Whether you’re wearing a hat to support your team, show off at a Kentucky Derby party or complement an everyday outfit, it’s important to store the hat properly after you take it off.

While your clothes and shoes may hold up to some pretty harsh treatment, hats often require a higher level of care. To learn the best way to store your hats and keep them in great condition, follow this expert advice.

Protect the Shape

“Hats need to be stored so that nothing crushes the brim or the crow,” said M. Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training and developmental services for Universal Storage Group and author of The Hat Lady Speaks.

Ballard, who owns an impressive collection of nearly 200 hats, primarily stores her hats on Styrofoam heads. If heads aren’t available (or if they creep you out) she also recommended maintaining the shape by filling the crowns of your hats with scarves or other soft materials.  

Anne Ballard's hats
Self-storage executive Anne Ballard shows off just a few of her 200 hats.

Save Space by Nesting

If you have a large hat collection, a smart way to save space and support the crowns is to nest several hats in one stack. Ballard uses this approach when storing hats on foam heads, on shelves and when packing them away. Simply start with the largest hats and nest increasingly smaller ones inside.

Keep Them Out of Direct Sunlight

One of the most basic functions of a hat is to protect your head from sunlight. But even though hats can hold up for an afternoon or even an entire day in the sun, long-term sun exposure can cause the fabric to fade.

So unless they’re fully covered, your hats should always be stored away from windows. Ballard learned this lesson the hard way when one of her hats from France was damaged from exposure to a skylight.  

Use Boxes for Your Best

If you own a hat fit for the next royal wedding or one that carries sentimental value, your best bet is to store it in a hat box.

And while hat boxes add a touch of sophistication and elegance to your closet (or your storage unit), simpler options work just as well.

Hat boxes
Store your hats in boxes or plastic bins to keep them in top shape.

“Any plastic bin that is large enough to hold the hat will do,” said Seana Turner, a professional organizer based in Darien, CT. As a bonus, a clear plastic container makes it easier to pick out the specific hat you want.

Just make sure there’s sufficient air flow around the hat and that it’s covered to prevent dust build up, added Ballard.

Store Them Last

For long term storage that involves stacking boxes, let your hats be the last items you add to avoid placing anything on top of them.

“You’ll crush a hat or ruin it in no time by putting something heavy on it,” said Ballard.