People all over the world love Panama hats, made from the finely woven light-colored straw of the toquilla palm, for the combination of distinctive design, style, and comfort. According to UNESCO, toquilla palms are found on the coast of Ecuador. Their lightweight and enhanced breathability make them a practical, as well as a stylish choice for those living in sunny warm climates. However, straw being a delicate material, these hats require careful handling and care. Some handy tips for ensuring your Panama hat does not become discolored, fray, or show signs of age:
General Tips for Straw Hat Care
Avoid rain: The main function of a straw hat is to protect you from the sun and not rain. The material is not water-resistant, and if exposed to moisture, it will swell up and lose shape and start rotting if not dried quickly. In case you get it wet, blot with a clean towel and let it air dry naturally. Do not use a hairdryer, as the straw will become brittle.
Handle gently: If you wear your hat regularly, you may see it losing shape. It may be the consequence of how you hold it. The best way of holding it is to wear or remove it from your head is holding it by the brim on the sides, preferably with both hands. If you hold the front or pinch the crown of the hat, over time, it will result in the straw breaking. A straw hat is relatively fragile and does not take kindly to being squashed or folded. To remove creases or straighten the brim, you can iron it using a low-temperature setting if the instruction label permits ironing.
Store properly: You must never set a straw hat on its brim; rather, the correct way of doing it is to turn it upside down so that it rests on the crown. By doing so, you will prevent it from bowing. The straw material of the Panama hat does not like extreme temperatures, so while you can wear it comfortably in the blazing sun, it is not a good idea to keep it for a long time inside your parked car during the summer. The high heat will dry out the straw, and it will crack, and your hat’s rigid structure will collapse prematurely, making it look frayed and old. However, you must not store straw hats in a humid place as you will encourage the development of mold and with time, the dampness will result in the straw rotting.
The ideal place for storing your hat is a dark and dry closet, where it will be cool and protected from dirt. Putting your hat in a plastic bag is not a good idea as the trapped moisture will help mold development that can damage and discolor the hat. Using a hatbox is the best way of keeping it safe and dry. To prevent it from losing its shape, you can stuff tissue paper inside it or put it on a mannequin head and cover it with a cotton cloth.
Brittleness: Your straw hat can become brittle over time when you wear it regularly in a dry climate and under the blazing sun. The most effective way of making the material pliable again is to take the hat into the bathroom and turn on a hot shower but be careful not to get it wet. The steam will act to soften it. Alternatively, use a steaming kettle to achieve the same result.
Cleaning Your Straw Panama Hat
Dust: Use a soft-bristled brush to remove the dust and the debris from the hat. If you have exposed it to a high level of dust, you can wipe your hat with a clean and damp cloth to clean it further. Embedded dust is difficult to remove, and with time, the hat becomes unsightly. Using a white cloth ensures that no color is transferred to the hat inadvertently. If the hat is exceptionally dirty, you can vacuum it after covering it with pantyhose to avoid damaging the straw.
Sweat stains: When you wear your hat in hot weather, you will sweat, and it can stain your hat. To prevent this, you can cut up panty liner or paper towels into strips and insert them underneath the liner to soak up the sweat. In case you see sweat stains, you should wipe them with a damp white cloth. For light-colored straw, you can use a solution of warm water and hydrogen peroxide in equal amounts to clean it. You should add half a teaspoon of ammonia to a quarter cup of lukewarm water to clean a dark-colored hat. Use a soft-bristled brush to clean small areas and blot with a dry towel or tissue and let the hat dry naturally before using.
A good quality straw hat will last for many years if you handle it with care and maintain it properly. Not allowing it to get dirty and exposing it to extreme temperatures, rain, and storing it properly will help you to get the best out of it.