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Cleaning Straw Hats

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Visigoth, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. Visigoth

    Visigoth A-List Customer

    Messages:
    445
    Location:
    Rome
    Not a lot on the FL about cleaning straw. Can you soak a Milan straw hat in water and Woolite? (And reshape it afterwards?)

    I did find this advice on ebay:

    98. Cleaning Straw Hats With Oxalic Acid.—Hats made of milan, hemp, panama, and rough straw braids in natural colors may be cleaned by using a weak solution of oxalic acid.

    To prepare an oxalic solution sufficiently strong for a badly sunburnt hat, dissolve 1 tablespoonful of oxalic acid in 1 pint of water, a process that will require from 15 to 20 minutes. When the acid is dissolved completely, pour 1 teaspoonful of the solution on a clean pine board. If it foams, or forms bubbles, it is too strong and should be weakened. Add more water and test the solution again. As soon as it fails to foam, it is of the correct strength.

    99. While cleaning a hat by this method, do not put the hands in the acid solution. Use a small white-bristle scrubbing brush and scrub the hat quickly, beginning at the center of the crown and rubbing around and around until the side crown is reached; then continue around the side crown and on to the brim, rubbing the brush in a circle and in the same direction all the time.

    Rinse the straw quickly with clean water, using the same brush for this purpose. Place the hat in the air or in the sunlight so that it will dry. The work must be done quickly in order that the straw may not become too damp and puff up. When the hat is perfectly dry, press it into shape under a damp cloth, using a hot iron. The ironing board used for this purpose should be heavily padded and the pressing should be done very lightly; otherwise, the imprint of the iron will flatten the straw. The damp cloth used should be lintless, if possible.

    100. Cleaning Men's Straw Hats With Salts of Lemon.—Straw hats may be cleaned in a solution of 1 tablespoonful of salts of lemon to 1/2 pint of water. Dissolve by boiling, and after the solution cools apply to the hat with a firm brush, starting at the top. Dry with a soft cloth. Do not allow this cleaner to touch the sweat band, as it will harden the leather.
     
  2. tonyb

    tonyb Vendor

    Messages:
    6,988
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    Hoo boy. I don't know that I'd be willing to practice any of those techniques on a good straw hat. Thanks for posting 'em, Visigoth, but I have visions of ruining a hat in a hurry if I ever tried 'em without a pro looking over my shoulder every step of the way.
    A few days ago I Googled "panama hat cleaning" and got a bunch of advice, some it at odds with others. So yeah, I'd like to get the straight dope from someone who has actually cleaned several hundred straw hats, and learn from his hard-earned experience. If I were told by a trusted person, "don't even try it," well, I wouldn't try it. But then, SOMEBODY knows how it's properly done, and that person wasn't born with the knowledge and skill, so ...
     
  3. TM

    TM A-List Customer

    Messages:
    309
    Location:
    California Central Coast
    Yes! Information please.

    My cheep Panama has gotten stained - cloth sweatband, not leather. Would rather not use any acid, myself.

    Tony
     
  4. moehawk

    moehawk I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,519
    Location:
    Northern California
    Resurrecting a zombie thread....:)

    Last night, unable to sleep, I decided to play with one of my parabuntals that I am in the process of converting into men's styles. I was working on the lighter colored one, trying to put an overwelt edge on the part of the brim I was planning on trimming off anyway. I was using a piece of millinery wire I had cut off the brim of a different hat as a curve to fold the straw over to get a smooth line. After weighting down the straw to dry in place, I finally fell asleep. When I woke up and went to see how the technique worked, my heart sank to my shoes. The wire, which I thought was stainless, had left dark lines where it had been in contact with the straw. Looked like ballpoint pen lines. Most was on the part to be trimmed, but a loose end left a 3" line right through the middle of the top of the brim. I first dabbed at it with water, to no avail. Alcohol wouldn't touch it, and Goof-Off just smeared it around a little. I was deciding on whether to make it a stingy or the top half of a Dualist-style lid when I remembered using Barkeeper's Friend cleanser to get rust stains out of a pair of linen pants, so I figured I didn't have anything to lose by trying it. Made a thin slurry, dabbed it on the stain, trying not to get too much of the abrasives on the straw. Let it sit a few minutes, rinsed well in warm water and it was gone. I was a bit distraught to remember to take a before pic when it happened, so an after pic would be meaningless. It worked that well. Barkeeper's Friend contais oxalic acid, so when I google searched the Lounge for the right thread to post this in, I wasn't too surprised to see oxalic acid mentioned already.
    Well, folks, I can attest to it's effectiveness, and without damage to the straw, as best I can tell.
     
