Can you fix a yellowed wedding dress?

If the wedding gown of your dreams is a family bridal gown that time has yellowed and stained, call us! We specialise in restoring antique gowns and vintage bridal gowns to the true colour without damage to delicate fabrics or dyes. We remove stains and discolouration that ordinary dry cleaners cannot, and our restorations have been featured on television and in publications around the world.

It's important to keep your wedding gown in good condition before and also after the wedding if you're like most brides you've purchased your wedding gown months before the actual wedding date.

One of the leading causes of bridal gown yellowing is the plastic bags that many brides keep their gowns in. Most plastics give off damaging fumes that actually promote yellowing. But, even with proper care, some fabrics will yellow more than others, and it may be impossible to prevent all yellowing.

Determine the Best Method to Save the Yellowed Dress

Check the tag of the wedding dress for cleaning instructions and to determine the material. It is advisable to follow these instructions when cleaning your dress. If the care label is missing, consider the fabric content.

Wedding dresses made from polyester, acetate, chiffon, voile, tulle, organza and cotton: It may be possible that stains and discolouration can be removed at home if they aren't extensive. If the yellowing is overwhelming, a professional dress cleaner is recommended. If there are embellishments, beads or pearls on the dress, it will need to be hand washed or cleaned by a professional, so nothing comes off.

Wedding dresses made from silk, satin, taffeta, shantung and rayon: The Association of Wedding Dress Specialists recommends a professional dress cleaner for dresses made of these materials.

We have wedding dress dry cleaning services to help you.

Cleaning Dresses at Home

If the label indicates you can clean the dress by hand or machine, begin the cleaning process by applying a mixture of gentle liquid laundry soap with lukewarm water with a soft cloth or a toothbrush. Alternatively, apply a mixture of baking soda and vinegar on the discoloured areas. Or, use a fabric stain remover applied with a damp cloth to yellowed areas.

After spot treating yellowing areas, if the care instructions call for hand washing, use a bathtub to clean. Fill the tub with lukewarm water, and add gentle liquid laundry detergent. Do not use bleach. Turn the dress inside out before placing in the tub. Gently swish the dress around; do not scrub. Drain tub and refill again with lukewarm water, swishing dress around to remove all soap residue. Repeat rinsing as needed, until water runs clear.

If the dress care instructions indicate you can use a washing machine, use the gentle cycle only.

Dry the dress on a line outside after cleaning. Do not use the dryer.

Check out our blog on how to clean your wedding dress for some cleaning DIY tips and tricks. 

High-Risk Garments

After we inspect your garment, if we believe it is at high risk for problems, we will notify you, and you can weigh the benefits of the treatment against the risks and make the decision whether to go forward with the treatment or not. 

If you decide not to accept your garment's proposed treatment, we will return your deposit and ship your garment back to you at no charge. If you consent to the proposed treatment, you will not pay your full balance until our expert gown care technicians are satisfied with the results. If the results are deemed unsatisfactory by our staff, we will return your garment to you without additional charges. Your only financial risk is your $100 deposit.

Potential Problems

We have listed below some common challenges in wedding gown restoration for your education and so that you may understand some common risks in vintage garment restoration.

Vintage Buttons

Many vintage wedding gowns can have problems with buttons. Depending on the age of your gown, it could have buttons made with wood, metal, or even paper pulp. The restoration process is a water-based treatment, and many vintage buttons react adversely to water and restoration chemicals. After inspecting your gown, we will consult with you if we have recommendations for your specific buttons. Additional fees may apply for vintage button care.

Vintage Satin Fabric

Some satin fabrics may respond well to the whitening agents but may lose some sheen. While yellowing and brown spots can be easily removed, the resulting ivory or off white colour of the gown may not be completely consistent throughout the gown. There may be some slight colour variations. The satin may have less body than it originally did. Sizing is removed during wet cleaning and chemical soaking. We may determine to add sizing back into the gown, depending on the fabric, style and goals for the gown.

Rayon and/or cotton satins and brocades may shrink slightly during the whitening process.

