Why do wedding dresses turn yellow? How to Avoid & Restore it.

One of the oldest and most widespread quality problems within the textile industry is fabric yellowing.  The fabric colours that are most susceptible to yellowing (and very unfortunate for brides) are market whites and shades of pastel.  

Almost every fabric has a life span, including your wedding dress. Yellowing occurs when the original fibres of the fabric undergo chemical degradation due to quality problems with the textile. The white and pastel fabrics eventually start decaying, giving the typical wedding dress a light-to-medium yellow colour. Vintage gowns may also get dark brown and black stains due to this chemical decomposition.

The possibility of your wedding dress yellowing is not an ‘old wives tale’, it actually does happen! Environmental factors like sunlight, humidity and heat, accelerate the natural fibre degradation process. Even If you carefully put your dress in a plastic garment bag you are likely to experience ‘phenolic yellowing’– yes, that’s actually a thing. Phenolic yellowing is due to a chemical reaction created by an interaction between fabrics and the chemicals in the plastic garment bag.

Your wedding gown is definitely a keeper. At least, this is what most brides feel. They want to preserve the memory of their most important life event and maybe to see their own daughters wearing it at their own wedding. However, time, heat, light radiation, and improper storage conditions could make even the whitest and the brightest wedding gown turn yellow. This is sad because it makes it impossible for other brides to use it. Fortunately, there is a way to restore your yellowed wedding gown. This article shares a few tips and a surefire method to bring your old wedding dress to life again.

 

What was it that Caused my Wedding Gown to Turn Yellow?

Now that we know fabric yellowing is due to the breakdown of the chemical makeup of the fabric, let’s take a look at the possible culprits that may have led to the initial breakdown in the fabrics of your wedding dress.

Fibre Degradation

The breakdown of fibres in your gown can become accelerated due to a number of environmental factors such as light radiation (direct sunlight), high humidity, or exposure to excessive heat.  While these factors do have a negative impact over the long term, fibre degradation is far from the most influential factors that may have contributed to the yellowing of your gown.

Chemical Additives

While no fault of a bride, a common cause of wedding dress yellowing results from chemicals that were added during the manufacturing process of the fabric that comprises her dress.  Often times,  chemicals in textile softeners (chlorine, oils, animal fats, waxes, etc.) can begin to decompose due to the effects of incorrect chemical formulation combined with long-term storage.  In addition, these chemicals can attract harmful particulates such as dirt, dust, and oils from your busy wedding day which can speed up the yellowing process.

Pollutants in the Atmosphere

Atmospheric pollutants can be one of the most potent agents that cause fabrics to yellow, particularly nitrogen.  These oxides can come from automobile pollution, home heating systems and various industrial processes.  It’s important to note that yellowing from air pollutants normally only occur on the surface of the gown.  This is one reason why the preservation facility your dress is processed in has a state of the art air circulation and purification system to keep out all air contaminates during the wedding gown preservation process.

Transferred Contaminants

Transferred contaminates are contaminants that are transferred to your dress during storage, both before and after you purchase your gown.  For years it has been well known that polyethylene (plastic) bags cause fabric yellowing knows as “phenolic yellowing”.  Beyond just plastic coverings, phenolic yellowing can also be caused by cardboard, acidic papers, and other wrapping materials.  For this reason, the Wedding Gown Preservation Kit uses acid-free tissue paper and an acid-free storage box to eliminate transferred contaminates during the long-term storage of your wedding gown.

Consumer Contaminants

Think about your wedding day…  Throughout the day your wedding dress is bombarded with contaminates that can stick to, or absorb, into the fabrics of your gown.  You have dirt from the dance floor, body lotion, grass stains from an outdoor photoshoot, a wine stain from a toast with a friend, sugar stains from cutting the cake, perfume re-application, sweat from tearing up the dance floor… you get the idea.    Are these stains worth it?  We say, of course!  It’s those memories that will last forever and with our advanced wedding dress cleaning service, you can keep those memories close to your heart, and of your gown, before it is put away into storage.

We have the right wedding dress cleaning services to help you.

Prevent Wedding Dress Yellowing

One of the most common reasons that wedding dress yellow is that brides often keep their dresses in plastic bridal gown bags. Most plastics emit chemical fumes that can encourage yellowing. But, even with proper storage, some fabrics will yellow more than other fabrics.  In fact, it may be impossible to prevent yellowing completely.  Generally, silk fabrics oxidize (yellow) more than most synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon and acetate. However, even some synthetics fabrics (nylon), yellow more than other synthetic fabrics. Wedding gowns that can be wet cleaned can be safely whitened for future use if they do yellow.

