There are many things to consider when getting married: location & venue, food & drink, photographer, flowers, etc. Once the wedding is over though, brides are immediately swept away on their honeymoon (rightfully so!), forgetting about the importance of taking care of their dress.
Whether you care about saving your dress for future generations to enjoy or not, it's extremely important to have your dress cleaned by a professional as soon as possible. Even if you want to sell it so another can benefit from your dress, cleaning is a priority.
Sweat stains from dancing the night away on a hot summers eve contributes to long term staining and brittle fibers. Cake icing, champagne or wine, that dirty dance floor, and grass can also cause problems ten or twenty years from now. Even though you may not see the stain now, that doesn't mean it's not going to show up later.
Choosing a dry cleaner is a difficult topic. You want your dry cleaner to get the stains out, not use harsh chemicals, and most importantly, not mess up your dress. Here's some important questions to ask your dry cleaner:
1. Do you clean wedding dresses in house, or do you send them away?
If a dry cleaner tells you they don't do them in house, this is a red flag. They are not the ones handling the dress, and will not be able to keep tabs on whether it gets damaged or cleaned properly.
2. Is the service a fixed price, or does it depend on the dress?
Every wedding dress is different. A beaded or lace dress should be treated differently than a simple shift dress. Expect to pay $150 to $200 just to have your dress cleaned.
3. Do you spot clean?
Using a UV light, cleaners and conservators are able to pinpoint where icing or champagne may have landed during the course of your wedding day. They can then treat this area first before washing the entire dress, helping to ensure the stains are removed completely.
4. Will my dress be cleaned separately?
Many dry cleaners include wedding dresses in the current batch of clothes they're washing without considering the delicate nature of the item. Placing them with suits or brightly colored items may cause colors to bleed or run onto your dress. The clasps or zippers on other outfits might snag on the lace, sequins, or beads of your dress, causing damage.
5. What chemicals do you use?
If the dry cleaner mentions PERC, stay away! PERC is a harsh chemical that causes fibers to break sooner, and can cause a chemical burn to the dress.
Other helpful tips:
Avoid having your dress 'preserved' by a dry cleaner, or by using a 'preservation kit' offered by many bridal boutiques. The materials and methods used by dry cleaners are more problematic than you think. I'll write more about this later.
Never take items of historic clothing to a dry cleaner. The process of cleaning might damage them. Instead, find a textile conservator to help.