Complete Facts on Wedding Gown Cleaning and Preservation
Getting your wedding gown cleaned and preserved as soon after your wedding as possible helps to give you the very best possible results. You can still have your gown cleaned and preserved years later, but the delay can cause problems. Which of the three wedding gown preservation methods is best?
There are many wedding gown preservation companies that all claim their particular method is best. It doesn’t need to be confusing when you have the facts. This special report is designed to educate you, so that you can understand for yourself the three methods with their various pros and cons.
When you’ve competed this report you’ll have the facts you need to decide which method you want to use for your wedding gown preservation.
What you’ll find inside this Wedding Gown Preservation Report:
The 5 Top Reasons to Have Your Wedding Gown Cleaned and Preserved:
-Remember your special day
-Celebrate an anniversary
-For use by a family member
-For a christening dress
-For a bassinette cover
How should your wedding gown be cleaned:
The three types of wedding gown preservation:
-Sealed Boxed method
Debunking the myths, misinformation and out right lies:
-Boxed vs. Bagging
-Cloth bag storage
-Sealed boxed storage
-Examining the dress
-Mold and mildew growth
-Allowing the fabric to breathe
The goals of wedding gown preservation:
-Brown spots and oxidation
-What’s included in an upgrade
-What’s the value of an upgrade
-Why is an upgrade offered
Wedding gown cleaning and preservation summary.
5 Top Reasons to Have Your Wedding Gown Clean and Preserved.
1. The first and foremost reason is obviously because it is your wedding gown. It is the most expensive dress you’ll ever own and it’s part of the celebration of the most important day of your life. It is the dress in all of your wedding pictures. It is one of the things you’ll remember most about your wedding.
Sure you have your pictures, but to actually be able to see your actual wedding dress beautifully preserved will always bring back a flood of wonderful memories.
2. You may want to wear it to celebrate your 5th, or 10th or 25th wedding anniversary. You could put it on a mannequin and display it for an anniversary celebration.
3. Wedding gown preservation keeps your dress in perfect condition so your sister or your own daughter or even granddaughter can wear it on their wedding day. (It happens more often then you may think and is a wonderful opportunity for you and the lucky girl who wears it.)
4. Many brides are making a christening dress from their wedding gown. Being able to make your wedding gown into a dress that your precious daughter will wear on this important day is something to look forward to. It can start a great family tradition and heirloom.
5. Something that is beginning to take off in popularity is making a bassinette cover made out of it. This can easily be done and provides a wonderful reminder of your special day and the special little one inside the bassinette.
No matter the reason, wedding gown preservation is important. You may not think so now, but years from now you don’t want to regret that you missed the opportunity. There will be a time when you’ll want your wedding gown in beautiful condition again.
After the wedding many brides just leave their dress in the plastic garment bag thinking they’ll get it preserved “sometime”. There is always good intentions, but that “sometime” turns into weeks or even years. By procrastinating you may be in for some serious risks to your gown.
You know your wedding gown has some stains on it. There is the dirt, grass stains, and sometimes asphalt parking lot oil on the hem of your dress. Then there is the underarm deodorant, the perspiration, the body oils, the make-up, the spray tan that gets on the dress. There may even be a wine spill or two.
There can also be stains that are not easily visible, like soda, champagne, or cake frosting. Stains caused by any liquid will oxidize over time and turn brown. The longer any stain sets, or oxidizes the more difficult it is to remove. It’s important to have your wedding gown cleaned and preserved to prevent this from happening.
Keeping your gown in a plastic bag is probably the worst storage situation possible. Plastic is made from petroleum and gives off fumes. These chemical fumes causes yellowing in your dress. That’s also why you should never take your dress to a dry-cleaner and leave it in the plastic bag it comes home in.
Hanging your dress can cause additional problems. Your wedding gown is very heavy and hanging it will stretch the fabric and the seams. If your dress has sleeves then the weight of the dress will stretch the seams in the sleeve. If it’s strapless or you hang your dress by the side-seam hanging loops the manufacturer provides you’ll stretch the fabric and the side-seams. And for those dresses with a long heavy train the same can be true of the hanging loop for the train.
Wedding gown preservation done right can protect your treasured keepsake.
