How to preserve, clean and store your wedding dress
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How to preserve, clean and store your wedding dress

Jan 26, 2024

After your wedding dress makes its debut down the aisle, the gown most likely has one of a few final destinations on its horizon: storage, a secondhand store, a donation bin or repurposed. Wherever it goes, though, wedding dress preservation is usually neglected — or thought about when it's too late.

Preserving your wedding dress is a crucial post-wedding task to ensure its longevity and a return on your investment if you eventually decide to sell it. It's also a sure way to keep your frock in its most pristine condition long after your trip to the altar.

To make the most of your wedding dress, we asked experts to share tips on how to preserve your gown, the timing for preservation and other storage solutions your dress deserves.

Why should you preserve your wedding dress? | Preservation tips | Dry cleaning vs. preservation | What to do with your wedding dress once preserved | What is the preservation process like? | Preservation tools | Preservation boxes | FAQs | Meet the experts

Some brides want to preserve their wedding dress to keep it as an heirloom or a personal memento. When we factor in the cost of the gown, preserving the fabric and details of a wedding dress is necessary to avoid other future costs.

"Whether you’re sentimental or not, bridal gowns are very precious," shares CEO and creative director of Justin Alexander, Justin Warshaw. "Not only is it an expensive purchase, but it holds very special memories...By preserving a gown, it offers many options on how to keep those magical memories alive."

According to executive vice president and chief operating officer of Kleinfeld Bridal, Marissa Rubinetti, there are three rules of thumb for preserving your gown:

Preferably, you'll want to take your wedding dress to a professional preservation service since they will clean it and store it the right way. Once you're ready to store the gown, Rubinneti advises against storing the dress in an attic or basement due to temperature and moisture changes.

"This can promote the growth of mold, mildew or dry rot," she adds. "Be sure to store the dress in a cool, dark, fresh place either under a bed or in a closet. Moderate temperature and humidity are both important considerations when storing valuable textiles."

According to Warshaw, cleaning and preservation are two different processes.

"Bridal gown cleaning refers to removing stains and cleaning the fabric of the dress. Preservation refers to the special technique used to prevent your gown from discoloring and aging over time," he clarifies."Firstly, get the gown cleaned, then the sooner you get the dress to a preservationist, the better the result."

A wedding gown that is preserved is carefully packed with acid-free tissue in a museum-quality wedding chest that is also acid-free. This helps to protect your wedding gown from the light and air that cause most fabrics to yellow.

On the other hand, dry cleaning doesn't always eliminate stains. According to the executive director of Wedding Gown Specialists, Sally Conant, there are wet stains (coffee, wine, etc.) and dry stains (lipstick, dirt, etc.) that require different types of chemicals to dissolve.

Fabric also plays a factor in removing a stubborn mark. For example, polyester and rayon are fibers that contain plastic wires that are woven together, which means the stain is sitting on top of the fiber and not penetrating the fiber. Other fibers like cotton, silk and linen tend to be more fragile and require more time to clean and reverse the damage. Stains on these natural fibers act like a dye and penetrate more easily.

"Everything is easier on poly rather than silk. Some stains are a mix of wet and dry sides, such as salad dressing, and they are more complicated to remove. You would think lipstick would be a problem, but a grease remover readily dissolves it. Mud, which is a wet side stain, can be a problem — especially a red clay type of mud because the color of it is hard to remove," adds Conant.

But the worst stains to remove are mildew and mold. "Occasionally a bride jumps into a pool or the ocean and forgets to make sure her gown dries. Once she stores it somewhere it gets damp or wet and does not know what has happened. Those gowns are nightmares!" emphasizes Conant.

Once your wedding dress is preserved, you can get a lifetime of memories with your gown or give it to a new owner.

"You may want to pass your gown down as an heirloom, upcycle it into accessories or an evening dress, frame it as a piece of art or perhaps sell it on to a new bride," says Warshaw.

Every dress preservation service is different and offers various packages depending on the gown's condition. At Kleinfeld Gown Preservation, the dress is thoroughly inspected for condition prior to treatment.

"The dress is cleaned in organic solvent with special emphasis on stain removal. [Then], It is wrapped in acid-free tissue and placed in an acid-free textile conservation storage box for long-term safe keeping which will promote the long-term chemical and physical integrity of the dress," says Rubinetti.

