How I Cleaned My Wedding Dress

Bob and I got married almost 6 years ago on a gorgeous September afternoon. It was the last Saturday in September, it was over 70 degrees, and the sun was shining–it was a dream!

wedding

We had a church wedding, and then headed over to a summer camp for our reception. It was a pretty chill and rustic atmosphere. We had appetizers, dinner, some dancing, and finished the night with a big campfire. And I had so much fun!

In all, it was not the cleanest of venues (hello, summer camp!), and boy oh boy, my dress took a beating. The bottom 6-ish inches of my dress were varying degrees of dusty and dirty. There were sweat stains. There were some unidentifiable stains on the front of my dress about the size of dessert plates (spilled beer?). Some random food stains. Guys, my dress was a mess.

dress

And do you know what I did about it? Absolutely nothing. It’s been sitting in my closet ever since that deliriously happy day. Until last week, when I finally decided to do something about it.

Here is my list of disclaimers before we go any farther. I’m not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. My dress was a very affordable one–this is not precious silk, my friends. It’s mostly polyester. Finally, my expectations were not high. I was hoping for better, not for perfect. The end result is far, far better than I thought it would be, but it’s still hardly in preservation condition and not all of the stains came out of the toule overlay. If I wanted to keep my dress for posterity, I would absolutely fork over the dough to have it professionally cleaned. But I don’t. So I googled, and I gave it a go. Here’s how!

  1. Clean your bathtub. Thoroughly. You’re going to hang/drape your dress in your tub, and you don’t want things to get worse before they get better. Clean your tub.
  2. Get some Shout. This is not the time for weak stain treatment. Go all out. If you’re concerned about the fabric of your dress, test any cleaner you use on an interior layer or within a fold of your train. Then, in case it discolors, you know to abandon ship without damaging the entire dress.
  3. Run some warm water in your tub. Not scalding. Not cold. Pleasantly warm. Rinse the dirtiest parts of your dress. For me, this was basically the entire skirt.
  4. At this point, you might have to drain your tub and refill thanks to all the dirt and dust that rinses out.
  5. Spray stain remover on any affected areas. Depending on your fabric and how sturdy you feel it is, rub it with a white towel or t-shirt to help the stain remover do it’s thing.
  6. Repeat as desired!
  7. If you still feel like it could get cleaner, put your dress in a duvet cover, and wash it in cold water on the delicate cycle in your washing machine. The duvet cover keeps the washing machine from agitating it too much and pulling at any beading or stitching. A very large delicates bag would do the same thing.
  8. Dry your dress as flat as possible–not hanging. The heavy, wet fabric will stretch if it’s hanging.

I was terrified to try this, but I’m so glad that I did! My dress looks so much better, and I’m excited to see it re-purposed into heirloom pieces for my kiddos. I’ll share more when they’re done!

dancing

Did you get your dress cleaned or preserved after your wedding? Do you wear it for special occasions? Or just for fun? Did you donate it? I’d love to know what other people do with their dresses!

Wedding photos by the talented Erica Kent Photography from the Norfolk, VA, area, and Julie Sypkens from Grandville, MI. Forever grateful to them both for capturing our day!

In case you missed it…more DIY cleaning products and a short recap of our wedding.

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