  5. emigran

    emigran Practically Family

    Messages:
    721
    Location:
    USA NEW JERSEY
    Hoo now is right...!!! I have an Art Fawcett Milan that may be my favorite lid... couldn't imagine soaking it in anything... I would just send it to him.
     
  6. hatsRme

    hatsRme I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,015
    Location:
    Boston area
    I purchased oxalic acid at the pharmacy. Also great to run through the dishwasher, or anything that iron oxide (rust) has stained, including quartz crystals. But be careful, and dilute.
     
  7. moehawk

    moehawk I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,519
    Location:
    Northern California
    Upon drying, I must admit there was a slight aftereffect...a noticably cleaner spot where the BKF was applied. I might have to pick up some oxalic acid and do the whole thing.
     
  8. Richard Morgan

    Richard Morgan One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,495
    Location:
    Central Tesxas
    I recently got an old Penny's Panama that had definitely seen better days, very dirty and the sweat was pretty much gone. I found this thread with @moehawk's tip about cleaning straw with oxalic acid. I found the oxalic acid at a paint store (the big box stores didn't have it) and set to work. I usually forget to take before pics but did this time.
    IMG_8202.JPG IMG_8202.JPG IMG_8203.JPG These are the before, with the pug removed. I don't have pics of cleaning the pug but the big surprise was that the pleats in the pug were not stitched, just ironed. As soon as I started washing it in a weak solution of Woolite it turned into just a wide strip of cloth. Fortunately I was able to use the fading to line it all up to be reironed. It's not perfect but pretty close to the original.
    IMG_8207.JPG This is the brand of oxalic acid I found. I sure any paint store would have it. I used a tablespoon in a pint of water and tested it on an unpainted piece of pine. The solution didn't bubble up so I was good to go. I probably could have made it a little stronger but this worked. I used a toothbrush to brush the mixture on in small circles starting at the brim. This took 15 minutes or so and I didn't see any sign of the straw swelling from absorbing too much liquid. I then used a sponge and clean water to wipe the mixture off. There is no way to tell if you have removed it all so be thorough.
    After drying overnight this is what it looked like.
    IMG_8209.JPG IMG_8210.JPG IMG_8211.JPG After some steam and ironing the brim to get the wrinkles out, putting in a new vented sweat from @bond and replacing the pug, this is the end result. IMG_8310[1].jpg IMG_8312.JPG IMG_8313.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

    Redfokker, steur, Wyldkarma and 8 others like this.
  9. RJR

    RJR

    Messages:
    10,359
    Location:
    Iowa
    Nice job!
     
    Redfokker and Richard Morgan like this.
  10. Bill Hughes

    Bill Hughes One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,052
    Location:
    North Texas
    That’s outstanding. Makes me want to try some cleaning.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  11. Tukwila

    Tukwila One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,112
    Wonderful work, Richard!
     
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  12. hatsRme

    hatsRme I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,015
    Location:
    Boston area
    EXCELLENT results, and thank you for posting this, Rich!!
     
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  13. Richard Morgan

    Richard Morgan One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,495
    Location:
    Central Tesxas
    Thanks Charlie and everyone else. Being part of the lounge has taught me so much about hats that I thought I should share some of it with everyone. I also want everyone to know that folks like me are mining those old posts and applying the wisdom that's contained in them.
     
    Redfokker and AbbaDatDeHat like this.
  14. seres

    seres One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    298
    Location:
    Alaska
    Well done! Thanks for posting this!
     
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  15. steur

    steur I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,883
    Location:
    Nederland
    Wow, fantastic result! Never would have thought of that.
     
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  16. Redfokker

    Redfokker

    Messages:
    11,411
    Location:
    Albany Oregon
    Thanks for this Richard. Filing it away for future projects.
     

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