As I talked about before, we were lucky enough to have two weddings: one in the US, and one in the Middle East with my partner’s family. I wanted to wear the same dress for both, but being a giant feather duster, the dress picked up quite a bit of dirt after the first wedding and needed a good cleaning. (This is the same dress I later sold on eBay.) As someone who basically avoids the dry-cleaner like the plague, and wasn’t very confident about our local dry cleaner’s ability to handle wedding dresses, I decided to do some research and hand-wash my wedding dress at home in my bathtub. This is my experience! (Please note that your results may vary, and you should do some thorough research before proceeding based on your particular dress design.)
Personally, I don’t often visit the dry cleaner, except for things which have structure (like blazers and coats). I have a (possibly misguided) belief that clothing manufacturers slap “dry clean only” on all clothing labels, so that they don’t get blamed by the consumer if their clothing is badly constructed and gets messed up by the washing machine. So I put almost everything in the washing machine on cold. For items which I truly feel need hand-washing (like silk or wool), I either put things in the machine in delicate wash, or hand-wash (this no-rinse detergent is great for cutting down on hand-wash time). But if anyone has a better justification for what items need dry-cleaning, I’m all ears!
My wedding dress was the BHLDN Reagan, and the materials were pretty ordinary – 2 layers of 100% polyester, 2 layers of tulle, and some lace applique on top. This gave me confidence that it could be washed, since the materials weren’t too exotic. After the first wedding, the dress had collected some grey stains along the bottom hem and a ton of sticky thorn-things from walking around in the redwoods. There were also some sweat marks around the armpit, because it was super hot during our wedding.
I based my cleaning regime on these instructions, but my dress was somewhat simpler since it has fewer details and less staining. Here are the steps I took:
- Give the tub a good cleaning. (Luckily, my mom had visited me the week before, and cleaned it for me 😀 )
- Add some Woolite (I used a few tablespoons) and submerge the dress. Swish it around for a while. You should start to see the water turning grey as the dirt came off (feels good man!).
- Drain and refill the bathtub with clean water three times to rinse the dress.
- Lay the dress flat outside to dry. After a few hours, when it is mostly dry, hang it up to finish drying. After about a day, it should be completely dry.
See for yourself in the photos! I think it turned out well. All the sweat stains came out, and there was just a little bit of grey smudges left on the hem. It took about 1 hour for the washing time, plus 1 day for drying. Note that I’m not an expert, and I’m not intending to preserve it — but this is what worked for me, to clean it enough to wear it a second time.