While this baby powder is meant to be used on the skin, this is a great cost-effective solution to eliminate immediate oily stains. You can use it on your fabric and let the powder absorb the oil overnight. It's also a great stain removal hack for other pesky stains.

This is a must-have brush for most fabrics and a great tool to restore the color of your textile. You can use it on hats, denim, jackets and even your wedding gown for a quick reconstruction.

Archival tissue paper works great on clothing, dolls, textiles and other collectibles. Whether you're looking to preserve your garter, gloves or any other bridal accessory, this tissue will keep your heirlooms safe.

"These sheets are the best sheer toughness to stand up gently tough for my antique clothing," said one customer.

Keep your bridal treasures inside this protective storage box. It's a great box featuring acid-free and lignin-free, buffered material to help prevent your items from yellowing and aging.

This brush features boar hair bristles with a pearwood handle to gently clean your special garments. It's designed to brush off stains on chunky weaves and hand-loomed fabrics..

This budget-friendly preservation kit takes care of the whole process. From cleaning to preserving and delivering your kit, this is a great addition to your post-wedding list. You can include other accessories like a veil, gloves, garter or headpiece to include in your preservation box. The box is usually returned two to six weeks and you can be confident their anti-yellowing system will keep your gown looking all white.

This elevated kit from Michaels features a stain removal service and anti-yellowing treatment to keep your dress looking bright. It provides easy instructions to ship the kit with a pre-paid label. Additionally, the kit comes with a lifetime manufacturer's warranty in case of any mishaps.

Since 1913, this company has ensured to deliver high-quality preservation services to more than three million brides. The kit includes $1,000 in insurance, but you can extra insurance for an extra fee. Also, you can personalize the box and add a photo, name and date to remember your special day. You can easily package to the facility and have it delivered in about six weeks. You can also indicate spots on the dress that needs special attention.

Wedding dress preservation prices vary with services ranging from $170 to $1,000. According to Conant, the average price of a wedding dress preservation is $250 and some companies don't charge less than $800. Also, other companies offer insurance for an extra fee to protect the gown during shipping and handling.

Rubinetti recommends preserving your gown immediately, right after the wedding to avoid any sweat damaging the fabric. As for services, Warshaw advised ensuring you select a company that has experience and is reputable.

The point is that "there isn't a true deadline. A wedding gown can always be saved, but there is a two-part answer to this," summarizes Conant. First, the sooner you have a dress cleaned, the more likely the stain will be removed. On the other hand, some fabrics might get damaged throughout the years if not preserved on time.

On average, it can take from four to six weeks to preserve your wedding dress and get it delivered. The actual process takes about three hours and a restoration process can take up to two weeks.

Conant does not recommend DIYing wedding dress preservation as gowns usually have delicate details and elements that are hard to clean. Specialists are trained to hand wash wedding dresses with gentle chemicals that dissolve different kinds of stains such as wine, coffee and perspiration.

The best way to store a wedding dress long-term is with a paper board box and tissue that are acid-free. Some people use plastic to store the gown, which is detrimental to the fabric. Also, boxes that are only pH-neutral are not as safe for your wedding gown. According to Conant, these boxes can "re-acidify because the neutralizer is water soluble and will dissolve.

"Never use ordinary boxes and tissue. They are heavily acidic and cause yellowing. In fact, ordinary boxes and tissue can scorch wedding gowns, which leaves dark brown streaks wherever the fabric touches the box."

Instead, Conant recommends keeping the gown in a wedding chest made of oriented polyester - "a chemically-inert material that will not yellow or damage your wedding gown. The window contains no plasticizers. It does not transmit oils, greases or volatile aromatics and will withstand extreme temperatures ranging from 70 degrees." Finally, you want to keep your gown away from air and light to avoid oxidation of the fabric.

Jannely is the SEO Writer for Shop TODAY.

Why should you preserve your wedding dress? | Preservation tips | Dry cleaning vs. preservation | What to do with your wedding dress once preserved | What is the preservation process like? | Preservation tools | Preservation boxes | FAQs | Meet the experts Preserve your wedding dress as soon as possible. "If you spill liquid on your dress at the wedding, don't panic!" Do not apply any other stain removers to the area. Marissa Rubinetti Justin Warshaw Sally Conant