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Cute Hat or Cootie Hat?
January 3, 2009 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Found: 100% acrylic (super cute, made in USA) winter hat on the (mostly abandoned) street in 20ºF weather (on New Year's Day). I washed it. Can I wear it?

Not to be a cootie phobe, but do you think it's safe to wear now? My thoughts were that the cold probably killed any cooties, and then I washed it, but I wanted to check with the more experienced hatted hive mind just in case.
posted by cachondeo45 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Well... the cold wouldn't necessarily kill any eggs on the hat, which is your primary worry. Washing it helps but often doesn't get all the eggs out.

However, the odds of you getting lice from somebody's hat - considering the staggeringly small percentage of people who have lice - I honestly wouldn't worry about it.

Wear your new hat, should be fine.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:29 AM on January 3, 2009


If the hat looked fairly new and unsoiled then the head it came off of probably was also clean and you are probably good to go after a thorough washing.

One of my now favorite pairs of gloves was a street find, and a favorite pair of wool socks was another find. Both were fine after cleaning.
posted by gudrun at 9:32 AM on January 3, 2009


Thanks to both of you! I thought as much, but I needed some reassurance.
posted by cachondeo45 at 9:41 AM on January 3, 2009


i furnished entire apartments with street castoffs.

now i take NOTHING from the street, because i worry about bedbugs.
posted by micawber at 9:44 AM on January 3, 2009


Not to be a cootie phobe,...
Too late.

Soak it in rubbing alcohol, let it dry.

Then have a priest bless it, and ...

OK, just the alcohol. Cooties can't stand alcohol.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:44 AM on January 3, 2009


A tumble dryer will kill any eggs better than alcohol. I'm not sure how the acrylic will stand up though.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:56 AM on January 3, 2009


If the hat looked fairly new and unsoiled then the head it came off of probably was also clean and you are probably good to go after a thorough washing.

Around 1 in 10 children have headlice at any given time, so the cleanliness of the hair is no indication. Although body lice are a vector for various diseases, I don't think head lice are.

On the upside, headlice can't live longer than 24 hours off the host. If you've really got to keep the hat, wash it and put it away for a week or so before wearing it.

But I wouldn't take the risk. Modern, pesticide-resistant headlice are a real bitch to get rid of. The only reliable method these days is regular attacks of the steel nit comb as the medications just don't seem to work any more.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2009


Jumping back in - you could always have it dry cleaned (the chemical kind), and then wash it again, if you still feel ooky about it, but you will probably be ok with the one washing, especially if it seems new.
posted by gudrun at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2009


Take a picture of the hat, post it here, and, more than likely, somebody will be able to tell you where to buy one.
posted by box at 10:06 AM on January 3, 2009


PeterMcDermott, head lice are primarily a problem with kids. If it was a kid's hat I probably wouldn't risk it, but the asker is an adult talking about an adult size hat. (and I had head lice as a kid, and it wasn't gotten from shared clothing.)
posted by gudrun at 10:06 AM on January 3, 2009


Or just wear it. That's probably what I'd do, in your place, except that I already have a winter hat.
posted by box at 10:07 AM on January 3, 2009


I've worn sidewalk-scarves after washing. Ain't no thing but a chicken wing, kitten.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:21 AM on January 3, 2009


If you are concerned about eggs, seal the hat in an air tight baggie for a week or so then wash it.
posted by Sailormom at 10:36 AM on January 3, 2009


Stop being such a Nervous Nellie and just wear the damned hat. The chances of you getting lice are slim to none. Seriously. Not gonna happen.

If you happen to be the object of a freaky gypsy/voodoo/zoroastrian curse and do get lice, (because that's probably the only way you're going to get them, the odds being that astronomically high) big whoop. It just means you have to take all of your clothes and linens to the laundramat and wash them all at once (the cooties will jump from the dirty clothes to the clean ones otherwise) and wash your hair with stinky shampoo.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wash in hot water; dry in dryer. Seal in baggie. Place in freezer for a couple days. Enjoy free hat.
posted by theora55 at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2009


Thanks to all! Budget being tight, and having no transportation in a really freaking cold city, a new hat will be hard to come by, which is why I like free (and coincidentally cute) hat, especially after moving to a freezing climate from a nearly tropical one.

It's definitely an adult hat, and perhaps one left by New Year's revelers across the street from a nicer pub, although I'm no sleuth. Regardless, I already soaked it in boiled water and then washed it in the washer. I didn't dry it, however, because I've had bad luck with drying acrylic in the past.

Thanks to all!
posted by cachondeo45 at 12:07 PM on January 3, 2009


Hot water cycle washing and drying for more than 20 minutes is all it takes to kill lice and other parasites. If youre paranoid, wash it twice in a row.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2009


pics or it didn't happen
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:56 PM on January 3, 2009


I'd wear it.
posted by robinpME at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2009


My rule on street finds perhaps isn't logical, but here it is: if an item looks like it belonged to someone I'd be friends with, I'll wash it and use it. I assume that a person who wears a hat like me or my friends would wear is probably someone I'd be friends with, and therefore probably someone whose couch I'd crash on, and therefore someone whose cooties won't kill me. If an item looks like something that would be owned/used by a person whose house I wouldn't want to sleep in, I wouldn't use it. So yes to a cute pink hat I found in an indie theatre (100% chance the previous owner was an arty yuppie 20something girl with reasonably good hygiene, just like me) and no to a weird 70s velvet couch that smelled like cigar smoke (50% chance the owner was a doughy sweaty man who never wore pants and sat on that couch all night, grode). Etc.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2009


I think you'll be OK. If you want to be super-sure, leave it sealed up inside a garbage bag for 10 days-two weeks to makes sure any potential eggs have hatched and died, but personally I'd wear it after closely inspecting it for bugs. I mean, we're not talking about actual invisible cooties here.
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on January 3, 2009


PeterMcDermott writes "On the upside, headlice can't live longer than 24 hours off the host. If you've really got to keep the hat, wash it and put it away for a week or so before wearing it."

But the eggs can live a good two weeks, freezing just extends this time. If you don't want to dry the hat with high heat the safest thing is to seal the hat in a plastic bag (so any potential emerging lice can't get on you) for a couple weeks. The nymphs only live a few hours after emerging and never mature into egg laying adults.

You Do. Not. Want. To. Get. Head. Lice. And they can happen to anyone regardless of cleanliness. In fact there is some evidence that lice like nice clean hair. The vector in this case isn't lice on the hat but rather eggs stuck to a hair stuck to the hat. A couple weeks of delayed gratification is wildly better than the risk tradeoff IMO.

gudrun writes "head lice are primarily a problem with kids."

Or adults whose kids are unfortunate to get the little buggers. Something like 80% of elementary schools have an infection each year.

Excuse me I have to go scratch my scalp vigorously.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on January 3, 2009


I found a cute hat on the Tube in London - it looked new, so I just wore it. Four years later I still wear it when it's cold, and I am still untroubled by lice.
posted by altolinguistic at 6:36 AM on January 6, 2009


I wouldn't have washed it to begin with. have never caught anything.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 8:49 PM on January 19, 2009


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