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Can you preserve a wedding dress yourself?

You carefully choose your wedding dress for the most special day of your life. Now that the day is over, how can you ensure that your dress stays nice for eternity? One day you might want to pass on your wedding dress to your child or even grandchild. If you take proper care of it, your dress could last for decades. But knowing exactly what to do—and what not to do—is key. 

Looking for the ultimate Wedding Reception Venue in Melbourne? Look no further, Vogue Ballroom is here. 

Wedding Dress Cleaning Options

When you’re ready to have your wedding dress cleaned, you do have a few options available to you. While we’d like to see every bride have their dress professionally cleaned and preserved, we understand that not all brides will be up to the task after the expense and busyness surrounding their wedding day. Your options are the following:

  • Store your gown until you’re ready to have it professionally cleaned.
  • Attempt to clean the gown yourself.
  • Take it to a local dry cleaning company or have it cleaned by an online wedding dress preservation company which is properly equipped to clean the delicate fabrics of a wedding dress.

Regardless of which option you go with, be sure to do your research beforehand and be sure you’re comfortable in your decision.

Cleaning your Dress Yourself

So I did it myself for just the cost of acid-free tissue and a Sterilite storage box. The following tips are culled from my research and suggestions provided on the Disney Wedding Podcast by professional conservator Camille Myers Breeze of Museum Textile Services. She has created an extremely helpful tip sheet, How to Archive Your Wedding Gown, that will take you through her approved process step by step.

First I had the dress cleaned at my local “green” dry cleaner (not sure how much of that I believe). Myers Breeze considers professional cleaning the single most important step, even if you don’t do anything else to preserve your gown, because it removes the sweat, Champagne and dirt stains that will damage the gown over time.

I got a Sterlite box from the hardware store—you can also use an acid-free cardboard box with NO printed decorations on it, but I wanted something waterproof. Myers Breeze says any bin made of polypropylene (recycling code 5) or polyethylene (recycling code 2 or 4) is fine.

However, she says, “The benefit of a proper archival storage box is that it stands out as being something special, not just another bin, and what they say it’s made out of is actually what it’s made out of—much higher quality control. The longer the box, the fewer folds, and the lower the box, the easier it is to find a safe place to store it that’s not the attic or basement. ” She prefers these boxes and says most dresses fit in the 36” x 18” x 6” box.

Making the decision to have your wedding dress cleaned after you get back from your honeymoon can be a daunting task for new brides. Your dress is as much a part of a memory of your amazing day as your wedding photos, video and guestbook. Brides want to make sure their dress stays as perfect as it looked when their guests first caught a glimpse of them walking down the aisle. The only true way to be sure your dress will remain in pristine condition over the years as it ages is to have it cleaned and preserved before storing it. The number one reason gowns will yellow as they age due to stains that may not be visible on your dress such as sugar, sweat and oils from the skin. A professional wedding dress cleaning company knows how to spot these stains and has invested in the proper equipment to remove those stains from the delicate materials wedding gowns are created from.

The dress you walk down the aisle in holds so many memories — not just of the wedding itself, but of the planning, the dreaming, the anticipation. You may never wear the dress again, but it just feels wrong to stick it on a hanger in the back of your closet. Your own child may want to wear it someday, or perhaps you just want to preserve it to help hold on to the energy of that special day.

Wedding dresses are also typically a substantial investment, so storing them correctly is key unless you want to end up with a yellowed, creased, or — perish the thought — mouldy mess on your hands. Here are some tips for preserving your wedding gown after the champagne’s been sipped and the thank-you notes sent.

If you’re the DIY type and if your gown isn’t comprised of any delicate materials like silk or taffeta, then cleaning your gown may be an option for you. We often hear of brides attempting to clean their own gowns when they don’t have a big emotional attachment to the dress, such as a gown purchased second hand. Here are a few words of caution and advice when cleaning your gown.

Delicate Materials – Silk and other sensitive materials don’t respond well to traditional cleaning detergents which can cause permanent damage to the delicate material.

