Woman Without Hat!
May 19, 2014 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I have this suede Australian outback hat that I bought at a garage sale a few weeks ago, for $6. I didn't examine it closely at the time, but it reeks of mold and must, leather small, and saddlesoap from a stab at self cleaning. Can I dry clean it? Here's pictures of the hat in question: My Poor Hat, two pics of it. It's a Walkabout brand Australian hat, size small.

Yes, it's extremely beat up. However, it fits my head perfectly, and I already love it to bits. Self cleaning and leaving out in the sun only worked slightly, and now it smells of saddlesoap and leather. As it is, I can't wear it, as those scents trigger my asthma.

Here's what I tried:
Putting it out in the sun for days, for both sides of the hat.
Cleaning it with a regular boot cleaning saddlesoap. I think this just made it worse.
Leaving it out on the back porch to air. However, after a month? That barely worked.

So, now dry cleaning? I have to have a bunch of things dry cleaned, so this would just add to the stack. Will that help the hat at all, or should I just pass it on? I don't mind if it gets more beat up in the process or discolors it. I just want the smells gone. Thanks!
posted by spinifex23 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a hatter nearby? When I lived in NYC, I went to Worth & Worth with all my hat problems, and they were always helpful even if I hadn't bought the hat from them.
posted by languagehat at 1:25 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

It smells like leather, and it is made of leather. Unless you cover up the scent with something, it will probably continue to smell like leather.

As for any lingering mold, I'd try spot cleaning it with a rubbing alcohol/water mix then brushing it. Leave it on a box fan/clothes line for a day or two. Vinegar will also work, but leaves more of a scent. Brushing will be important to keep the texture.

Any time you have leather + water you have the potential to shrink, so leave it to dry on something head circumferenced if you can.
posted by fontophilic at 1:51 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before going to a regular dry cleaner which may not have the expertise to deal with hats in particular, look for dedicated hat shops in your area: hat retailers or makers, western wear stores or possibly sort of old school menswear stores/tailors could give you some direction. They may offer professional hat cleaning and reblocking (reshaping, if you want that) or at least be able to direct you somewhere that does, or even offer you some tips or products to try it yourself.
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:10 PM on May 19, 2014

If you can't find a hat shop, you might also try a cobbler.
posted by Brittanie at 3:46 PM on May 19, 2014

Response by poster: I don't know why I didn't think of a hat shop before - and we have a great one in Seattle, called Utz.

I took it to them, they admired the hat, said that I did a really good job in cleaning it with saddle soap, and that there is indeed a shop that repairs and cleans suede hats like this. It still smells of mold, and makes me wheeze when I put it on.

Then, I took it next door to the cobbler, to see if they had any suede cleaner I could buy instead of getting it cleaned professionally. His eyes bugged out at the hat, as if I had brought home a $0.99 painting from Goodwill and someone recognized it as a genuine Warhol. He declared that me cleaning it would be inadequate, that I should take it to this same hat restorer, and that it would be worth every penny.

Then, he wistfully petted it, as I thanked him for his info. I took it back to put in my bag. Now I have plans for Wednesday.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:44 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can probably but a new one for under $50 so I wouldn't get too carried away cleaning it. Getting mold out of suede is almost impossible.
posted by fshgrl at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, all.

I took it to that leather cleaner that the hat shop recommended - and they determined that an ozone treatment should get rid of the odor in the hat. Beyond that? May not be worth it.

Oh, and the suede leather on the hat? It's ostrich!
posted by spinifex23 at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2014

Response by poster: Time to give a update on The Hat.

I got it back from the cleaners. It no longer smells of mold. However, it still has a strong raw leathery smell that still makes me wheeze and gives me a headache. At this point, the hat is unsalvageable, as I don't want to dump any more money into it - at this point, it'd just be better to get a new hat. So, I walked back from the hat shop, a bit dismayed that it wasn't completely fixed.

I come across a homeless guy in front of a store, where I stop in to get some dinner. He's out in the weather, which looks like its going to storm any minute now, and he has a small, bald head. I offer him the hat, it fits him, and he cannot believe it. He now has a leather, wide brimmed hat, completely free. He loves it, we swap high fives, and we both leave happy. I don't care what he actually does with the hat, just that he will certainly use it more than me. I'm glad that it's getting some use after all. It is a really good hat - just not one meant for my head.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh yeah - sticking to oilskin from now on!
posted by spinifex23 at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2014

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