How should your wedding gown be cleaned?
There are two types of cleaning methods: dry-cleaning and wet-cleaning.
Dry-cleaning really isn’t dry at all. Dry-cleaning refers to not using water for cleaning. It is cleaning with a petroleum solvent as the cleaning agent. The most common agent for dry-cleaning is perchloroethylene – “perc” for short. It is an excellent degreaser and can be used on all fabrics including silk, acetate, rayon and polyester. It can cause damage to some sequins and beads. It can melt the coating on some beads and melt the glue if the beads and sequins are glued onto the fabric.
Stoddard solvent is not as popular because it is more expensive and it has more regulations for it’s use – like it cannot be used in a facility in a strip mall. It is an excellent degreaser but has the added advantage that it will not harm beads or sequins.
Exxon DF-2000 is also a petroleum based solvent. It will not harm beads or sequins, but is not as good of a degreaser as Stoddard solvent. It does have fewer regulations so it is more popular for some dry-cleaning establishments.
Cleaning should be done with what is called “Virgin Solvent”. Virgin solvent is solvent that has been specially cleaned and filtered before each use. Many dry-cleaners use the same solvent over and over which means the solvent can retain residual oils and “dirt” which can be re-deposited on your dress. Dirty solvent will also leave a “dry-clean” smell on your dress.
Wet-cleaning, using water to clean your dress has several advantages. Water is best for removing any type of sugar stain, food stain or plain dirt on the hem. It is a poor degreaser, (but petroleum solvents cannot remove sugar or food stains.) Wet-cleaning also removes the sizing in fabrics (sizing is a starch like substance that is used to give “body” to the fabric by the manufacturer). Sizing in fabrics attract mice and insects. Proper wet-cleaning will not leave any odor in your gown.
The care label inside your wedding gown should indicate which method is recommended by the manufacturer.
Experience is the most important criteria to consider in selecting who should do your wedding gown cleaning and preservation. Asking questions is the most effective method to determine their experience. How long have they been in business? Do they specialize in wedding gowns, or only clean them once in awhile? Do they examine each dress individually or just place it in with all of their regular cleaning?
The 3 Types of Wedding Gown Preservation
The three types of wedding gown preservation are:
1. Plain Boxed method
2. Sealed Box method
3. Bagging method. Let’s examine each.
The Plain Boxed method. Your wedding gown is cleaned first and then is placed on a cardboard bust form. The bust form and dress are secured in the box. If the bust form was not secured properly in the box, the dress would slide and end up in a messy heap in the bottom of the box. The dress is folded and layered with tissue paper. The box may or may not have a windowed display area. The box is closed and sent to you.
Sealed Boxed method. This method is the same as the Plain Boxed method except it goes a step further in your wedding gown preservation protection. The box is sealed completely. It is sealed to keep out moisture and to keep out insects.
Bagging method. Again the gown is cleaned first and then it is hung usually on a padded hanger and then placed in some kind of cloth bag.
Debunking the myths, lies and misinformation.
Let’s discuss these methods and debunk some of the misinformation, misunderstanding and out right lies being published on the internet about wedding gown preservation methods.
First, understand that the companies who use each of these methods try and get you to believe that their method is best. But let’s look at the logical and scientific facts.
Boxed vs. Bagging. The Boxed methods provide a convenient sized preservation box that can easily be stored under a bed or in the bottom of a closet. Bagging, depending on the size of your wedding gown can be very bulky and take up a considerable amount of closet space, especially if your gown was fuller or had a train. Consider where you would store your preserved wedding gown and how much storage space you have.
The Bagging method is also referred to as “Museum” storage or “Museum Quality” storage. The pitch behind this is that museums store their dresses in bags and not boxes. That is partially true. Even their own information explains that these museums also store dresses folded in drawers.
Museums do store most of their dresses in bags. Most of their dresses are thin A-lines and regular women’s wear dresses throughout the ages. These can easily be hung, take up very little “closet” space and will only need light touch-up and preparation for display.
It is different with bulky dresses, dresses with trains and wedding dresses. As mentioned before, if they are bagged and hung they take up a considerable amount of closet space. Also if they are hung the weight of the dress can cause the fabric the stretch. Have you felt the weight of some of the wedding dresses?