  • Wedding dress preservation in an acid-free, and lignin-free environment is the best protection you can give your wedding gown against yellowing.
  • Wrapping, padding, and stuffing your wedding dress with acid-free tissue or cotton muslin will also help prevent acid migration.
  • All preservation materials you utilize must be both acid-free and lignin-free.   The acid is what encourages yellowing, so acid-free is essential.  Lignin is found in all wood products unless it has been removed. Lignin is not acidic but releases acid as it decomposes.  So an acid-free box that is not lining free will eventually become acidic, voiding all protection for your wedding dress. Buffered acid-free/lignin-free tissue is best for wedding dresses made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and acetate.  Calcium carbonate is a buffering agent added to the tissue and gives added protection against acid migration. But there is a chance that it could damage silk wedding dresses, therefore un-buffered, acid-free/lining-free tissue or cotton muslin are recommended for silk wedding dresses.

Can a yellowed wedding dress be whitened?

As much as it would be great if there was a DIY kit to clean a yellowed gown, there are so many variables and fabric types available that it makes it just about impossible to promise you won’t end up doing more harm to your gown than good.  If you do choose to undergo this painstaking process yourself, here are a few important notes.

Bleach – While great for getting stains out of Johnny’s baseball pants, bleach is a killer when it comes to delicate fabrics such as silk.  In addition to not getting out stains very well, bleach can dissolve the adornments on your gown and cause permanent fabric damage.

Soak, when possible, don’t scrub – Most fabric specialists recommend soaking your wedding gown in lukewarm water rather than scrubbing the fibres of your gown.  Soaking allows stains to gently lift out of the gown without damaging or fraying the fabric.

Determine your Fabric Type – The main question here is silk or non-silk.  Non-silk wedding gowns have a much higher threshold for cleaning solvents.  As long as your wedding dress has simply yellowed and doesn’t have deep-set brown to black spot staining, you may be able to restore your gown yourself.  Silk is a much different story.  Also keep in mind that while topical type stains such as lipstick are easier to remove, deep-set stains such as body oils or wine are best left to the professionals.

Use Caution with that Iron – Ironing your dress can get you into a sticky situation – quite literally!  If delicate fabrics are sticking to your iron, it’s time to turn the iron down, or better yet, turn it off.  First, you should try running your bathroom shower as hot as it will go for around a half-hour with your dress hanging on the back of the door.  Sometimes a bit of a steam bath is enough to allow stubborn creases to fall away.

The majority of the staining on your wedding gown is invisible to the naked eye.  Your dress may look great now, but in 5, 10, or 20 years from now those invisible sweat stains or sugar stains will be big, ugly, brown splotches that continuously eat away at the chemical composition of the fabrics in your gown.  The only way to truly be sure your gown won’t suffer from yellowing or spot-staining is to have your wedding dress cleaned and preserved before putting it into storage.

Check out our article on yellowed wedding dress whitening here. 

How we Painstakingly Restore Your Yellowed Gown

You can restore your yellowed wedding gown by using a wedding dress preservation kit. This is one of the most modern and effective methods to restore this type of garment. It is also a 100% safe and guaranteed method. The only thing you need to do is to find a reliable service provider to help you. These service providers know exactly how to evaluate the condition of your wedding gown, in order to determine the best methods to clean and whiten it. They know when to avoid using powerful agents on decayed fabric, and when to treat stains more aggressively. In order to do this, they evaluate and grade each and every stain on your wedding gown. They also identify and evaluate the fabric with the greatest possible care. Next, they proceed to clean the dress and to restoring it to a condition as close to the original one as possible. The results can be truly impressive.

When purchasing a wedding gown preservation kit, you benefit from a complete package of services. You can do the initial assessment of the condition of the fabric. You get the cleaning of the dress and the removal of all stains. Furthermore, you get the ironing of the dress. Should you intend to preserve your wedding gown rather than to offer it to one of the brides to be in your family, you'll also get a very beautiful package with a layout of your choice. You can personalize this package with a custom headline and graphics. The result is so beautiful that you'll be able to showcase it in your living room for all your guests to see and admire it.

You also can go with the process created by the Wedding Gown Preservation Company is of the most thorough and comprehensive of any textile company you’ll be likely to find.  Their team of wedding gown cleaning experts focuses on one thing and one thing only – removing stains from your dress and transforming your gown to be as brilliant and vibrant as the day you first tried it on at the boutique. 

The process begins with a full assessment of each gown:

Fabric Identification – in this step the fibres of your gown are identified so it can be assessed as to how your gown will take to various cleaning methods.  While the tag on your gown many times will identify the various fabrics, the fabrics in older gowns more often than not will need to be identified using other various methods developed by the in-house fabric experts.

Fibre Evaluation – Just as important as what types of fabrics your dress is comprised of are what type of condition those fibres are in.  For example, many times a gown with a “French Bustle” can suffer from having a car door accidentally slammed on the bustle or become damaged and frayed from being dragged along a rough surface such as an asphalt driveway.

Stain Evaluation – Deep-set stains require careful consideration.  If fabric decay is too advanced, treating the stain aggressively can do more damage.  Each stain on your gown is marked and notes are made on how best to proceed with spot treatment along with a stain grading score.  If the experts feel that your gown is too damaged to proceed, the team will call you to review our full assessment and determine together how to proceed.


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