Wedding Week: Dirty Dress

Welcome to Wedding Week at the Undomestic Goddess!

Yes, our real wedding week passed but I have professional pictures and projects to share with you.  Get excited.

Seriously, get excited or fake it if you must.

Now the big item everyone talks about at a wedding is what the bride wore—I wore a beautiful Casablanca wedding gown with my mom’s Juliet cap. . .  which she made and hand beaded for her own wedding 34 years ago.

Photo by April Ziegler Photography

Photo by April Ziegler Photography

What isn’t shown– Greg pretty much carrying me to the spot due to all the mud.

We feared rain all week, just like another bride.  But unlike any other bride, I was super prepared– I had matching rain boots and umbrellas for the bridal party . . ok, no rain boots for the guys.  The night before/into the early morning it poured– according to the Weather Underground, we had .42 inches the day before and .48 the day of our wedding.

I know you all are thinking why is this important, just stay with me.

The ground was muddy at my parents.  The ground was muddy on Villanova’s campus.

Muddy grass + ivory wedding dress= muddy mess.

Side note: We did luck out with the weather while taking pictures on campus, we were spared the rain everyone else in neighboring towns seemed to be inundated with.  We like to believe my gmom called in a favor with the big guy to make her first grandchild have sun on her wedding day

Again, why does that matter . . well pictures at the country club involved us walking through even more mud.

Here are the before shots of how muddy my underskirt was after the wedding:

DIY cleaning wedding dress-2

DIY cleaning wedding dress

Ok, it doesn’t look super muddy here but it was. I just suck at taking pictures sometimes.

Ready for the shocker of how I cleaned it—carpet cleaner and the washing machine.

If you are gasping in horror over that, please don’t.  After researching cleaning the dress, I discovered it couldn’t be dry cleaned due to the beading and sequins (they would melt).  Most dry cleaners end up washing the dress.

For $300, I can wash the dress myself. If I failed, it’s not like I was going to wear the dress again.

So here we go!

Side note: Please review your handling tag before starting this process.  I don’t want you to hold me responsible for ruining your dress.

What you will need

  • Spray bottle of Resolve Carpet Cleaner
  • Wash cloth
  • Two  white/cream pillowcases
  • Patience
  • Washing machine
  • Drying rack
  • Bleach free detergent
  • Archival Under the bed storage box

Before we get started, I need to tell you this is not the process I followed.  I did all the steps but after washing first, I realized I should have done the spot treatment and then washed.

Bring your dress into the bathroom and drape over the drying rack.  The underskirt and lace edging were the dirtiest part of my dress.  I worked in sections on the bottom by spraying the dirty with carpet cleaner and letting it sit in for a few minutes.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-10

Side note: Carpet cleaner!?!? Yes, carpet cleaner.  It’s meant to be used on silks, wools, and whatever.  I had better success with it than with clothing stain remover.

After letting it sit, I would rub at it with a wet wash cloth.  I found scrubbing the fabric worked wonderfully on removing the dirt.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-12I did the outside of the dress first and then turned the dress inside out to do the underside.  As you saw in the first picture, my dress had a decent length train but it only took me about an hour to scrub the dress. If you don’t have patience to methodically work your way around the skirt spray and scrubbing, take the dress to a professional.

Also, do not use warm water to wash with, it’s doing to help set the stain.  Cold water is your best friend for this project.

Once you finish spot treating the dress, you are going to notice most of the dirt came out– not all of it because even professional cleaning won’t leave your dress looking brand new.  Where you notice some spots still, spray the fabric with Shout or whatever spot treatment you use.

Your dress should not be this dirty after spot treating.  Mine is because I did the steps in reverse.

Your dress should not be this dirty after spot treating. Mine is because I did the steps in reverse.

Then turn your dress inside out.  You want it this way to protect the beading/lace/whatever from the washing machine.  You don’t want it to get caught on the machine.  Insert the top part of your dress into a white/cream pillowcase and then insert the bottom part of your dress into another white/cream pillowcase.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-5My whole dress did not fit in the two pillowcases but it covered the skirt’s lace edging and the top.  Even though the dress is inside out, the pillowcases provide an extra layer of protection. Then it’s time.

Into the washer my dress went– on the gentle cycle in cold water with Oxyclean.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-6I was on tender hooks during the cleaning– will it work?  Will it destroy my dress? It didn’t.  I brought my dress back to the bathroom and hung it up to dry.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-8Guess what? The process worked.  My underskirt was clean!  My mom couldn’t believe how clean this process got my dress.  It’s not perfect but I wouldn’t have expected it to be perfect even from the dry cleaners.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-13 DIY cleaning wedding dress-14 DIY cleaning wedding dress-15The final step of the process is placing the dress in proper storage.  I found an archival dress box from The Container Store an ideal selection.  I selected a larger dress box because I have a few other items I wanted to save in the box.  It arrived with the acid free tissue paper for the dress and I went to work with packaging it up.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-17I added another layer of tissue paper above the dress before closing the box.  I also added a few other items such a a wedding invitation and a small box with a few flowers from my bouquet and the charm from by bouquet.  The box fit perfectly under the bed.

DIY cleaning wedding dress-19Not everyone wants/should use this method.  I had the time and I was willing to clean my dress to save a few hundred dollars.  In the end, the only thing I purchased was the box which cost me $45 with shipping.  Hopefully this tutorial can help a few brides deal with their dresses!


3 thoughts on “Wedding Week: Dirty Dress

  1. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of
    volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same
    niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

  2. You did yourself a good job without a doubt an saved yourself a handsome of money.
    I admire you for taking the gamble to save the dress that may never be used again. There are limits to all things. You have encouraged those of us who are willing to try to make the best of what they have to do with.

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