work particularly well. But any cool spot with good air circulation to all parts of the hat will work.

dry hat with sweatband out
A hat should be dried in this position away from direct sunlight or heat.

It is important to note that moisture is used to shape your hat when it is first made, so then moisture from the rain can also shape your hat. As the hat is drying, the hat should be positioned in its most original or ideal shape with the reason being that once it dries, that will be its new shape. If it is a straw hat that is worn snapped-down in the front, you should turn the brim up all around.

What To Do If Your Felt Hat Gets Wet

First of all, always handle your felt hat by the brim, whether it is wet or dry. Do not pinch the crown to pick it up, as this will misshape the crown and can cause the felt to split.

handle by brim
All fine hats should be handled by the brim. Wet or not.

If your felt hat gets wet, you should turn it upside down and set it on the crown. Don’t rest it on the brim; this will cause the brim to flatten. Turn the sweatband out and let the hat stand on its crown until it is dry. The same is true for both felt hats and straw hats – don’t force them to dry out too quickly. Drying naturally at room temperature without the aid of heaters or hair dryers is the best way to preserve the shape of your hat and prevent warping.

Avoid hanging your hat on a peg or a hat rack when it is wet, as the weight of the hat might stretch it out and change its shape. Remember, a wet hat will always dry in the shape that you leave it in, which means that pegs and hooks can leave an unwanted impression. Or, you can look for foldable hats or travel hats that are designed to be squished and hold their shape.

Prevention Is Always Best

It is best to try to avoid getting your hat wet whenever possible – but if you do get caught out in the rain, it doesn’t mean the hat is ruined. With a little bit of tender loving care, you can make sure that your hat dries properly, maintains it’s shaped and continues to look elegant and stylish. If you can plan for it, it’s always best to have a hatbox or protective rain cover around in case you need need to transport your hat through the rain. 

A protective rain cover works great for preventing damage.



  1. This was a damn good article!!! MORE on how to keep these hats clean. How do you wash/clean the hats??!!! Keep this up…Pluuueeezzzee

  2. How do you wash the hat bands? or when the hats get dirty on the brim and the top of the hat?
    Do u use soap? if yes , what kind? Cloths? Cleaners?

    Glad you opened this door.

  3. A good fur felt hat is the best head gear in rain. Ask any cowboy.
    I have worn Akrubas and Stetsons on horseback for hours, sometimes days in rain. They get wet. They keep heat loss down and they dry great if placed upside down. They are quality Working tools, not fashion statements?

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