March 19, 2013

Completely Off Topic...

I want to take a few minutes and go completely off topic from audio gear if I may.

The image you see above is my hat. For the uninitiated it is a fedora. It has seen better days, but I love it. I bought it over 15 years ago on a whim, and it has been with me ever since. Here recently I tried to do something with it that you would think would be a fairly simple undertaking. Getting the inner head band cleaned. Boy was I wrong. Now I had always tried to keep it clean but there are just some things you can't get clean enough.

I started on my journey by first finding out as much as I could about the hat. The gold writing on the inside had nearly vanished with time, but I was able to just make out the name. "Country Gentleman" I did some research and found out the company still exists and is still making the hat called a "Wilton". Their site said pretty plainly dry clean only. So I started calling around. After 6 different dry cleaners told me emphatically "NO", I was starting to get worried. One of the dry cleaners had pointed me to a country outfitter store (that shall not be named). So hat in hand I went to the country store, and asked if they could do a simple cleaning on my 15+ year old hat. With a chuckle and a condescending tone the man behind the counter in a large cowboy hat said "yea all the kids are buying these these days from the mall. I think its time to toss it." I smiled (hiding my seething anger at the thought of tossing it) and left.

My next stop was the internet. I found articles about using alcohol, and cornstarch, but nothing that fit what I needed. Short of cutting off the old one and sewing on a new one. Unfortunately I'm not that skilled at sewing the particular stitch that would be required. I even ran across a hat shop in downtown Fort Worth that could clean it for $95 + $20 shipping. Oh yea and it would take 12 weeks. Good grief, I was starting to think I was out of luck.

Then one night I was doing some design work and saw an infomercial about those cheesy steam mops, and it hit me. I could use one of those handheld steam cleaners that people use on grout and stuff in their kitchen. So I dug through Amazon.com and found a cheap $30 model and placed the order. I figured if it didn't work on the hat at least we could use it around the house for other things.

When it arrived I waited till everyone else had gone to bed and fired it up. I folded the headband out and used a folded up towel inside the hat to keep everything somewhat stable (and my hand safe from scalding steam). It took 3 tanks of water, about an hour and a half of my time, and patience. Slowly working the tiny nozzle of the steamer over every inch of the headband forcing the steam through the tough fabric. When I was finished the towel looked rather disgusting, but the headband looked almost new. I let it dry over night.

The next day it felt like a new hat. The headband was soft again, and mercifully clean. My old friend was with me again, and easily ready for another 15 years. That steamer was the best $30 bucks I've spent in a long time.

I know there are a lot of people out there that have a favorite "something".
Be it a favorite coat, or hat, or whatever. I hope this story helps someone out there think outside the box so they can save that "something" from being tossed (just because a small man in a big cowboy hat says to).

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading. I just wanted to share.

Steve G.

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