DIY: How to Clean Your Wedding Dress

When cleaning your wedding dress, it is important to know what kind of fabric the dress is made out of and to take the dress details into consideration. Depending on the fabric and embellishments, wedding dresses can be washed in a washer, a dryer, or by hand.

To recap, this is my seven-month-old dirty dress:

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If your dress is fairly simple and the fabric can take it, you can put your dress in a garment bag or duvet and stick it in your washer on a gentle cycle. My dress had a bit too much beading for this, and there was no way it would fit in my eco-sized washer, so this option wouldn’t work for me.

If you have a sensitive fabric like silk, you can also put your dress in a garment bag and dry clean it at home or do it yourself at a laundromat if it is a large, voluptuous dress.

I learned that beading and crystals can actually melt from the chemicals used by professional dry cleaners, which put me further off from using dry cleaners here. There was no way I was paying for someone here to wash my dress by hand either!

The easy option used by many women is to spot treat only the stains without washing the rest of the dress. My mother used the Dryel® On the Goâ„¢ Stain Pen to treat all the stains on my sister’s wedding dress, but I really had a lot of area to cover. Some of the stains were pretty far up the train in the back and parts of the lace were positively brown.

With a large, heavy Bordeaux taffeta dress including lace, flowers, crystals, and beads, none of the methods above were right for my dress. After researching and buying a few laundry products, here is how I got to work.

My tools:

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L-R: Dryel® On the Goâ„¢ Stain Pen, Reina Spot Remover Bar, Genie delicate hand-washing detergent, Vanish Oxi-Action carpet spot remover, Ariel stain remover

1. Spot treatment:

I used the Dryel® On the Goâ„¢ Stain Pen from my mom to see if I could get the dress cleaned without washing it all the way. The stains were too large and too long set in, but this was a start.

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2. Stain treatment:

Since I figured I would be hand washing it, I bought Ariel stain remover as well as some Vanish carpet cleaner, which I’ve heard does wonders on stains. I went around each of the really bad areas and sprayed those bad boys.

Below are stains from the underside of the train that came with the dress when I received it. Mama Funnel Cake couldn’t get them out with Dryel before the wedding, but I would try now.

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3. Soak:

After washing my bathtub to decontaminate it, I filled my bathtub with cold water and submerged the bottom of my dress in a mix of Vanish stain powder (kind of like Oxi Clean powder) and gentle liquid detergent (Genie Express-Gel from above). I let the dress hang with the bottom soaking overnight.

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4. Scrubbing:

In the morning I went around each of the really bad areas (my dress got pretty dirty in Hawaii and the Swiss alps) and I used a sock and a toothbrush to gently scrub dirt away. Be extremely careful not to overzealously clean because you could damage the fabric.

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I also used this time to pull hairs (bleagh!) out of the hem and tons of little nettles that expanded in the water. I didn’t realize there was so much nature crap in my dress!

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5. Bleach:

I took the dress out of the tub after scrubbing and spot-treated the really stubborn stains on the delicate lace with a bleach/water mixture. I very, very gently dabbed the bleach-soaked sock on the lace and let it set for a bit on the balcony.

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6. Final soak:

I soaked everything in the tub again in a new Vanish/gentle detergent for a few hours.

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7. Spot treatment:

While it was soaking, I went around the bodice and top again with the Dryel and did manage to get the small spots out so that it was perfect again.

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 8. Repair:

While the dress was hanging I sewed down loose appliques and beads and secured my corset in the back where it was coming apart a bit. Good as new!

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9. Rinse:

I drained the tub and used the shower head to rinse everything. Then I filled up the tub and rinsed everything a few times before draining and using the shower head again. Really get all that detergent out!

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10. Dry:

I put it outside on a big drying rack to drip away and then I hung it up with a towel below it in my house.

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When it was dry, it looked great!

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The gown was so much whiter than before the cleaning, and the lace areas that were literally brown before cleaning were sparkling new.

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The underside of the train was even cleaner than when I received the dress in the first place!! Only one of the really awful blackish/brown stains was vaguely visible, and it was still on the underside of the dress where no one sees anyway.

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I listed the dress all over the web and, five months after listing it, I found a local buyer in Switzerland.

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I’m so glad someone else can enjoy my beautiful cupcake dress and that I have my wardrobe space back. Mother effer was seriously taking up all the room!

Which method did you use to clean your wedding dress? Or do you secretly still have a dirty wedding dress in your closet?? :)

*All photos are personal.*

BLOGGER

Mrs. Funnel Cake

Location:
Zürich, Switzerland/Columbus, Ohio
Wedding Date:
October 2011
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comments

  1. Member
    Mrs. Coyote 1480 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:13 am

    Wow!! You did such a great job cleaning up your dress FC! Mine is still dirty from trekking around the city with it… I am tempted to try and clean it myself now!