The dress manufacturer sews a ribbon loop into the seam of the dress and recommends hanging it from those loops. Yes, the loops can be reinforced but still the entire weight of the dress is suspended from the seams and it will cause the fabric to stretch. If the dress is a light weight “destination style” dress then this won’t matter.
If the dress has sleeves and it is hung from the sleeves the stretching can be worse. The shape of the sleeve can be deformed. The hanger can leave permanent marks in the top of the sleeves.
Other advantages this method purports to have is inspection of the dress and no folding of the fabric. When the wedding gown preservation is done with the Bagging method you can open the bag and easily examine the dress. If the dress is short with no train, then it shouldn’t have any folds. If it has a train then the train will be hung by a ribbon loop in its seam and will be folded about half way up the train, this will cause a double fold back for the last 12″-24″ of the train, from the hanging loop to the hem of the train. Remember how the train on your wedding dress was hung in the bag when you took it to your wedding. It will be hung the same way for this method. So dresses with trains will always have at least two folds in them using the Bagging method. (If they really don’t hang the train by the hanging loops then the entire train will be a wrinkled mess piled in the bottom of the bag – there is no place else for it to go).
Lastly, the cloth storage bag that is used in the Bagging method should be addressed. There are two areas of concern in regards to insect infestation when using a cloth bag for storage. Insects can get into the tiniest places and through the smallest cracks and openings. We have all experienced spiders, earwigs, pill bugs and other insects in some pretty unusual locations. The closure area, in many bags it’s a zipper in the Bagging method it is usually tied shut. This can provide an opportunity of insects entering at the ties or in between them. Second is the hole in the top of the bag where the hanger goes through. Insects can enter at this opening and get in a ruin your dress.
Cloth bags do let air pass through but that also means moisture can also pass through to the dress. As the humidity rises there’s more moisture in the air and therefore in the fabric of your dress. It really doesn’t mater much unless the humidity gets too high and that can promote mildew growth on the fabric.
Something else that can happen with the cloth bags. Cats, dogs and mice especially like to “mark” their territory. It has happened where an animal has urinated on the bag to mark their territory. Obviously it can soak through the cloth bag and onto the wedding dress. The dress would then have to be re-cleaned.
OK, now lets discuss the Boxed method. Two types of boxes can be used, one with a windowed display area in the top and the other just plain cardboard box. This is really a personal preference for each individual to decide.
With this method of wedding gown preservation the dress is cleaned first. It is then steamed and pressed. Then it is placed on a shaped bust form to fill out the top of the dress and makes it display better. The bust form is attached to the box so that the dress doesn’t slide around in the box and end up in a heap at the bottom of the box.
As the dress is placed in the box it is folded and layered with acid free tissue paper. This layering is to protect and soften the folds. If it is a plain cardboard box then a final layer of tissue paper is placed on top of the dress. If the box is a windowed display box then this layer is not used so you can see your dress through the display window.
The box can then be stored under a bed or in the bottom of a closet.
The Sealed Box method goes through the same process with the added step of sealing the entire box.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to each. The Boxed method says you can open the box see the dress to make sure it’s yours and to examine it. If it’s a windowed display box, you don’t need to open it to make sure it’s your dress – you can see it through the window.
However, there are problems if you think you can just open the box and examine the dress. First, you should never touch a cleaned and preserved wedding gown unless you have white cloth gloves on. You may or may not have clean hands, but your hands will have body oils on them and so you need gloves.
If you have white cloth gloves then when you open the box you’ll discover the bust form is attached to the box, so you’ll need to unattached it. Next you’ll need to unfold the dress, layer by layer to examine the train which will be the bottom layer in the box. Once you are satisfied you’ll need to refold the dress as it was before and reattach the bust form. This sounds considerably easier than it is.
If you actually take the dress out of the box, you’ll find it even more difficult getting everything back in the box properly.
Something else to absolutely make sure of before you open the box and try to examine your dress is the wedding gown preservation company’s guarantee. It may or may not say you can open the box and examine your dress. It may say you can open the box to examine your dress but doesn’t specifically say whether you can take the dress out of the box. If it isn’t specific then you should ask specific questions to make sure of what you can or can’t do that would void their guarantee.
