How to clean a wedding dress

Attempting to dry clean your wedding dress at home? Here’s everything you need to know about wedding dress cleaning.


how to clean a wedding dress clear laundry liquid being poured on a stain on white fabric

Key steps

  • While you might just expect to take a wedding dress to the dry cleaners, there are actually some effective ways to dry clean a wedding dress at home
  • Opt for hand washing or spot stain removal, but if the material and design is suitable, you can wash a wedding dress in the washing machine
  • Only use gentle detergents like Persil and cool/lukewarm water to avoid any damage to the fabric or detailing. 

Your wedding day is the biggest day of your life and of course every bride wants to feel special in a beautiful dress. Throughout the day mishaps do happen as emotions are running high and it’s easy to spill food and drink onto your gown. Or maybe you’re celebrating outside and get a bit of mud on the hem. Either way, it’s important to know about washing a wedding dress.

Although many should be dry-cleaned, and it can be tricky to dry clean a wedding dress at home, some may be appropriate for home-washing depending on the fabric and construction. Washing wedding dresses at home requires attention to detail (and, ideally, a large wash bag), but it can be done if the fabric and any embellishments are safe to machine-wash or wash by hand. Here’s our DIY guide to wedding dress stain removal and the best ways of cleaning a wedding dress at home.

If you’re cleaning a wedding dress at home, use a gentle yet efficient detergent. Don’t try to wash a wedding dress in a washing machine unless it’s labelled as safe to do so.

How to clean a wedding dress: wedding dress stain removal

If you get a mark or stain on your wedding dress, there are often things you can do right then and there to remove it. For example, rather than putting your wedding dress in the washing machine, food and drink marks can generally be spot-cleaned with an effective stain remover. Always patch-check your cleaning method by trying it out on a small area first – somewhere no one will see. If it works, apply elsewhere. Apply to the affected area and if your dress has lots of layers, be sure to separate them out so anything you apply to one layer doesn’t seep onto the next. Never rub stain remover into your dress, simply pat gently to protect the fibres. Rinse off thoroughly and then dry with a hair drier (leaving to dry naturally could leave a water mark).

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How to clean a wedding dress: washing wedding dresses in full

Rather than dry clean a wedding dress at home, if it’s actually the whole dress that needs washing you’ll probably want to do so in the bath.

  1. Start by disinfecting and cleaning the bath to prevent any residue transferring onto your dress. Rinse the bath thoroughly, then fill with cool water.
  2. Mix in stain remover and some gentle liquid detergent like Persil Non-Bio.
  3. Place your dress in the bath and leave to soak, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid excessive heat throughout this process as it could damage the fabric and/or melt detailing such as beads or sequins.
  4. If there are some particular problem areas, use an old toothbrush to remove excess dirt, but remember not to scrub too hard as this can cause holes.

How to clean a wedding dress: wash the bodice

Another good way of cleaning a wedding dress at home is to tackle dirt and stains on the bodice. Sweat stains are particularly likely to build up in this area so it may benefit from some extra attention. Turn your dress inside out and check for signs of staining or damage. If marks are present, use a spray bottle and spray the stain with a mix of detergent and water, then gently rub away the dirt with a soft bristled brush.

Can you wash a wedding dress in the washing machine?

When it comes to the question of whether you can wash a wedding dress in the washing machine, it is possible but on two conditions: that the fabric is washing machine-friendly (ideally cotton or polyester) and that there aren’t any embellishments that might get stuck and rip in the washing machine. Some embellishments can be removed and let you wash the dress in a plainer state. If you want to wash a wedding dress in the washing machine, it is always good to use a wash bag even if it’s suitable for a machine wash to ensure it doesn’t get stuck or rip.

Your wedding dress is probably the most precious item of clothing you will ever own, so of course you’re going to want to make sure it’s always in great condition. By using a combination of wedding dress stain removal and full washing methods you can get some great results. Be sure to read the label and follow any instructions, but you might also be surprised how effective these home cleaning tips will be. 

Originally published