How do I keep my wedding dress from turning yellow?

At an average cost of $1,357, your wedding dress just might be one of the most expensive articles of clothing you’ve ever purchased — not to mention one of the only tangible items to save from your special day. After spending a large chunk of money (and dedicating countless hours) towards the perfect dress, it’s only fair to give it the happily ever after it deserves through proper wedding dress preservation.

Whether it’s because of the memories it holds, the possibility of your daughter wearing it on her wedding day, or the chance your granddaughter will someday use it as a christening gown properly preserving your wedding dress will make sure it’s present for all of those special occasions to come.

Before the wedding: handle your wedding dress with care.

The best way to ensure the long-term preservation of your wedding dress is to take extra caution before anyone says “I do.” If your special day hasn’t occurred yet, follow these tips to keep the dress looking pristine during the time leading up to the ceremony:

Avoid stains 

Of course, you’ll want to steer clear of anything with stain potential on your wedding day, but did you know the pollen from flowers could be one of the biggest culprits? Specifically, the super-potent pollen found in lilies. Florists know to pull off the pollen bits with shears, but the problem comes when there are closed-up buds in your bouquet that open up right before you walk down the aisle. Double-check that your florist removed the buds, and designate a bridesmaid to be on the lookout for buds that may need snipping.

Safe Transportation 

Always transport the dress in its appropriate garment bag. For extra safety when travelling, wrap key areas like embellishments, with uncoloured, acid-free tissue paper. And remember to save those labels: you’ll need them to show your wedding gown specialist when you’re ready to get it cleaned.

Wait until the last minute

Putting on your dress should be one of the last things you do before heading out the door. This way, you can avoid any food, drink, makeup or hairspray stains that may be part of the primping process (especially for silk and rayons, which are extremely water sensitive).

After the wedding: keep your dress safe.

If you made it through your special day without any real damage, you’re in luck. Chances are, though, that the dress isn’t heading straight to the cleaners after the reception.

Use a garment bag. Wrapping your dress in plastic traps moisture, which means mould and mildew, and plastic also emits fumes that can yellow your gown. Store your wedding dress in its proper garment bag away from light.

Lay it flat (or hang properly)

Ideally, your bridal store will keep your dress for you, but if not, lay it as flat as possible. If you must hang your dress, hang it by the loops located inside (never the shoulder straps) to avoid stretching and sagging at the seams. Every dress is specific, so ask the specialists at your boutique how it should be stored after the wedding.

Leave the cleaning to the experts. This is a tricky process. One wrong move could set the stain and make it worse. Remember that sometimes the best course of action is to leave the spot until it can be professionally treated.

Remember to consult the cleaning experts.

You may be overwhelmed by deciding where to put your new wedding gifts, but don’t let that slow down your wedding dress preservation process. While you may choose to hold off for a bit, the experts recommend waiting no longer than six months to get your dress professionally cleaned (if it’s silk, you actually shouldn’t wait at all).

Some stains are unseen but can develop over time. For example, spills from clear beverages (alcohol or soda) dry clear but will oxidize and turn brown, and body perspiration on your dress lining can also discolour the dress and turn brittle over time.

It’s important to remember not to trust just anyone with cleaning your wedding gown. While your local cleaners may be great at getting the stains out of your jeans, they may not have the experience and resources to clean antique dresses, delicate fabric and embellishments. If you choose to bring your wedding dress to a professional cleaner, you can expect the following:

  • Thorough-but-delicate hand-washed cleaning (some businesses even use organic-only solvents, with no harmful chemicals or bleaches)
  • Treatment with special ingredients to remove visible stains
  • Pressing or steaming as needed

We provide full wedding dress cleaning services at My Dress Box.

Wedding Gown Preservation to Prevent Yellowing

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.

Generally, silk fabric yellows more than synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon and acetate. However, nylon, which is a synthetic, tends to yellow more than other synthetic fabrics. Wedding gowns that can be wet cleaned have an advantage, and in that, if they do yellow, they may be able to be whitened for future use with a fabric whitener.

Wedding dress hack: In the short-term time before you can consult with cleaning professionals, cover your gown in white cotton sheets. This will save it from dust, light and any other pesky predators.

Ideally, parents or a maid of honour can take care of dropping it off or sending it to be preserved. If not, cleaning your wedding dress should be the first thing you do when you return from the honeymoon.

You may be overwhelmed by deciding where to put your new wedding gifts, but don’t let that slow down your wedding dress preservation process. While you may choose to hold off for a bit, the experts recommend waiting no longer than six months to get your dress professionally cleaned (if it’s silk, you actually shouldn’t wait at all).

