Monday, August 26, 2013

How I Avoided Spending $81 on Dry Cleaning

I realized that after I posted about trying to sell my wedding dress, I didn't really explain my reasoning behind wanting to sell it. I'm not always sentimental, but when I am, it's usually about things pertaining to my  relationship with Matt (seriously, I have a whole box of notes that Matt and I used to pass back and forth between classes in high school; most of them are written in Morse code, and I can't even read Morse code anymore), so I thought I should do a little better job explaining myself.

After two years of my wedding dress sitting in its garment bag, in the exact same state it was in at the end of my wedding, I decided it was time to start the process of selling my dress. It was a hard decision — I know I don't normally get attached to "things," but a wedding dress is something sentimental, something that people pass down to their children. I think I would have loved the idea of a future daughter trying it on.

But it was ultimately my mom that helped me make the decision. My mom had her dress cleaned and preserved back in the '80s, and it sat in its box for 30 years. When I got engaged, she offered the dress to me, but it wasn't really my style. She understood. My sister was there for this conversation too, and she agreed with me. And at that point, knowing that neither of her daughters would want to wear her dress, my mom donated it to Goodwill. She had pictures of it, she had the memories, there was no reason to hold onto something that was never going to get used again, that was taking up way too much closet space. (My mom is nothing if not practical, so this wasn't really an emotional decision for her.)

Because let's be realistic. I may or may not ever have a daughter. If I did, she may or may not even like my dress, in which case I will have held onto it for so long for no reason. I'm never going to use it again, so someone else might as well get some enjoyment out of it. (I am keeping the veil, though. My sister says she might want to use it as her something borrowed when she gets married.)

So with the decision to sell my dress made, the next step was finding a way to get the stains out of the hem. Other than some small black smudges around the bottom and under the hem, the rest of my dress was still in perfect shape.

I called a local dry cleaner that specializes in wedding dresses, and they wanted EIGHTY! ONE! DOLLARS! to clean and press my dress. Erm. No. I don't have that kind of money lying around.

Katie had a great post about cleaning your own wedding dress over on Weddingbee, but because my dress was not the same material as hers and the idea of using bleach on my ivory dress kind of freaks me out, I used a few different products for cleaning mine.

According to the tag, my dress is 100% polyester, excluding the trim.

NOTE: Because my dress is ivory, I color-tested every single stain-remover I had on the underside of the skirt to make sure they wouldn't discolor the fabric. A lot of stain removers recommend that you test an inconspicuous area first, and I was taking zero chances.

First, I let the hem soak in lukewarm water in the (clean) bathtub, and poured about half a cup of Gain laundry detergent into the water while the tub was filling to get it foaming. Every once in a while, I swished the water around. After a few hours, I drained the tub, and was SHOCKED at how much dirt came out of the hem just by dipping it in water for a bit — there was dirt ALL in the tub!

I put a towel over the faucets because I didn't know if the metal would mess up the fabric.

Holy disgusting mess, Batman! (I swear the tub was clean before I started, this was all dress-dirt.)

I then cleaned out the tub, refilled and re-Gain-ed the water, and let the dress soak overnight. After having minimal luck getting a "dry clean" Dryel pen to fully erase the stains, I used Shout Ultra Gel stain stick to gently scrub the fabric, then used a clean sock to rub it into each stain while holding the hem below the surface of the water. I then let it sit for a little while, and swished around the fabric. If the stain was still there after a couple of hours, I did it again. I repeated as many times as was necessary to get the exterior of the dress spotless.

The train didn't need to be cleaned, because I never unbustled my dress on my wedding day.

I rinsed the hem a few times by cleaning and refilling the tub with plain water. Then I hung it up above a towel to drip dry.

Is it perfect? No. The hem is clean and there are no more stains on the exterior of the dress, but there were some stains underneath the skirt that I could not for the life of me get out, even with the help of a Tide pen, Dryel pen, Shout wipes (which Matt swears by), two capfuls of Gain detergent and my trusty Shout Ultra Gel stain stick. But since it's on part of the dress that will never actually see the light of day anyway ... I did the best I possibly could on those stubborn stains.

Would you ever try to clean your own wedding dress? Are you planning on saving your dress for your children?


  1. This is an interesting post! I always see dresses on Craigslist and assume the couple got divorced, lol. I didn't realize you could clean your own dress, so that is awesome. I'm the oldest daughter, and my mom had my dress cleaned and preserved. My sister wore my veil, which was cool, and when our youngest sister gets married, I'm hoping she'll wear it, too. I constantly have dreams about wearing my dress again, and I don't think I could part with it. I guess everyone is different, because I am not that sentimental about pictures. My wedding album is in a box in a drawer somewhere.

    1. Oh no, I never thought about the implications! We're happily married, maybe the dress can give someone else good luck?!

  2. I just pulled my wedding dress out today! I plan on keeping it, but it really, really needs to be cleaned. I'm too scared to DIY it, but yours looks great!

  3. Great DIY job! I would not have had the patience to try that. I got my dress cleaned and pressed after our wedding. It was SO filthy on the bottom because I took my shoes off so it dragged around the floor most of the reception and someone spilled wine on me lol. I don't know if I will ever have a niece to pass it down to but for now sentimental value has me holding on to it :-)

    1. Thanks! Haha! I think if my dress had been dirtier (like, if more than just the hem was stained) then I probably would have had to take it to be dry cleaned. I wouldn't have trusted myself to mess with the ruched or bejeweled parts!

  4. Awww. Selling your wedding dress can be a little heartbreaking, but I guess there really is no big deal about it. Hey, it’s not like you’re going to get married every other year! Haha! Anyway, it’s a good thing that you were able to clean yours yourself. You didn't only saved money, you also gave a good worth to your gown. Thanks for sharing!

    Brad Wike