Bridal 2000

Publication Date: Wednesday Feb. 9, 2000

Off to a clean start: What every bride should know about cleaning her gown

by Andrea Gemmet

Your honeymoon bags are packed, and you are ready for some well-deserved R&R. But do you know where your wedding dress is?

Just when you thought it was safe to relax, you've got one last wedding hurdle to jump: Cleaning your gown.

I stumbled into this mine field early because I bought my gown as a floor sample, and it needed cleaning before my wedding. So let me share my hard-won knowledge with you before you even start to consider spending several hundred dollars on such dubious processes as vacuum packing, hermetic sealing and anti-bacterial treatments.

First, ask yourself, is this dress worth saving?

If your dress includes a lot of synthetic netting, has glued-on beads, sequins or plastic pearls, the fact is that it probably won't survive long enough to be worn by your granddaughter. In the case of glued-on beading, it may not even survive the cleaning intact, since most dry-cleaning solvents will dissolve the glue. You may decide that it's not worth the bother.

If you do want to keep your dress in heirloom condition, you need to decide how to clean it. You've got two choices: washing it at home or taking it to a professional cleaners. Bear in mind that dry cleaning costs about $250 on the Peninsula.

If your dress is synthetic (and don't be fooled -- "silky" satin is still a synthetic), cotton or linen and it doesn't have any major stains, it can be put in your washing machine's delicate cycle or hand-washed in your bathtub with a mild soap, like Ivory Snow, and warm water. Surprisingly, several sources, including a bridal shop owner and silk fabric salesman, say that silk gowns can also be hand-washed successfully using very cold water.

The key things to remember when hand-washing are:

  • Don't twist or wring the fabric. Silk fibers in particular are easily damaged when wet.
  • Don't use hot water or harsh detergents.
  • Don't use chlorine bleach. According to experts at Ohio State, oxygen bleach is safe to use on synthetics, cottons and linens as long as it is thoroughly rinsed out.
  • Roll the dress gently in towels to remove excess water and lay the dress flat on a drying screen or a pad of towels. Change the towels frequently until the dress is dry.

If you decide to go with a professional, make sure you are dealing with a reputable dry cleaner experienced in handling wedding gowns. It's a good idea to check with your local Better Business Bureau to find out if your cleaner has a satisfactory rating. There are any number of wedding-dress cleaning scams, and you don't want to fall victim to them.