It’s important to remember not to trust just anyone with cleaning your wedding gown. While your local cleaners may be great at getting the stains out of your jeans, they may not have the experience and resources to clean antique dresses, delicate fabric and embellishments. If you choose to bring your wedding dress to a professional cleaner, you can expect the following:

Thorough-but-delicate hand-washed cleaning (some businesses even use organic-only solvents, with no harmful chemicals or bleaches)

Mildew and Mold Risks

Keeping your wedding dress in an environment with less than 60% relative humidity will protect it best from mildew and mould growth. Most boxes, including sealed boxes, are not airtight, so you must assume some air will get in. But be certain that moisture does not.

If moisture condenses inside a wedding dress preservation box or any container, the gown is at great risk for mildew and mould growth. Wedding dress preservation with a cotton bag has the best air circulation, which helps keep the humidity level around the garment constant, as long as it is stored away from moisture.

Preventing Oxidation Spots

An oxidation spot can occur when a substance that was not properly cleaned on the dress oxidizes and turns brown. This can happen even if your dress has been cleaned as dry-cleaning solvents do not remove all substances.

Spills from clear soda or wine and dried perspiration may go unnoticed at the time of the initial cleaning. Unless these substances are pre-treated, it is likely they will oxidize over time. Inspecting preserved wedding gowns periodically ensures the wedding dress remains in the best condition. The sooner an oxidized stain is caught, the more likely it will be able to be removed.

Light and dust

Keeping your wedding dress covered and stored in a dark place will protect it from the damage caused by light and dust.

Consider professional wedding dress preservation.

Proper preservation can protect your dress from yellowing, permanent creasing, mildew and mould, oxidation spots, light and dust.

Since wedding gowns can be quite expensive, most women choose to have them professionally preserved to protect that investment. Even if their daughters don’t plan on re-wearing the gown (of if they don’t have any daughters of their own), certain pieces can be incorporated into memorabilia to be passed down to future generations.

Preservationists will usually remove stains, make necessary repairs (within reason), press or steam the dress, wrap in acid-free tissue and store it. Generally, there are three types of preservation methods:

Sealing

Some companies choose to actually vacuum seal the wedding dress before storing it in an acid-free box. Many museum conservators discourage this method, since sealing promotes mould and mildew, gives the fabric permanent creases and eliminates your ability to inspect your gown regularly.

Boxing 

With this method, your dress is still folded and placed in an acid-free box, but acid-free tissue is used to protect it from permanent creases (this tissue should be white any coloured paper risks bleeding into the dress). Since the box is not sealed, the fabric can still breathe, and you are able to remove the dress periodically to inspect and refold it. Note: It’s best to use boxes made from the actual acid-free board, not boxes with an acid-free coating.

Check out this article on storing your wedding dress in a box.

Bagging

Similar to what museums have used for preserving heirloom costumes, this option leaves your dress hanging and unfolded. The gown is reinforced with twill tape to add support and eliminate long-term damage from hanging and then placed in a specialty cotton bag to be hung somewhere safe (with a padded hanger).

The cost of professional preservation can average anywhere from $150 to $500 — so if you do choose to work with a wedding dress preservation company, know the facts. Be sure to ask who is responsible for any damages if they occur during the preservation process and if they offer a warranty (some may only reimburse you for the cost of their services).

Be smart about where you store your wedding dress. Once you’ve carefully packaged your dress, be sure to store it somewhere safe from extreme temperatures, light and humidity.

Keep your gown somewhere you would be physically comfortable. Aim for a cool, dark and dry environment with a relative humidity of 50 percent. This rules out attics and basements. Attics are too hot–so hot, in fact, that temperature could reach 140 degrees–and basements are damp and prone to flooding.

Many women chose to store their dresses under their bed or in a dry closet. If you don’t have any room to store your gown, we have a variety of self-storage unit climates and types that will keep it cool, dry and protected.

It’s never too late to start preservation.

While it’s better to start sooner than later, it’s never too late to take care of a treasured heirloom. Unfortunately, though, it could cost you more. If your gown develops oxidized spots, it can be even more difficult to remove them. But here’s the good news: her business has been able to restore vintage gowns that have been in someone’s attic or closet for decades — so don’t be discouraged, it can be done.

Wedding Dress Preservation Warranties

Some preservation companies advertise that their preservation method will prevent yellowing, and they may even offer a warranty. Look carefully at any warranty offered by these companies. One warranty offered by a leading on-line preservation company stated that they would cover discolouration and damages caused by their company’s cleaning and preservation processes. Another simply states that the wedding gown may be returned to a participating dealer for inspection and pressing—none of the states that they will replace an aged, yellowed gown with a new gown.

Keeping your wedding gown in the best overall condition should be the primary concern in your wedding dress preservation. So, protect your gown! Get it out of the plastic bag and have it cleaned and preserved in an acid-free environment.


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