Vintage Lace

Many vintage laces can become fragile from the restoration chemicals. They may tear during processing or easily afterwards. Often these tears can be repaired for an additional cost.

Vintage Veils

Very old veils, from the 1950's era, often can not be cleaned at all. When submerged in water or any chemical, they may disintegrate. Based on our experience, we can usually predict the viability of veil restoration. Although there is no guarantee that we will always be correct.

Headpieces are usually salvageable, and new tulle can be sewn on to replace the old if needed. However, headpieces are not included in restoration costs but will incur additional costs. Tulle restoration is included.

More on Restoration

Some dresses are a combination of all of the above fabrics and trims and would be subject to all of these risks. Some newer vintage fabrics (1960's through the '80s) respond very well to whitening chemicals, with little or no damage.

Some garments that appear to be in great condition can be damaged during cleaning or restoration due primarily to the age of the garment. The older the garment, the more risk that whitening chemicals could damage it.

While it is impossible to predict every possible problem that could arise during garment restoration, please be aware that our goal is to return the garment to the best condition possible and most of our customers are thrilled with the results, as the improvement in the garment is usually very significant.

Other Details

Strapless gowns (or heavy gowns or gowns with thin straps) that are preserved with Museum Method™ (hanging) wedding dress preservation will have cotton twill tape straps sewn into the bodice (or waistlines) to give your wedding dress extra support and distribute the weight of the gown evenly.

All gowns that are preserved have the bust cups removed. Most bust cups are made from Styrofoam which will break down and can cause damage to the wedding gown. Your bust cups will be returned with your wedding gown.

Wedding gowns preserved with Museum Method™ preservation must be folded during transit. We use large boxes so that the folding is minimal. When you receive your wedding gown, please remove the bagged dress from the shipping box and hang in your closet for storage.

Wearing an heirloom veil on your wedding day is a special way to honour a loved one or to infuse a vintage vibe into your bridal look. Many times antique veils are not preserved properly and become yellowed throughout the years, detracting from an otherwise gorgeous style statement. Try cleaning tulle, illusion netting and lace at home, but take caution with certain fabrics -- silk veils and ones with satin trim or intricate details are best left to a professional dry cleaner.

How does the wedding dress restoration process work?

Take your gown to a professional who will look over your gown with you and discuss your options. If you select a colour restoration, buttons with metal backs will be removed from your gown and processed separately--if at all—because the metal will rust in the solution. Metal hooks and eyes will also have to be removed. Pearls can lose their coverage in the process and look opaque rather than lustrous. Sometimes when the stain is dissolved, the fibre dissolves, too. If this does happen, it will probably be in the underarm area where the fabric has been weakened by perspiration. Fabric may also shrink, and different types of fabric may shrink in different ways so that the lining, for example, may shrink more than the exterior or a lace overskirt more than the silk underneath. Sometimes the fabric can be pressed back into shape; other times the hem will have to be remade to solve the problem.

What are realistic expectations for the end result? Assumingly the gown won't look new, but what can a bride expect?

Some colour restorations are more successful than others, and cotton or linen is easier to handle than silk. As a general rule, the tighter the weave, the more difficult it is to press out the wrinkles. Silk satin is the most difficult to press out smoothly; net or lace is the easiest. The exception is silk illusion net. Silk illusion veils were very popular in the first half of the twentieth century, but it has a very short shelf life. Vintage silk illusion today feels crunchy and completely dissolves in water.

Choosing a Professional Cleaner

Research the cleaner before giving her the wedding dress. According to Heritage Garment Preservation, ensure the cleaner does the cleaning herself and doesn't send the dress to a wholesale cleaner, and that the cleaner uses virgin solvent. Virgin solvent means that the solvent is fresh and not reused solvent.

Preserving a Dress in the Future

Ensure the dress is adequately protected from yellowing in the future. After having a dress properly cleaned, have it placed in a preservation box to protect it from future contamination. These boxes are lined with acid-free paper, are sealed tightly and often have a viewing window on the lid. Preservation boxes are available from most dress companies, many dry cleaners and online retailers. Both DIY dress preservation kits and preservation packages from companies that will clean and place the dress in the preservation box are available.


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