Tips for Safely Restoring an Aged or Stained Wedding Dress or Gown
Importance of the Wedding Dress
My younger brother recently asked me, "Did your wife ever get kinda crazy while planning the wedding?" Apparently his fiancée is taking the planning very seriously, while he thinks the wedding details "don't really matter" and just plans to "show up" the day of.
I explained to him that wedding details are very important to women and most women spend quite a bit of time and energy thinking about what they'd like for their big day. It's safe to say that my wife thought of our wedding details well before she even met me!
And there's probably no more important detail to the bride than her wedding dress. Some brides have the option of wearing a dress inherited from their mother or grandmother. These dresses are often very beautiful with high-quality materials - they don't make them like that anymore! But because the dress hasn't been properly stored it's not in the best shape. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to restore an old wedding dress and have it looking as good as new.
How to Clean that Vintage Wedding Dress
Common Issues With Vintage Wedding Gowns
Some issues commonly seen in old wedding dresses are:
- Discoloration (often from white/cream to yellow).
- Compromised fabric integrity (rips, tears, etc.).
- Missing button/sequins/etc.
- Poor fit.
- Difficult wrinkles or odor.
Tips for Cleaning Antique Wedding Dresses
Here are several things to keep in mind when attempting to restore your old wedding gown (should you choose to not have a professional do it for you):
- Metal rusts easily (especially old metal).
- Old fabric should be handled delicately.
- Silk and satin are the most difficult material to restore, whereas polyester is easier
- If restoration simply isn't possible, consider other options before scrapping the dress all together.
- Sugar stains are virtually impossible to clean up if they have "settled" on a gown.
Vintage Wedding Dress Restoration
First and foremost, do not bleach your wedding dress in an attempt to clean or restore it. Bleach will further weaken the strength of the original fabric, possibly dissolve buttons and other decorative items, and it doesn't even work.
Instead, follow this step-by-step guide on how to clean that yellowed wedding gown:
- Prepare the dress. Remove everything metal that is a part of the dress. Buttons, clips, hooks, and pins might all be made of metal and should be carefully removed.
- Prepare the bathtub. Fill an empty, clean bathtub with either lukewarm or cold water (not hot) and a gentle liquid detergent such as Woolite. Also, line the bathtub with a white sheet. Place the dress on the sheet in the water. (This is done so that the wedding dress isn't forcefully pulled in and out of the water, thus stressing the fabric).
- Use the sheet to clean the wedding dress. Gently lift and lower the sheet that has the wedding dress on it. This is done so that the existing stains are loosed and the entire dress is adequately soaked. If necessary, you can soak your dress up to 24 hours or more. If stains remain after the soaking and cleaning process, see below for spot removal tips and suggestions.
- Dry the dress. Find a way to lay your dress flat and dry it that way. Drying it flat will reduce winkles that will in turn need to be ironed out later. Some experts suggest using a vinyl rack to minimize the stress done to the fabric.
- Press/Iron the dress. Using a clean iron on it's lowest heating setting, begin ironing your wedding gown. Iron the gown one layer at a time. Slowly increase the heat settings of the iron to determine what the dress can handle, but lower the heat immediately if the
- Iron begins sticking to the fabric of the dress
- Dress becomes discolored during ironing
- You smell or see any evidence of burning
- Complete finishing touches. Repair or replace the metal pieces removed in Step 1.
Wedding Gown Spot Removal Tips and Suggestions
If there are still stubborn stains left after the above method of cleaning your wedding dress, you still have some options. Here are some spot removal tips and tricks to clean your wedding dress:
- No club soda. Club soda is really just carbonated sugar water and will not adequately spot clean your dress. See the video below for more details on this and other great tips from an expert who was on the Martha Stewart Show.
- Use a sudsy spray solution. Many experts suggest brushing the solution onto the affected area and gently brushing it with a toothbrush. Others have had success with using OxyClean on the difficult stain.
- Try a paste of lemon juice and salt. Just be careful to closely monitor your dress if using this method. Check every couple minutes and once the stain is gone (or if you notice any compromise in the fabric), rinse the area with lukewarm or cold water immediately.
Wedding Restoration Expert on Martha Stewart
How to Incorporate a Vintage Wedding Dress in the Wedding Ceremony
If your vintage wedding dress is unusable for whatever reason, don't just toss it out! You can still incorporate it in your wedding ceremony and use it as "something old."
Here are some things you can create with an old, unusable wedding dress:
- Ring Pillow
- Bridal cap
Or, you could even display the heirloom dress somewhere at the wedding where everyone will see it, possibly near the guest book.
Before you decide to "recycle" that old gown because you can't clean it yourself, carefully consider an experienced professional who specializes in wedding dress restoration. They are your best bet to have your wedding gown properly cleaned and restored.
But if you want to try it yourself, then the tips above will help you make that wedding dress look good as new.