Polyester Organza – If your dress has any organza details, then use extreme caution when pressing the material. Organza will more than likely lose its crispness from heat when hand pressing the material.

Brushes – Be sure you use very soft-bristled brushes on your dress. Hard brushes can cause delicate material to fray, and in some cases, even cause pulls in the fabric.

Bleach – Never use bleach on any materials on your gown. Bleach is one of the harshest chemicals you can use to clean a gown and the results, whether positive or negative, are permanent.

Cleaning your Dress at Your Local Dry Cleaner

Another option for cleaning your wedding dress is to take it to a local dry cleaning company. Below are some tips on having your dress cleaned locally.

Is the cleaning performed on-site? Ask if they clean your dress on the premises or send it off to another company. Most local dry cleaners don’t have the proper equipment needed to clean the delicate materials of a wedding gown and often send it off to a professional company, marking up the cost in the process. If this is the case, skip the middleman and go straight to the company who will be doing the cleaning and you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars in the process.

Shop around. You’ll find that local wedding dress dry cleaning costs can vary by hundreds of dollars, even if some use the same service to have your dress cleaned and preserved.

Ask if they have a warranty and ask for referrals. The best way to see if a dry cleaner will stand behind the work they perform is if they can issue you a certificate of guarantee. They should also be able to provide a list of other brides who have used the service in the past who you can speak with to put your mind at ease.

How do they package the dress after cleaning? Some dry cleaning companies will place your dress in a simple dry cleaning bag rather than placing the gown on a bust and placing it into a preservation box. Hanging your gown in a closet can cause the permanent stretch to the fabric where the gown sits on the hanger. Also, be sure there is a viewing window so others can see your gown without having to handle the dress and transfer oils from their skin onto the delicate material. Most importantly – be sure to ask if your gown will be placed in an acid-free box with acid-free tissue paper.

Have the dress professionally cleaned

Even if there’s no visible dirt or stains on the dress, have it cleaned. Your body oils and sweat are trapped in the fabric. Storing a dress that hasn’t been cleaned first is a recipe for smells, yellowing, and mould or mildew down the line. Be sure to choose a cleaner who offers wedding dress preservation specifically — a regular dry clean won’t do. Also, check the label on your gown in case there are certain solvents or products it can’t be cleaned with.

Budget for it 

When you are doing your wedding budget, build in enough for wedding dress preservation. Whether you have a professional preserve the dress for you, or you get the dress professionally cleaned and then undertake preservation yourself, you’ll need to plan for the cost. Preservation kits range from around $200 to over $700, with full-service professional preservation being even more.

Struggling to find your perfect gown? Check out our extensive list of Wedding Dress Shops in Melbourne.

Don’t wait to get your dress preserved 

Stains and smells can set in quickly. Get your dress cleaned and preserved as soon as you can — the day after the reception if you can. If you can’t get right to the preservation process because you’re off on your honeymoon, do your research ahead of time and entrust the dress and the task to someone you trust.

Choose your preservation container

You can’t just use a regular old box or garment bag. Some brides choose a wedding dress preservation box, which is made of acid-free paper and is airtight. Others choose a special garment bag made of acid-free plastic.

Box it up

If you’re choosing to use a dress preservation box, wrap your dress carefully in acid-free white tissue paper or unbleached muslin that has been washed and dried. Coloured tissue paper carries a risk of leaving stains on the dress. Place tissue or muslin between the folded layers of the dress as well. If your dress has sleeves, fill these with tissue or muslin too. Once the box is sealed, it is airtight — if you open the box for any reason, you’ll need to have it professionally resealed.

Hang it up

If you choose the acid-free plastic garment bag route, choose your hanger carefully. Use a padded hanger, not one made of wire, wood, or plastic. These materials can snag the dress as it hangs. Hanging allows for great air circulation and avoids the creasing that comes with using a storage box.

Leave it in the dark

Light is the enemy of wedding dresses. Store your dress, in its box or bag, in a dark place where no direct light can reach it. Direct sunlight is especially dangerous. Sunlight can quickly yellow the dress.

Keep it cool and dry

In addition to being dark, the place where you keep your preserved wedding dress should be cool and dry. Fluctuations in temperature or extreme temperatures can break down the fabric even within the box or bag. Attics, basements, and garages are not good choices for storing a preserved gown. You want a cool, dry, dark, and climate-controlled space. Some brides choose a wedding chest, but any closet or storage unit that meets the criteria is fine too.

Check out our post on How do you get dirt stains out of a wedding dress?

How to clean a yellowed wedding veil:

Look at the veil closely and if you notice dry or brittle spots, send the veil to a professional for cleaning. Read the manufacturer instructions on the bleach to determine how much to use Fill a bathtub with about 10 inches of warm water and pour the bleach mixture into the warm water and gently mix with your hands

Lay a towel flat, place the veil on the towel and cover it with another towel. Place the towels and veil into the water until it reaches the bottom of the bath. Wait for 20-30 minutes and check to see that it’s whitening. Keep the veil in the bath no longer than 2 hours.

Drain the tub and turn the tap to cool water. Keep the veil between the two towels and rinse under the water. Wring the veil gently in between the towels. Lay the towel and veil flat in the empty bath. Gently remove the top towel and carefully pick up the veil.

Place a dry towel on a flat surface. Spread the veil on the towel and place another dry towel over it. Press lightly to absorb leftover moisture. After the veil dries, gently comb and arrange the veil with your fingers and hang on a plastic hanger.

Tip of the week

When preserving your wedding veil, you can try this on tulle, illusion netting and lace at home but with certain fabrics like silk veils, satin trims or intricate details, they are best dry cleaned by a professional. You could find that self-cleaning could create a hole in the fabric and satin trims are likely to wrinkle when dry. There are wedding veil preservation kits available online if you wish to use their services.

On the other hand, some brides wear an heirloom veil on their wedding day, and it infuses a vintage vibe into your bridal look, some can complement the dress hue.

The trend of the week

This gown is called Taylor by Nicole Spose. Precious ivory mermaid dress made of cady, chiffon, tulle and enriched by beaded lace applications. It is perfect for a bride who wants to live like in a fairytale! This is available at Belladonna Bridal, Galway.

What to look for when cleaning and preserving online:

  • Be sure the company has been in business for a substantial amount of time and make sure 2-way shipping costs are included with your package.
  • Make sure your preservation allows for extra items such as a veil, purse, shoes or other keepsakes from your wedding day.
  • Make sure you’re not paying over $400 for your cleaning & preservation. Even the most couture gowns can be cleaned and perfectly preserved for under $400.

The best time to have your gown cleaned is the day after your wedding. The earlier you have your dress cleaned and preserved, the less of a chance stains will have to set in. When ordering with us, most brides choose to pre-purchase their kit so they can quickly box it up and send it into us the day after their wedding and before they’re whisked off on their honeymoon.

One of the dangers of wrapping and boxing your wedding dress properly is damaging the fabric and not actually preserving it at all. A proper preservation box is specially sealed, with gauges on the box to ensure the temperature and humidity level is kept stable at all times. To preserve your wedding dress so you can be sure it will stay pristine, consider investing in an online wedding dress preservation service.

Once you place your order, a preservation box is mailed to you. You pack up your wedding dress and ship it back to the preservation company. They give your dress a museum-quality cleaning, repack your dress inside the preservation box, and ship it back to you. The box is now fully sealed and ready for decades-long wedding gown storage. With this service, all you have to do is make sure you store the box in a climate-controlled room. This is a convenient way to keep your cherished wedding dress in a condition that is like new.

Considering the investment that you made in your wedding dress and how much it means to you and your spouse, it’s worth it to preserve it for the memories. While it’s better to start sooner than later, it’s never too late to take care of a treasured heirloom. Unfortunately, though, it could cost you more. If your gown develops oxidized spots, it can be even more difficult to remove them. We are able to restore vintage gowns that have been in someone’s attic or closet for decades — so don’t be discouraged, it can be done.

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