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DIY Wedding Dress Cleaning

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The coming of spring brings longer days, the promise of warmer weather and the anticipation of summer activities. June through September is prime wedding season here in the PNW, probably because you have a lower chance of getting wet during these months in this region.

A central piece to planning a wedding is the dress. Whether the bride is wearing a family heirloom or a thrift shop find, we know it will be on display on the big day. Wedding dresses are as unique as the bride wearing it. Some are more form fitting and sexy while others have sleeves and high necks with long trains.

The search begins early. It has to be perfect, and when the bride to be puts the right one on, she knows almost immediately that “this is the one” for her.

These elaborate, ornate, and delicate fashion statements can cost a small fortune to purchase. Reality sets in quick when it becomes obvious that the price tag on the designer label is out of reach. Thankfully over the last 10 years beautiful gowns have been designed and created using more cost effective materials making them a little less painful on the pocket book.

For those of you that have patience and the stamina for perseverance, some of the best places to look are consignment shops or thrift stores. Let’s say you’ve found the perfect dress, now what? If it is brand new, you need to only seek out a professional for steaming or ironing out the wrinkles. But let’s say you found your dream dress that has been previously worn. Now comes the added pressure of who to trust with cleaning this garment.

Now a few things have to line up in order for you to try this technique. First, the material MUST be 100% polyester. That means the underskirts as well as the top layer. Any cotton or silk in the fabric and it will take extra care. It can still be washed if there is cotton under skirting involved but the ironing will be more challenging.

Next, you MUST have access to a front loading washing machine. The lack of an agitator makes this the ideal option for washing such a delicate garment. It can be attempted in a top loader on the most delicate setting, just know that some extra ironing/steaming may be needed. I have used a variety of commercial laundry detergents with success. You do not need to use a delicate wash detergent. Also, I fill the bottom a bath tub with tepid water and Oxyclean to soak the bottom of a dress that has some grime along the bottom edge from a dirty floor or an outside wedding. I will soak the dress for at least an hour with good results.

After the bath tub soak (if needed), simply put the dress in the washing machine, wash in cold water with a detergent of preference on a delicate setting, and hang to dry as soon as the cycle stops. DO NOT let the dress lay in the washing machine after the cycle is done. This will only add to the wrinkles needing steaming at the end. I usually hang the dress stretched out between two hangers (one hanging the body and one hanging the train), in an empty doorway to dry. It is at this time that you need to make sure all the underskirt are laying flat underneath to reduce wrinkles.

This same process can be used once the big day is over and you are looking to sell your dress or keep it for the next generation to wear. Just pack your patience if there are some spots or grimy ground in dirt on the hem, the oxyclean will work if given enough time to soak. On stubborn stains, I recommend a soft bristle brush and a tapping motion on the mostly highly soiled areas for best results.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

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