Wedding gown preservation companies must protect themselves from the situation where a bride can take her dress out of the box, wear it, get something on it, put it back in the box and claim that the stain or dirt or whatever was never gotten out in the original cleaning and preservation process and demand it be reprocessed for free.
Don’t assume that just because the box is not sealed that you can open it, examine the dress and or take it out and not void the guarantee… you need to check first.
Boxes that are not sealed are susceptible to insect infestation. Insects love to get into small thin opening and into the fabric to build their nests. Just because the box is closed doesn’t mean insects can’t get in.
The same warning applies to Boxes as to the Bags when it comes to animals marking their territory. Cardboard protects better than a cloth bag but still can be ruined by an animal urinating on it.
Moisture and humidity can also vary in an unsealed box – same warnings apply.
What about the Sealed Box method then? It provides all of the benefits of the Boxed method with much more protection. You don’t have to worry about animals or insects.
What about examining the dress and the question of moisture and mildew in a sealed box? A number of the wedding gown preservation companies site these two reasons as a warning to not use the Sealed Box method.
Let’s address them one at a time.
Here’s the actual science on mold and mildew growth from a publication by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Optimal conditions for mildew to grow is 70%-98% relative humidity and 77-88 degrees Fahrenheit. When relative humidity is less than 62% mildew growth ceases completely.
So if your wedding gown is either boxed or bagged but not sealed you run the risk of mildew if you have high humidity and warm temperatures. If you live in an area of the country where the humidity level can be higher than 70% your unsealed exposed wedding gown can run the risk of mildew growing on it. You could also run the same risk of mildew if your box is sealed and you have sealed in that high moisture content in the box and dress.
So for optimal wedding gown preservation you want to have the Sealed Boxed method with little or no moisture sealed in the box. That would mean you need to make sure that your wedding gown preservation company dries your dress and controls the humidity prior to sealing the box.
Another objection some companies have about the Sealed Boxed method is that the fabric should be allowed to breathe. That’s almost comical when you think about it. Fabric doesn’t have any lungs – it doesn’t and in fact shouldn’t breathe. Having the fabric breathe means that air is allowed to flow through the fabric.
The problem with air flowing through the fabric is that the air carries dust, dirt, pollen, mold pores and bacteria. The fabric acts as a natural filter. So if the air is allowed to circulate through the dress then more and more of the contaminants can build up on the fabric. A sealed box does not allow the air to circulate and eliminates this problem. So what some companies pitch as a determent actually turns out in reality to be a benefit for sealing the box.
When it comes to wedding gown inspection with the Sealed Boxed method you simply can’t thoroughly examine the dress. You will want to choose a company that has a windowed display box so can see and verify it’s your gown. You will void their guarantee if you open the box to take your dress out and examine it.
That means you will have to “trust” the wedding gown preservation company that you use to do the cleaning and preservation right.
Check out the company. What type of reputation do they have? Read their testimonials. Are they members of the Better Business Bureau and with what kind of rating. How long have they been in business? Do they specialize in just wedding gowns, or do they do every kind of dry-cleaning? Can you call and get your questions answered personally?
What do you want your wedding gown preservation to do for you and your dress?
1. You want your wedding gown preservation to prevent your dress from yellowing. Yellowing can be caused by several situations. Don’t use a plastic bag for long term storage. Plastic bags give off petroleum distillates that can yellow your dress over time. Storing your dress in a non-acid free environment can also cause yellowing of your dress. This would include a regular cardboard box, or using regular tissue paper instead of acid free tissue.
2. You want your wedding gown preservation to prevent any permanent creases in your dress. Make sure that the company you use properly cares for your dress. If you insist on using the Bagging method they should make provisions for your train especially so it does not double fold back on itself in the bag. If you use the Boxed or Seal Boxed methods they should carefully fold the dress and buffer each fold with acid free tissue paper. This buffering will make the folds gentile and keep them from creasing.
