Photo: Rockhill Studio
When it comes to potential wedding-day disasters, getting a giant stain on your wedding dress minutes before you walk down the aisle might be at the top of the list. Fortunately, there are actually ways to get rid of (or mask!) wedding-dress stains quickly and efficiently—you just need a few household items, most of which are readily available at drug stores or from a hotel concierge.
So instead of freaking out about the what-ifs, take preventative action, have a general sense of how to clean a wedding dress, and be prepared!
We asked two experts, David Edricks of Edricks Fine Drycleaning in Farmington, Connecticut, and Kathy Kimmel of Kimmel Wedding Gown Preservation & Restoration in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, about how to clean a wedding dress, and they were happy to share their insider tips.
A few general notes
Know your dress“Your consultant at your bridal salon should be able to advise you on the fiber content and what to do in case of a spill,” says Kathy. “There should also be a care label in your wedding gown. When you spill something on artificial fiber, it is much easier to get rid of the stain than if you spill something on a natural fiber such as silk because natural fibers are hollow and absorb the spill.”
Don’t panic—but move quicklyThe longer a stain sets into a dress, the harder it will be to remove. However, if you panic and move too quickly, you may make matters worse. “Too many times consumers rub stains with different concoctions in order to remove the stain quickly,” David says. “They usually make matters worse by pulling color from the fabric, chaffing the stained area, creating a permanent water ring, or creating a hole in a delicate garment.”
Remove the excessBlot the stain first with a clean white napkin or cloth to remove any excess debris. Never rub the garment or the stain will set in even more.
Test firstBefore you go all in and attempt to remove the stain, test the concoction you’re using (see below for different solutions) on an unexposed seam or hem by blotting 10 times. “If there is no damage to the fabric or color of the gown, you may proceed,” says David.
Use a white napkin“Put a small amount of the solution on a white napkin, and then blot by pressing the napkin on the stain until the stain transfers onto the napkin,” says David.
Kathy recommends placing a white towel under the spot to be treated before dabbing or blotting it out. “Change the position of the towel to provide a clean area beneath the stain as necessary,” she says.
Dry it“If you have access to a hair dryer, dry the stain in a circular motion from the outside of the stain to the center,” says David.
Wedding dress stain solutions:
Note: Every wedding gown is different and while these solutions are recommended, we can’t guarantee that they’ll work miracles on your particular dress. Consult with your bridal salon or an expert dry cleaner if you have questions about your particular dress.
Red wine, coffee, grass, or mudTry to avoid people who are drinking pinot noir (just kidding…we think). According to David, you should mix a drop or two of mild dishwashing detergent and one of the following in a cup of water:
Kathy says that club soda may also be effective in removing some coffee or mud stains.
Greasy or oily foodMix a drop or two of one of the following in a cup of water:
•Dishwashing or laundry detergent
InkDavid and Kathy agree that ink is one of the toughest stains to remove quickly (so maybe write that wedding-day love note before getting into your dress). If it’s a very small stain, try one of the following:
•Liquid laundry detergent and water
A large ink stain will spread if you try to remove it, so it’s best to leave it alone or camouflage it (see below).
Makeup“Scrape off any excess makeup with a spoon and blot first with a dry cloth,” says David. “Then, dab a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the stain. Let it sit for three to five minutes, then rinse with a small amount of water. Dry with a hair dryer. If the stain persists, apply a mixture of dishwashing soap and water to the stain. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse and dry.”
Photo: Kiel Rucker Photography
BloodFor blood stains, Edricks recommends mixing a drop of mild dishwashing detergent and ammonia in a cup of water and applying. Kathy says that a mixture of cool water and hydrogen peroxide can work on blood stains, as can your own saliva (ew, but convenient).
If you’re not sure…hide itIt’s sometimes best to camouflage a stain rather than attempt to remove it and risk damaging the gown. There are a few household items that can help hide an unsightly stain and are good to have on hand on your wedding day, including:
If the stain is on your train or another less-seen part of your gown, you’re probably better off waiting to get it cleaned by a professional after your big day. “They will be able to analyze the stain and apply the proper stain removal and cleaning techniques,” David says. “Remember, the goal is to safely remove the stain without damaging the garment.”