If your bridal gown fabric and lining are polyester, you should easily be able to clean your own wedding dress by hand-washing it. Wet cleaning will often clean your gown better than dry-cleaning because dry-cleaning solvents do not remove water based substances including perspiration and most food spills. Many Dry Cleaners also offer Wet Cleaning. Professional Wet Cleaning is preformed in a machine along with the use of a Soaking Sink. Wet Cleaning machines are very gentle on the fabric while soaking sinks maintain a designated warm temperature to aid in the removal of stains. Dry Cleaning removes grease and oils, e.g. salad oil.
Perform a thorough inspection of your dress. Look over the dress for any stains. What does the stain consist of? Make sure you have the cleaning supplies you will need. Take a good look at the hemline. Unless you lifted your skirt, and carried your train everywhere you went on your wedding day, your train will be dirty. Wedding dress trains are like great, big, dry mops that clean the floors of churches and reception centers!
Keep the body of the dress out of the water while following this step. Soak the dirty hem in a clean bathtub using warm, sudsy water for a couple of hours if possible. Next, working your way around the dress, use a toothbrush and the liquid detergent to "massage" the hemline clean. Be careful not to scrub too vigorously on lace or trims. Be sure to clean the underside of the hem as well. Check the dress lining/s for dirt as well. Clean the hem of all layers very well. Rinse the hem thoroughly when you are completed.
Turn the dress bodice inside out and spray the lining of the bodice area (the part that fits on your upper body) with the soap and water solution. Use the toothbrush and the detergent to clean perspiration stains. Next clean the skirt lining. If your dress has many layers of lining in the skirt, be sure to look over all of them and clean all the stains you find.
Look over the outside of the dress very carefully and spot clean any stains you might find. Spray the spot with a sudsy spray solution first. Use the toothbrush if necessary but be very gentle. Just "massage" the fabric. Add the liquid detergent straight if needed Be particularly careful of laces and trims.
If soap and water do not remove the stains, mix up a solution of Oxy Clean® and place the stained area in the solution to soak until the stain disappears. Do not use chlorine bleach, such as Clorox, as it leaves a film that is very difficult to remove.
When you are satisfied with the cleaning of your dress, fill the bathtub with warm water and place the whole dress carefully in the tub. Swish the dress around in the water as soaps from the cleaning process are rinsed out. Let the water drain and then fill the tub again and repeat the process. Follow this procedure several times until the water is very clear without any soap bubbles. We recommend three rinses at least. It is critical to get all soap and cleaning solutions rinsed out of the dress.
Dry. The dress should be "line" dried, but not by hanging it on a hanger. The weight of the wet dress could damage the dress. One way to line dry it safely is by placing a fold-up drying rack (vinyl coated) in the bathtub, and hanging the dress over it. Do not place the dress on bare wood. Place the dress so the weight is equally distributed over the rack. Another way to do this would be to place a clean towel over a shower enclosure, and then place the dress over the towel. If you do this, be sure to place some towels on the floor underneath the dripping dress to protect the floor.
After the dress has dried for several hours and the bulk of the water has dripped away, it may be possible to hang the dress to finish drying it. Carefully spread any layers of tulle in the skirt or lining and smooth out all wrinkles in the dress as much as possible. This will make the pressing process easier.
Press it. You may choose to have a dry-cleaner steam your dress, or you may press it yourself. If you press it yourself, we recommend that you first wash and dry your ironing board cover to remove any dirt, starch, or sizing. Spread a clean sheet on the floor of your working area to protect the dress as you press it. It is best if you use a clean press cloth of white cotton sheeting or muslin unless you are using a brand new or freshly cleaned iron. It is a rare iron that is clean enough to press a wedding dress without risk. Where possible, press the dress from the inside. If you have a thick, cushy, ironing board cover the sequins and beads can press into it. Be sure your iron's heat is set at the proper temperature. Start at a low temperature, and increase it gradually. If it starts to stick, reduce the heat immediately. Start at the back and bottom of the train until you feel comfortable with the pressing. Take your time and use caution. When it is finished you are ready to preserve your gown.