Scent-Free Hats for Dunces

By Steve Sorensen

How to Eliminate the Stinkiest Scent Problem You Have


Every deer lives by its nose, and to smell you it doesn’t have to get close enough to nuzzle you. Over the years you’ve probably missed many opportunities at deer because they have smelled your dirty hat.
(Photo: Steve Sorensen)

“Why don’t you wash that dirty hat!” My wife had been scolding me about it for months.

I justified the condition of my favorite, everyday hat by saying, “It’s not dirty—it’s just faded.” And I was right. My hat wasn’t so much dirty as it was worn, distressed, comfortable. When it was new, it was midnight black, but now it was a motley shade of dusty looking gray-brown.

I actually had washed it a couple of times. I clamped it into one of those hat-shaped plastic grids I picked up somewhere, and tossed it into the washing machine. The contraption is supposed to keep the hat from being crushed by other clothing or flattened in the spinning cycle. Then the plastic started breaking and I discovered duct tape doesn’t do well in the washing machine.

One day she finally tripped a switch in my deer hunting mentality and drove her point home. Hang on for a minute, because what she said was genius. She made me realize that all these years I had been wearing a deer hunting dunce cap, but thanks to her this dunce finally wised up!

Why Your Hat Is A Deer-Hunting Dunce Cap

Here’s the truth: my hat stunk. Yours does, too. People talk about stinky feet and smelly underarms, but in the deer woods more stench comes from our hats than anywhere else. Why? It’s simple. A hat is a storage place for some truly smelly things. It’s defies logic that we work to get rid of all sorts of odors from the rest of our bodies, but ignore dead skin cells, loose strands of hair, industrial-strength perspiration, accumulated skin oils and perfumy personal care products that collect in our hats.

What’s more, it becomes a Petri dish where bacteria colonize in a moist, dark environment. When you put your hat on, your head warms up those little critters and they start to party. They begin feasting on your dead skin cells and doing unmentionable things that include reproducing and excreting their own waste. Ick!

Underwear For Your Head


You can clamp your hat in a plastic grid that’s made for washing hats, or you can wash it in the dishwasher. Neither method does the job well. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Most of us, whether we’re hunters or not, are conscientious enough about personal hygiene to change our underwear daily because we wear it next to our skin where it absorbs lots of personal odors. Isn’t that where you wear your hat—next to your skin? Even if you have more hair than I do, your hat still spends hours and hours in contact with the skin of your sweaty forehead and your Brylcreemed hair. You shouldn’t wear a dirty hat hunting any more than you’d wear dirty underwear.

What can you do about it? Besides clamping your hat into a hat-shaped plastic thingy and tossing it into the washing machine, you can try another conventional way to wash your hat. You can put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, but I doubt the woman in your household will like that. (I can tell you Mrs. Sorensen doesn’t want my hat in her dishwasher.) Besides, harsh dishwashing detergents aren’t made for fabric, and they are certain to add a foreign scent deer will notice.

How To Make Your Hat A Lucky Hat

Fortunately, my inspired wife proposed a far better and simpler way to wash a smelly hat. “Next time you take a shower, take your hat in and wash it with shampoo.” Why didn’t I think of that? I had been writing a book called Essentials of Scent Control, and she made me realize I had completely overlooked how a hunter’s hat can sabotage his scent-control regimen.


It’s easy to wash your hat when you’re in the shower. Suds it up with scent-destroying, anti-bacterial shampoo, and scrub it inside and out using a brush with plastic bristles. Let it air dry and your hat will be cleaner than when it was new. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Most hunters never wash their hats, or don’t do it often enough. Instead, they spritz a little scent control spray on it, maybe clip a cover-scent wafer to it that smells like dirt, and call it good enough. Can that really keep the stink in your hat from wafting into the wild green yonder — right into a big buck’s nose? I don’t think so.

An important tip – don’t use your regular shampoo! During your pre-hunt shower with scent-free, anti-bacterial hunter’s shampoo or body wash, take a small brush with stiff plastic bristles, and scrub your hat. Lather it up and work it over thoroughly. Scour the inside and outside of the hat band, as well as the whole hat inside and out. Don’t overlook the brim, especially the area where your hand grips it. Rinse the hat until all soap is gone.

I know what you’re saying. “Now I have a sopping wet hat, so I can’t wear it hunting!” You’re right, so you need two or three hats to rotate through this process. That way you’ll always have a clean one. Put the wet, freshly washed hat outside where it will dry in the sun and air, and it will be ready for your next hunt.

Chances are you’ve never worn a hat that’s really clean, but now that you know how to destroy the odors in the stinkiest piece of clothing you wear, you can hunt with new confidence. Take my wife’s advice, and you’ll transform your dunce cap into your lucky hat!

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenSteve Sorensen is the author of Growing Up With Guns, and The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series. He also writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and edits content in the Havalon Nation. He has published articles in top magazines across the USA, and won the 2015 “Pinnacle” Award for magazine writing. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at



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