(Be aware that some companies will promote the idea that your wedding gown should be re-folded every few years to prevent permanent creases. Although this sounds good in theory it isn’t true at all. First if your gown is stored properly, buffered with acid free tissue paper, the folds will remain folds. Unless there is some force that “squishes” the dress flat, or specifically flattens the folds into creases, creases won’t happen. Folds don’t “automatically” flatten themselves into creases. The fact actually is – creases can be removed from the fabric by proper steaming and or ironing. Seamstresses do this all of the time. If a seam or hem has to be changed they can easily make the “creases” disappear when they steam and or iron it.)
3. You want your wedding gown preservation to prevent and mold, mildew or insect growth or infestation. This can only be guaranteed when you use the Sealed Boxed method – see that section under “Wedding Gown Preservation methods”.
4. You want your wedding gown preservation to prevent brown spots or oxidation spots on your dress. Brown spots usually occur when a stain in the dress was not properly cleaned. The stain will oxidize over time and turn brown. This is especially true for any sugar based stain – ones caused from soda, wine, cake frosting or food.
These stains may not be visible when you send your dress in to be cleaned and preserved. It’s important that the company you use not only does a careful visual inspection but also a black-light inspection to reveal any hidden stains. And that the company completely removes all of the stains in your dress.
Some wedding gown preservation companies offer an upgrade service. The upgrade consists of using muslin in place of acid free tissue paper, additional insurance, and a upgraded storage container. Upgrades can cost anywhere from $40.00 to $100.00 more than their standard offer.
Upgrades are a “rip-off”!
Muslin is a very cheap fabric and offers no added benefit over acid free tissue paper. It sounds great, but it does nothing to make a better storage environment or keep the dress safer or better. Acid free tissue does everything muslin can do – and saves you money.
Most wedding gown preservation companies automatically provide $500.00 of insurance on their cleaning and preservation insurance. The insurance is actually provided for and through U.P.S. (or Fed-Ex). An upgrade increases the insurance to $1,500. You can purchase additional insurance when you ship your dress for $2 per $100 value, so for $10-$20 you can get the maximum insurance.
Remember insurance is provided so that the company providing the insurance can make money. It is a huge profit center for U.P.S. and Fed-Ex. Realize also that insurance companies do not like to pay out on claims and will minimize the payout as much as they can. They will claim your dress is used – (which it is) – that it is in poor condition – (that’s why you are having it cleaned) – that it’s last seasons or older model dress – (which it is, bridal manufacturer’s bring out new dresses twice per year, creating two seasons per year, so your dress is at least 1 to 3 or more seasons old). Get the picture, insurance is for the insurance company. Oh, and as and aside, in 12 years that I personally have dealt with U.P.S. shipping wedding dress for cleaning and preservation they have yet to lose a dress. I guess wedding dress boxes are too big to lose.
The last of the upgrade items is a different storage container. Check and you’ll see that the box is exactly the same except it’s a different color. The size, shape, it’s materials are all the same, the only difference is the outside color of the box.
So is there really any significant value in purchasing an upgrade? Absolutely not. It’s just a great ploy by that particular wedding gown preservation company to get you to spend more – thus increasing their profits dramatically.
Wedding gown cleaning and preservation summary.
Determine the fabric of your wedding gown. If it is polyester then it can usually safely be wet-cleaned. If it is silk, acetate or rayon then you have a few choices. Does it have beading or sequins on the dress? Percloroethylene (perc) is the most common dry-cleaning solvent but can discolor or melt the coating on the beads and sequins and can dissolve the glue if they are glued on. The better alternative is Stoddard Solvent or DF-2000. These dry-cleaning solvents are still excellent degreasers but will not harm the beads and sequins. Stoddard solvent is the best degreaser of the two.
Read the manufacturer’s fabric care label to help guide you on your choices.
Select a wedding gown preservation company that uses virgin solvent. You don’t want your dress being “cleaned” in dirty solvent that can leave an unpleasant odor in your dress.
Select a company that specializes in wedding gown cleaning and preservation. Choose a company that has been in business for a substantial time, is a member of the Better Business Bureau and has excellent reviews.
It’s also best to use a company that carefully hand inspects your dress and then does a further inspection using a black light. The company should do minor repairs at no additional cost to you. They can fix those loose beads, replace a button or fix a small tear in the fabric as part of their service.