  2. Guest
    Orsolya, Guest @ 9:09 am

    Well, to make you all feel better, my dress has been sitting in my closet for 3 years and I am just now getting around to cleaning it!!! I want to keep it forever if possible so today I started cleaning it. I put mine in the washer on the “hand-wash” cycle and even though it is covered in tiny crystal beads all over, the dress came out looking great with no damage at all. I do need to clean the bottom and the train by hand because there is just too much dark brown dirt there..I will try using Resolve stain remover and then soaking the bottom in the tub. Thanks for sharing your story and all the photos too! Very helpful and I’m glad it worked out so well for you!

  3. Member
    Mrs. Funnel Cake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:05 am

    @Orsolya: Good luck fixing yours up! It’s definitely worth it if you plan on keeping it! :)

  4. Guest
    virginia, Guest @ 1:05 pm

    I’ve had my dress for 5 yrs and have been talking about cleaning for the longest….i have an event coming up and reall want to make an entrance so i WILL be trying this…….thanks for the steps and wish me luck!!!!!!!!

  5. Member
    nativedesires 3986 posts, Honey bee @ 6:03 pm

    Wow !!!! Great job thanks for the step by step process and pictures

  6. Guest
    Redhead Photography, Guest @ 6:57 pm

    I never could imagine that cleaning those wedding dress can be this tiring. Now I am thankful I didn’t purchased my own wedding dress.

  7. Guest
    sugarbritches, Guest @ 7:32 pm

    I have three wedding dresses in my closet as we speak. One is my cousin’s wedding dress (totally 1980′s) One is a dress I bought when we first discussed getting married and when the event got bigger..(and more formal) I bought the dress I wore. I want you to know you gave me the courage to wash the oldest dress inside out in the washer. It came out amazing..doesn’t even look like the same dress. The second dress is a tulle ball gown…ivory… and just needed some touch ups due to simple age. The newest one, my gown…well, it is next. Thanks for the info!!

  8. Guest
    Amanda, Guest @ 2:50 pm

    My dress is made of organza. Would your method still be safe? If not, do you have a website or resource for cleaning methods on different fabrics?

  9. Guest
    alicia, Guest @ 3:10 pm

    where did you list your wedding dress to sell it?

  10. Member
    mrspaperflowers 1611 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:48 am

    This is AMAZING! I wonder if it will work on my colored train?! GOOGLE HERE I COME!!

  11. Guest
    Jacquelyn, Guest @ 12:03 pm

    Did you iron or steam it or did the wrinkles just fall away? I do mission work in Haiti and I get donated ones to send. I have one that is a real mess and the cleaners wants a fortune to clean it. I want to do it myself but the wedding is in a few months and I sure don’t want to mess this up!

  12. Guest
    Elle, Guest @ 12:30 pm

    I have a secret confession. My wedding dress has been hanging (dirty) in my closet for 3 YEARS!! I didn’t feel like paying crazy money to have something I’ll never wear again cleaned. But now that I found this, I’m totally spending the time to clean it this weekend. Thanks so much!!!

  13. Member
    Mrs. Funnel Cake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:18 am

    @alicia: I listed my dress on local Swiss boards where it sold, but I also listed it on Preloved, Preowned Wedding Dresses and another I can’t think of off the top of my head.

    @Jacquelyn: The girl who bought my dress was going to have it steamed, but if you have a long enough time you could just let it hang and the wrinkles will fall out. If that’s still not enough, you could always steam it the week before the wedding to really get it wrinkle-free.

    @Elle: Good luck finally cleaning it!! :)

  14. Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 7:25 am

    I did some spot treating on my gown a couple months after our wedding. But, I love my dress so much (and we just had our second anniversary) that I’m not ready to put it away; looking at it makes me happy. So I have it on a dress-maker mannequin in my bedroom. Now I get to stare at it as I drift off to sleep.

  15. Guest
    mrsV, Guest @ 12:29 pm

    My dress has these yellow marks on it now. They seem to be stains from being in the garment bag in the closet, because I definitely didn’t notice any yellow before putting it away. It’s an ivory colour so I’m concerned about bleaches and things. What would you recommend for getting those spots out? I’m embarrassed to say how long its been in the bag hahaha.. i’ve been married a little over 4 years! every couple of months I say to myself I’m going to take care of it, it’s taking up a lot of room in my son’s closet, and I figure some day he might want his closet for himself!

  16. Guest
    Jacquelyn, Guest @ 3:22 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that the dress turned out really great. I put it in the bath tub with Dawn dishwashing soap and Oxyclean. I then let it soak a couple of days. The bottom was still really bad so I took a toothbrush and tried baking soda and Tide. Still not good. The next day I took every stain remover my husband could find at the store, plus Awesome Degreaser and straight bleach. Then it started looking much better! Wish I could add pictures on here to show how black it was and how clean it came. Thanks for the encouragement to do this on my own.

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