By Rachel Coker
Jonathan Scheer, president and CEO of J. Scheer and Co., says brides can clean their gowns at home in many cases.
“I don’t mean throwing it into the washing machine and hoping for the best,” he says.
Rather, he recommends a careful hand cleaning.
The first step is determining what fabrics were used in the dress. Read the care label inside the gown or ask the salon where the gown was purchased.
Polyester is a good candidate for an at-home wet cleaning, Scheer says. It’s sturdy and has a low shrinkage rate. Silk, which comes in several varieties, is often washable, too.
Acetate and many rayons, on the other hand, will shrink and distort in water.
Try cutting a small square of fabric from inside the hem for a pre-cleaning test. It’s OK to wash the gown if a piece of fabric immersed in water and air-dried returns to normal.
Scheer recommends cleaning with a clear, unscented dishwashing or soft soap that contains sodium lauryl sulfate.
Fill a bathtub with warm water and a 5 percent solution of the cleaner.
Next, pre-treat water-soluble stains, such as food, with a towel dipped in the cleaning solution. Oily stains, such as lipstick, should be treated with a stronger solution, perhaps 10 percent.
Red wine stains should be pre-treated with white vinegar. Rinse and repeat until the stains are dissolved.
Next, it’s time to immerse the dress in the tub. Clean both sides of the gown with a rolled towel or sea sponge, which should take about 10 minutes in all.
Drain the tub and rinse the dress with distilled water until there’s no soap remaining. Between five and 10 gallons of water will be needed.
When that’s done, put the gown on a flat surface. A floor with a white sheet laid out will work.
Put a white towel on top of the dress and start to roll it up. That will press water into the towel without placing undue stress on the fabric. Repeat that process with both sides of the gown until it’s only damp, not wet.
Leave the dress on the flat surface, put a house fan on nearby so it blows back and forth across the gown and let the dress air dry.
Now the dress is ready to be stored.
Wrap it in 10 yards of washed undyed, unbleached muslin. Put the dress on top of the muslin, fold the muslin over the gown and fold the gown in half.
Next, find a place where it can be stored flat in an environment that’s not too humid or too dry. Under a bed or on a bedroom shelf would be ideal. Consider the attic and basement off-limits.
By Rachel Coker