Winning tips for cleaning and caring for your wedding dress

July 28, 2015

Unless your wedding dress is wash-and-wear, never try to clean it yourself. Granted, a lot can happen between the alterations and the altar, and it usually happens when you're dressed and ready to walk down the aisle. But if you have an emergency kit for those last-minute accidents, a spill won't spoil your day.

Winning tips for cleaning and caring for your wedding dress

1. To fix a last-minute stain

  • Don't use spot cleaner on your dress. If you're lucky, it might remove the spot, but it also will damage the fabric. If you're going to use hair spray, apply it before you put on your dress. Nothing dulls beading like hair spray.
  • If clumsy feet leave scuff marks along the bottom of the dress, mark over them with a piece of white chalk.
  • Accidental spots or spills? Talcum powder will disguise them. Just sprinkle some talc on the spots and let it absorb the moisture.
  • Whether a little dribble or a major spill has marred your dress, soda water is your best friend. It will help to treat any spills or spots immediately — they will only be more difficult to remove later on.
  • Depending on where the stain is located, you might have to undress and then re-dress. Working from the inside out, use a man's dry handkerchief to blot up as much of the stain as possible. Make sure you dab, not rub. Then wet the handkerchief with the soda water and, again from the inside, dab, don't rub.

2. If the dress needs a final touch-up

  • Press only on the inside of the dress.
  • And don't use steam.
  • If the fabric hasn't been pre-washed, steam can create spotting or a colour change.
  • Place a dry handkerchief between the iron and the dress. (You don't want to use a towel, because terry towelling can leave lint.)
  • Then press in a downwards direction. Don't move the iron back and forth — it destroys fibres.
  • Press one area, and then move the cloth to another.

3. When the honeymoon is over

  • Don't put off taking your dress to the dry cleaner.
  • You might want to hand it down to someone or even sell it, and without the proper care, your once-priceless wedding dress will become yellow and useless to anyone else.

4. Take off removable trim and shoulder pads

  • Then search for the spots and stains that happened without you knowing at the reception.
  • Dry cleaning usually removes obvious marks — make-up, grass stains, food spills — but you may also find some invisible spills (champagne is a classic) that show up later.
  • If you can remember where they are, give the dry cleaner an indication of their location. Otherwise, when your dress is preserved and stored, the champagne stains will be, too.

5. When you store your dress

  • Don't put it in plastic or expose it to sunlight.
  • Instead, ask the drycleaner to wrap your dress in acid-free tissue and store it in an acid-free box. This is the best way to slow the aging process.

6. A slick way to save the day

It's inevitable. Your aunt, who wears too much make-up, will make her way — rouged, lip-sticked and powdered — towards you and your wedding dress. And she'll probably smudge you with a kiss or a hug just before pictures are taken.

Just in case something like this does happen, go prepared. Dry cleaners use a formula they call 'paint-oil-grease' because that's what it removes. But if there's no time for dry cleaning — the photographer is waiting — take a can of WD–40 (nothing else!) and spray a very light mist of the lubricant on a cloth. Then dab — don't rub — with the cloth to remove the make-up stain.

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