How to Shrink a Wool Hat

When it comes to advice on how to shrink a wool hat, things seem to get a little woolly. Some say wetting a wool hat is never a good idea while others tell you to go for it. Much like wool sweaters, wool caps are often labeled for cold washing or dry cleaning since soaking in warm water can cause considerable shrinking.

But if you have a too-large hat that you actually want to shrink, there are several options depending on the type of wool hat you have. It's important to note that no matter which method you use or what kind of hat you're shrinking, there is no way to determine the exact hat size or precise amount of shrinkage.

Here are the most tried-and-true methods for shrinking a wool hat.

Proceed With Caution

Shrinking a Wool Hat in the Washing Machine

Good for: fitted wool baseball hats, tightly knit wool caps, wool beanies.

Set the washing machine to the gentle cycle and small load

If the agitation is stronger than gentle, it will most likely ruin the hat. Setting the machine to the small load setting will minimize wasting water. If you plan to wash the hat as well as shrink it, add a teaspoon of non-bleach detergent such as Woolite.

Set the water temperature to warm

When it comes to shrinking delicate wool hats in the washing machine, warm water is best to play it safe. If you set the temperature to cold water, the hat might not shrink enough. If you set it for a hot wash, it might shrink too much or possibly ruin the hat by fading and fraying. You can always repeat this process using hot water if the warm water doesn't shrink it enough the first time.

Put the hat in the dryer on low heat

Once the hat has gone through its wash cycle, dry it on low heat (or the warm dryer setting). If you dry it on high heat, it could ruin the hat or shrink it too much. Keep checking on the hat every five minutes and try it on until the desired hat fit is achieved. Once the hat has shrunk to the size you want, finish drying it by placing it in a well-ventilated area to air dry and avoid further shrinkage.        

Shrinking a Wool Hat in a Pot

Good for: fitted wool baseball caps, tightly knit wool caps, wool beanies.

Heat a large pot of water

On your stove, fill a pot with water and set it to medium heat. The pot should be big enough to hold the cap that you’re trying to shrink without spilling any water.

Heat the water until it starts to steam

The water should be heated but not boiling. If the water is too hot it could ruin the hat's shape and structure.

Use tongs to submerge the hat

If you have a vintage baseball cap or you simply are not sure of the bill material, do not wet the bill. Use the tongs and place only the crown of the hat in the water until it's completely soaked. If you have a wool beanie or 100% wool hat, go ahead and dunk the whole thing in water. Some wool blend hats can also be shrunk this way, just make sure to read the label first.

Soak the hat for about five to 10 minutes

Allow the effects of the hot water to work its magic. The cotton fibers of the hat will begin to constrict and become denser. Wear gloves and gently massage the areas that need to be shrunk — this mild form of agitation will help in the shrinking process.

Put the hat in the dryer on low heat or wear it as it dries

Remove the wet hat from the pot of water and place it on a drying rack or towel. Gently squeeze and dab it to remove any excess water. Put it in the dryer on low heat and check on it every five minutes or so, trying it on until the fit is just right. If you don't want to use the dryer, you could wear the hat while it's still damp. As the hat air dries, it will conform to fit your head.

Shrinking a Wool Hat in the Shower

Good for: fitted wool baseball caps, tightly knit wool caps, wool beanies.

Put on your hat and take a warm water or hot shower

Yes, it's true. You can try shrinking your wool hat by wearing it in the shower. The water temperature should be warm or comfortably hot — not only does this spare you from getting scalded, but it also protects the hat from potential structural damage.

Allow three to five minutes to soak

As the shower water flows above your head, the rigidity of the hat will break down, causing it to shrink. You can massage the hat a bit to create some agitation. Make sure the entire hat gets wet unless you have a baseball cap and are not sure of the bill's material. In that case, let most of the water fall on the crown to avoid any potential damage to the bill.

Don't get any soap on the hat

Be careful not to get any soap or shampoo on the hat. Refer to our guide on how to hand wash your hat separately beforehand if necessary.

Wear the hat as it dries or use a hairdryer

Gently towel dry or lightly shake the hat in the shower so that it's not dripping with any excess water. Put it on and let the hat dry as you wear it. This method typically takes a day and ensures the fitted hat will dry in the right shape. If you want to speed up the process, try blow-drying the hat with a hairdryer on high heat while wearing the hat. As it dries it will shrink to fit your head.

Think Shrink

When it comes to shrinking a wool hat, the key is to start carefully. Even if you want the hat to shrink a lot, it's better to achieve this by repeating steps than by overdoing it on the first attempt. It can be trial and error, but with these helpful tips you will know how to shrink your wool hat for a better fit that you can enjoy for years to come.

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