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Not Very Good Hat Cleaning

Discussion in 'Hats' started by thespoiler, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. thespoiler

    thespoiler One of the Regulars

    I guess I'm really not sure what I should expect from a hat cleaning service. I recently sent off an Adam Executive to a cleaning service that had several good recommendations from folks on the Lounge and that advertises heavily on the web. I don't think they did a very good job. The felt was probably cleaned ok but the ribbon had fairly heavy sweat staining which was not cleaned at all. Also some dirty spots on the brim binding were not removed. The hat had a musty storage smell before I sent it and it still does. I can't remember exactly how the liner was before so I can't judge that. I asked for a open crown, which the service did, but the hat still has creases and "remembers" the old bash....I worked on this myself with some steam and got that fixed. My major disappointment is with the ribbon and the smell.

    This is the first time I have sent a hat off for cleaning. I paid for shipping out, of course, and then $35 for the cleaning and $15 for shipping it back to me. Maybe I just don't know what to expect and you don't get much for 35 bucks anymore. The hat probably wasn't worth sending to one of the premier guys for a major make -over...I just wanted the thing cleaned.

    Can anyone enlighten me on what the process should be to clean a hat and what I might expect?.....And if you have a recommendation for a reliable and relatively reasonable cleaning service, I'd like that as well.

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2011
  2. What you describe is not what I have come to expect from a professional hat cleaning service. I have had hats cleaned and blocked by both Optimo in Chicago and Levine's in St. Louis. Generally, if there is something amiss with the hat that a normal cleaning won't address, the service will offer a recommendation for replacement (such as in the sweat or the ribbon) or a refurb (as in the case of servere staining to the felt.) Granted, I paid quite a bit more for a full refurb at Optimo, so I may be comparing apples to oranges there. The price you cited was more in line with minor cleanings that I have had done for me at Levines that consisted of a steam, brush and re-block. At a minimum, that process should have taken care of the smell and old creases. This is something of a dying art, so perhaps what you experienced is the new norm, but off-hand, I'd say that you have a right to be disappointed with the result.
  3. thespoiler

    thespoiler One of the Regulars

    Thanks for the reply. I guess I did not get even my $35 worth...
  4. Lefty

    Lefty I'll Lock Up

    I understand that it's expensive to have a great hat shop rebuild a hat, but why not send it to one of the "premier guys" for cleaning? The $35 cleaning you paid is the same price at Optimo.
  5. Brando11

    Brando11 A-List Customer

    Maybe I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but I just noticed yesterday that lighter fluid contains one ingredient- Naphtha. Five minutes with a Q-tip and the black grease spot that has resisted my every previous effort to remove it was gone. Saved me $35.
  6. Viktor

    Viktor One of the Regulars

    Correct me if I'm wrong but from what I've read on this forum, there has been little success in removing sweat stains from ribbon and that replacement is preferred, on the other hand some don't mind it.
  7. Yep, lighter fluid has been discussed as a cleaner here before...
  8. I use coleman white gas, which is what was used 100 years ago - pure gasoline. Trouble is, you have to be really careful with the sweatband. Its a process, and spot cleaning can leave a 'clean spot' and you have to lightly wipe gasoline over all the felt to ensure no 'ring around the spot.' That said, ribbon stains NEVER come out. NEVER. Cleaning may help, but often the proper fix is to have it replaced. Good luck getting a vintage stain out of the ribbon.
  9. thespoiler

    thespoiler One of the Regulars

    Good to know about sweat stains not coming out.....Thanks
  10. Viktor

    Viktor One of the Regulars

    thespoiler - if you decide to have the ribbon replaced hold on to the old ribbon.
  11. Spoiler

    I don't know hat color ribbon you're working with, and this certainly doesn't ALWAYS work, however, I have had SOME success getting sweat stains out of good ribbon with mild dish soap and water.
    Spritz the ribbon good, working in a tiny amount of the dish soap with the tip of a CLEAN finger and then use the spritzer to rinse. Allow it to dry and you may find that the seat stain is at least diminished.
    On the other hand, I have tried the above and had no luck at all. I don't know what makes the difference ... material, age, power of the original sweat.
    It's a mystery.
    Anyway, presuming you got dish soap and water, it won't cost anything to try it.

    Good luck. I know it's nice to keep the original ribbon if you can.

    As far as the smell, have you tried fabreze. Not directly on the felt, but maybe on a spounge, thoroughly soaked and then seal the spounge and the hat in a dry cleaning bag overnight? Again, you're not risking much but the cost of a can of fabreze.

    For what it's worth ....

  12. Putting the hat in a large plastic bag with crumpled newspaper for a few days will remove smells. I had 1 from ebay from a heavy pipe smoker & it did the trick. HTH
  13. fmw

    fmw One Too Many

    Spoiler, it would sure help to tell us where you got the bad cleaning. That will keep us from making the same mistake. In your shoes, I might consider writing that cleaning off and sending the hat to Optimo where you will get very professional work. Here's a shot of my homburg that came back today from Optimo. While it looks like a new hat, it isn't. It is somewhere between 60 and 80 years old.

  14. I have had good results with a simple cleaning & blocking at South Street Hats in Philly. Oscar there is a righteous dude!
  15. thespoiler

    thespoiler One of the Regulars

    Thanks fellows..... I have not gone back to the company and complained so I expect if they read this they will get mad.....actually it was Clean-A-Hat...
  16. fmw

    fmw One Too Many

    Henry the Hatter in Detroit is yet another one. Thanks for the heads up. Lots of good places to get professional hat restoration.
  17. I though I might throw a little info this way that might help out with understanding. Naptha is one of the original Dry Cleaning fluids. Coleman Camping gas as a version of Naptha which is also know as white gas. The above mention of using the Ronson lighter fluid is an old trick i remember my dad getting out some spot back in the 1960's with it.

    Hat cleaning is much like Dry Cleaning and the Dry Cleaning fluid used has a lot to do with how it cleans and what it cleans. It is called Dry cleaning since Water (wet cleaning) is not used. Naptha and similar fluids are SOLVENTS. They will dissolve grease and oil and will often but not always remove the dirt that is with the grease and oils. As a chemical solvent they won't dissolve things that will dissolve in Water. So some things like salt, sugar and carbohydrates are not affected much by the Naptha. Sweat does have several components and body grease and oils are part of it, but there are chemical compounds in sweat that are carried by the water portion and need to be cleaned with some sort of water based fluid. Some people have had good luck by using a damp sponge on the water base stains.

    (In dry cleaning if you take in something like a suit you have to let the cleaners know things like food and beverage spills so they can be spot treated. Other wise the proteins, sugars and carbs stay in despite the dry cleaning and get caramelized in with the heat of the pressing!)

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