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How to Clean a Wedding Dress, According to Experts

by Staff

Though your wedding dress will be in pristine condition when you first put it on, there’s a good chance that you’ll notice a few stains once the celebrations have concluded. Aside from the fact that white and ivory fabrics are the perfect canvases for stains to show, bridal gowns simply go through a myriad of events in the few hours they are worn. Think about it: Between eating and drinking, dancing, and socializing, it’s almost impossible to avoid staining your ensemble in some way. Thus, understanding how to clean a wedding dress is crucial if looking to store, preserve, donate, or sell your look once the festivities have concluded.

When searching for the best way to clean your gown, it’s important to understand that wedding dresses are a bit more complicated to clean than any other item of clothing, and that’s especially true if they’re designed with lace, tulle, or a lot of beading. What’s more, the way in which you choose to wash your getup may be the difference between a ripped or fully-enacted look. While getting your frock professionally cleaned is typically the easiest solution, that’s not to say you can’t do the job on your own if your gown’s care instructions allow for it.

Regardless of which approach you choose to take (professional or at-home cleaning), we spoke with two experts to get some insider tips on exactly what you need to know. Ahead, read on to learn how to clean a wedding dress in order to ensure your bridal gown looks brand new after you say “I do.”

Meet the Expert

  • Breyana Wright is a personal and professional fashion stylist, and the owner of Styled by Breyana.
  • Sarah Ghabbour is the owner of Loved Twice Bridal, a luxury bridal consignment boutique in Los Angeles.

How to Clean a Wedding Dress on Your Own

While it can sound intimidating to clean a wedding dress on your own, it’s definitely possible and an affordable option for brides. “Although some wedding dresses do require professional assistance, the majority of them can be cleaned with four simple items: stain remover, laundry detergent, a toothbrush, and a steamer,” says Breyana Wright, founder of Styled by Breyana. “The bathtub is also an honorable mention since you’ll be needing it to soak the dress.”

Ready to get started? Follow the below steps to make your dress look as good as new from the comfort of your home.

Note the material and check for specific instructions.

Before you do any sort of cleaning, take note of the material of your gown. “Various compositions impact how a gown is cleaned, what solvents can be used, and the extent of the cleaning,” notes Sarah Ghabbour, owner of Loved Twice Bridal. “For example, gowns made entirely of polyester are much more durable than gowns made of silk.” You can also look at the manufacturer’s website or try getting in touch with them to see if there are any specific cleaning instructions. In some cases, simply searching how to clean a specific fabric can also be helpful.

Treat the stains.

Even if you think your dress made it out pretty clean, it’s worth taking a good look to examine for stains, in order to immediately treat them after the big day. “It goes without saying that most wedding dresses are extremely long and touch the floor a lot during the wedding, so stains are inevitable,” Wright says.

She recommends spot cleaning with stain remover, noting that white vinegar or baking soda can also work well. “As you’re applying the stain remover, you can ensure it isn’t soaking into other layers of the dress by placing a paper towel underneath the stain,” Wright adds. “This will keep the stain from transferring to another layer of the dress as well.”

Start the cleaning process.

Wright recommends cleaning your dress’s hemline and train first since this will be the hardest and most dirty section. To do so, the stylist notes that you can fill your bathtub with warm water and a gentle detergent. When filled, submerge the hem and train and allow it to sit for a few hours. If you think it needs a more thorough cleaning, gently scrub the hem of the dress with a toothbrush and detergent after it has been in the tub.

Next, work your way up to the bodice, which will be easier to clean than the bottom of the gown. When cleaning your bodice, Wright suggests mixing warm water and a gentle detergent in a spray bottle, then turning your gown inside out. “Once the garment is turned inside out, gently scrub it with an unused toothbrush to clean it,” she says.

Rinse and finish.

Once you feel your gown is clean enough, Wright says to empty the tub, then fill it with warm water to rinse the detergent off the dress. “Gently swishing the dress around will help to rid the dress of soap, but it’s important to note that you may have to repeat the process a couple of times before all of the soap is gone,” she says. “Once all of the soap has been separated from the dress, you can hang it to dry on the curtain rod since the dress will be too heavy for a hanger. Once the dress is completely dry, steam it carefully with a steamer and store it properly.”

How to Get Your Wedding Dress Cleaned Professionally

When it comes to delicate dresses that can easily be altered or destroyed if cleaned incorrectly, going to a professional should be your first choice. “Gowns with details, such as embroideries and lace appliqués, can change the cleaning process, and experienced dry cleaners know how to get it done without experimenting on your gown,” Ghabbour says.

To find a great cleaner, she recommends reading online reviews and consulting friends or family members who have recently gotten their own gowns cleaned with good experiences. “If you are unsure of where to go, reach out to the bridal boutique you purchased your gown from as they are likely to have a list of recommended vendors,” she adds.

Wedding dress preservation—a process in a white a gown is cleaned and appropriately stored so that it remains in top condition for years to come–is another good option. This tends to be more costly, but expert preservationists will clean your wedding dress, repair any issues, and package it for long-term storage.

What Not to Do When Cleaning a Wedding Dress

Cleaning missteps can seriously affect the way your dress will look moving forward, and the number one mistake when cleaning a gown is waiting too long to start the process. Whether you’re washing your dress yourself or going to a professional, it should be done within a few days of the wedding to avoid any permanent stains. “Do not leave your gown hanging in a bag for weeks or months expecting it to look the way it did when you picked it up,” Ghabbour warns. “If you are leaving for your honeymoon immediately after your wedding, assign a trusted family member or friend the task of dropping off your gown to the cleaners. The turnover time can really impact how clean your gown gets, as stains can often set in fabric fibers almost immediately after.”

What’s more, if a stain appears on your wedding day and you’re trying to do an emergency spot clean situation, Ghabbour recommends against using a bubbly drink in a pinch. “Sugars in drinks can actually make the stain much harder to remove,” she says. “Simply blot out any excess fluid and own the stain. By taking it to the cleaners immediately after the wedding untouched, they will have greater success in removing the stain.” When in doubt, consult a professional, and always treat stains as soon as possible.

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