How to clean a Panama hat

Is this the weather for Panama hats yet? Over the last few days it has certainly seemed like it, so you might very well be taking your Panama from its hat-box and thinking it needs a bit of a spruce up.

In actual fact, Panama hats don’t come from Panama, more correctly they should be called Ecuadorean hats as that’s their country of origin. Traditionally he hats were made from a special type of palm leaf, the toquilla  or jipijapa palm (in actual fact these are not true palms!) Hat making along the coast of Ecuador has been going on for many centuries, and by the 1600’s it was quite an industry but it wasn’t until the 1830’s that an entrepreneur started the Panama hat company, shipping them to, then exporting them from Panama. This was how the connection of country to hat happened, even though they’d been made elsewhere for centuries!

Ruth Drew suggest the best way to clean a Panama hat is to take it to a dry cleaner. However, it is possible to wash them richly sudded luke-warm water; brush the suds ‘fairly briskly’ into the weave of the hat, then wipe off with a soft cloth wrung out with clean water. Ruth suggests you just do a bit at a time, rinsing as you go. Drying is more tricky as you don’t want to lose its shape; screwed up balls of paper, enough of them so the hat stands up (brim side down) with nothing pressing on the actual brim. While its drying you might have to gently pull it to maintain the correct shape and size.

If you have a real, proper Panama, then it’s worth taking care of it – the weaver took care to make it! The best hats might have had six people involved in making them and have 3000 ‘weaves’ per square inch.

“According to popular lore, a “superfino” Panama hat can hold water, and, when rolled up, pass through a wedding ring.”

I don’t have a picture of a Panama hat, so my featured image is of a sunny day!

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