Panama hats are considered pretty much any straw, cloth brimmed hat these days, but they were originally from Ecuador. Their point of sale was originally in Panama, and the names were--perhaps unfairly--titled for the original destination instead of the original country of origin. These hats are light in both color and weight, adding them even more prestige for travelers during summer months. A true panama hat is made from leaves of the toquilla straw plant.
Things You'll Need
Try to wipe down the hat with a gentle cloth. You want to use one that does not easily leave behind lint or pieces of itself as the hat may easily snag the cloth. A traditional towel will not do for such an endeavor. A cloth napkin, such as used in a restaurant, is a good idea for the initial wiping down process. If your hat still isn't clean as you need it to be, it calls for a more aggressive approach to the cleaning process!
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Put water in a kettle. Bring it to a boiling point. Let it simmer down slowly, then pour it into a cup.
Add in a bit of laundering soap and ammonia. Stir with a spoon or the edge of a cleaning brush. A brush for scrubbing dishes will usually do for the needs of cleaning such a hat.
Dip the brush in the mixture, and apply it to all the places on the hat that need cleaning first. Scrub the areas that are truly dirty. You want to clean the brush, then run the mixture over the entire hat for a clean, even finish.
Empty out the original cleaning mixture. Refill the cup with hot water. Apply the water to the hat with a freshly clean scrubbing brush. You want to apply this mixture to the hat in a more gentle manner. It's important to cleanse it of all the soap and cleaner.
Refill the cup with fresh hot water. You want to then add glycerine to the water. This is according to "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes" by Norman W. Henley. By adding this to the water and rinsing it a second time, you will make sure that the hat retains its original qualities, yet is cleansed thoroughly.
Press out the excess water with your hands over a sink or bathtub. After you have pressed as much as possible. shake it gently a few times.
Place the hat on a clean, dry surface. Let it lie in the sun for several hours until thoroughly dry. The hat should retain its original form, and it should be clean. A panama hat may never be cleaned to its true, original cleanliness, but it can be well cleaned using this method. It will likely completely retain its original shape.
Don't fold or roll up your panama hat during cleaning. This can forever ruin the hat!