To no one’s surprise, wedding dresses are the most high-maintenance clothing item out there. Not only do they occupy quite a bit of space, the process of cleaning and preparing them for storage is much lengthier and more complicated than, say, storing suits and dress shirts.
To add to the challenge, wedding dresses need to be cleaned and properly put away as soon as possible after the wedding.
That means before you can kick back and revel in your newlywed bliss, you should take the time to read this information and formulate a plan for dealing with your wedding duds. (Go ahead and crack open a bottle of champagne as you do it — we won’t tell.)
Read on to learn everything you need to know about cleaning, storing, and caring for your wedding dress.
Cleaning a wedding dress, much like finding it, is no simple thing.
The sheer amount of layers, fabrics, details, and embellishments involved means you can’t just throw your dress into the washing machine or send it to the dry cleaners. Instead, you need to have it professionally cleaned, ideally by a wedding gown preservationist.
Yes, this is a real — and totally necessary — thing.
Wedding dress preservationists will do everything for you. They’ll note the material and quality of your dress. They’ll locate the best cleaning products for the job. They deodorize it, wash the dirt from the hem, and remove the small, invisible sweat and oil stains that cause discoloration over time. Then, they’ll package it properly, and hand your dress back to you in one big, pretty box.
That being said, depending on the material and design of your dress, you may be able to clean it yourself. If your dress has zero embellishments and isn’t made with delicate fabrics like silk, taffeta, or lace, you can follow these steps to clean it.
- Spot-clean the small stains on your dress using a wet cloth and stain remover. Let the remover sit for a few minutes, then dab the stain away with the cloth. A word of caution: Different types of stains require different cleaning agents. So do different types of fabrics. So know the stain and material you’re working with before you start. If you want to be extra safe, test your stain remover on a tiny area on the underside of your dress to make sure it doesn’t ruin the material.
- While spot cleaning, place a piece of cloth between each layer of the dress so the stains and cleaning products don’t transfer.
- Use a hair dryer to blast the stain once you remove it. (Air-drying may cause water rings.)
- Wash the dirty dress hem in the bathtub with warm water and mild soap. To do this, you’ll need to lay the top part of the dress on the floor on a clean towel so it stays out of the water. Let the hem soak for a couple hours, then use a cloth or toothbrush dipped in detergent to gently scrub the hem before rinsing.
- To clean the bodice of the dress, turn it inside out and use a toothbrush and detergent to gently scrub sweat stains.
- As a final step, rinse the entire dress in a bathtub with warm water. Gently swish it around, then fold it over a clothes rack to dry.
On a roll with your cleaning? Check out these 20 genius green cleaning tips and tricks for every room in your home.
Hanging your dress long-term will stretch the fabric. It’s best to store it inside an acid-free archival box, which is specifically designed to preserve clothing and prevent yellowing and deterioration.
Before you put your dress in the box, follow these steps:
- Peel back each layer of the dress and cover it with acid-free tissue paper. Do the same with beaded or embellished areas so the fabric doesn’t snag when you fold it.
- Loosely fold the dress. That means no creases, pulling, or clean lines allowed. First, fold the sleeves (if any) behind the bodice, then fold the bodice over the skirt, and finish by folding the rest of the skirt over the bodice.
- Wrap the entire folded dress in a layer of washed, unbleached muslin to protect it further. Never cover your dress in plastic, since it can trap moisture inside and cause mildew.
When you’re choosing where to store your dress, remember the CCDD rule: Pick a place that’s cool, clean, dry, and dark. The top shelf of your closet or the space under your bed works perfectly.
Want more smart storage tips?
We’ve got you covered.
3 Unique Ways to Store Your Wedding Dress
You may be thinking to yourself: I spent all that money on a wedding dress just so I could wrap it up and stick it in a box I’ll never open?
If you want to enjoy your dress on a regular basis rather than save it for the future, then toss the storage rules out the window and get creative.
These display methods, while gorgeous, will almost certainly expose your dress to sunlight, dust, changing temperatures, or pets. All of which have the potential to permanently damage it.
That said, if you value temporary art over preservation, here are some unique ways to store your dress:
1. Display the dress in a shadow box
If you don’t want to store your dress out of sight, let it shine in a giant shadow box. You can fill the extra space with photos and memorabilia from your wedding day.
Think: dried flowers from your bouquet, polaroid snaps, or copies of your vows.
2. Put the dress in a frame
If your wedding dress is a masterpiece (one you have no intention of wearing again), let it double as art.
Display it in a glass-covered frame so you can admire its embellishments and beauty day in and day out.
3. Hang the dress on a mannequin
Hanging your wedding dress on a fashion mannequin is a bold move. And it can also be a stunning statement piece for your bedroom or living space.
But what if your apartment is short on space?
Simply schedule a pickup (your first pickup is free) and pack your stuff. We’ll grab everything from your home and transport it to our secure, temperature-controlled storage facility.
Want your dress back to show off to friends or gaze lovingly at from the comfort of its box? Just browse your convenient online photo catalog of your stuff, click the item’s photo, and we’ll deliver it back to you.
This article was written by Paige Smith, a freelance writer from Orange County, California who specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics.