Have you found a perfect tea-length bridal gown from the 1950s, but it’s stained and yellowed? Or maybe you’ve had yours stored for a long time only to find that it has yellowed, looking completely different from the brilliant gown it once was?
It’s time to do some cleaning and restore the shine of that wedding dress.
To be abundantly clear, cleaning a yellowed bridal gown isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. In this guide, we look at how to clean a wedding dress that has yellowed and make it look great again.
Let’s get started.
Why Does Fabric Yellow With Time?
Fabric yellowing is a widespread problem within the textile industry, with white and pastel shades being the most susceptible to change.
In this respect, a wedding dress yellows because of an unanticipated chemical degradation of the original fiber that composes the fabric. The chemicals within the fabric decay, resulting in color changes from white-ish (whether it was ivory or champagne) to moderately yellow, with dark brown stains in extreme cases.
What Causes a Wedding Gown to Yellow?
We know that bridal gowns are yellowing because the compounds that make up the fabric break down. But what causes the initial breakdown of the fabric in the first place?
Environmental factors such as exposure to excessive heat, direct sunlight, and high humidity can accelerate the breakdown of the fiber of your bridal gown. But fiber degradation is highly unlikely to be the most influential cause of yellowing.
So, what is? Here are the possible causes:
1. Chemical Additives
Chemicals, including animal fat, chlorine, and oils, are added to treat the fabric used in designing bridal gowns. The yellowing occurs when there’s an incorrect combination of these chemicals. In addition, the chemicals may attract particles such as dirt and dust on your wedding day, further escalating the yellowing process.
2. Atmospheric Pollutants
Atmospheric pollutants, such as nitrogen, are potent agents that can escalate the yellowing of the fabric used to design wedding gowns. Oxides from industrial processes, automobile pollution, and home heating systems cause the gown to yellow on the surface.
Bridal gown preservation facilities can help keep oxides, such as nitrogen, away from the dress so that it doesn’t yellow. They have purification and air circulation systems that bar air contaminants from making contact with the dress.
3. Transferred Contaminants
Transferred contaminants refer to impurities transmitted to the dress before and after purchasing the bridal gown.
For example, many dealers use plastic bags to store the dresses before selling them. But the polyethylene material used to make the bags causes phenolic fabric yellowing, making the bridal gown change from a bright white gown to an ugly yellow dress.
Beyond the plastic bags, even wrapping materials such as cardboard and acid-based tissue papers can yellow the dress over time. As a preventative measure, one of our recommended preservation options, the Wedding Gown Preservation Kit includes pieces of acid-free tissue paper and a storage box to keep contaminants from making contact with the dress during long-term bridal gown storage.
Another problem with plastic bags is that they give off damaging fumes that contribute to the yellowing of wedding dresses.
4. Consumer Contaminants
Body lotion, wine stains from a toast, dirt from the dance floor, and grass stains from a photoshoot are consumer contaminants that can also yellow your bridal gown.
These stains are worth it because they create memories that will last until you breathe your last. But if you don’t do something now to keep the dress from turning yellow, it won’t be in the best condition for years to come.
How Long Before a Wedding Dress Starts to Yellow?
The fabric used to make a bridal gown is so delicate that it will start to yellow after six months if you don’t clean, preserve, and store the dress following your wedding day.
Satin and Chiffon fabrics, for example, develop dulled yellow color in six months, darker shades of yellow within ten years, and a hue of brown within thirty years.
It’s hard to notice a stain on a bridal gown when it pretty much looks as good as new after your big day. But from the moment you walk down the aisle to the time you take off the dress, the fabric will have been exposed to excess heat, moisture, and temperature, which are enough to stain and yellow your dress.
How to Clean a Wedding Dress That Has Yellowed
The best way to keep your bridal gown from yellowing is to clean, preserve, and store it in a proper storage box.
However, if the dress has already developed yellow stains from poor maintenance, continue reading to learn how to whiten a yellowed wedding dress.
1. Prepare the Dress for Cleaning
Remove metal eyehooks, zippers, buttons, and snaps from the dress. You don’t want to soak these with the gown because they can rust. Or they might attach to a portion of the dress and tear the fabric.
2. Spot Clean the Stains
Mix gentle cleaning detergent with some oxi-clean for spot cleaning. Spot test the mixture on one less visible section of the dress to see how the mixture reacts with the fabric.
Remember, different fabrics react to chemicals differently. For example, silk and satin react negatively to certain chemicals, while polyester is durable and chemical-resistant. That’s why we strongly recommend that you do the spot testing first.
3. Soak and Rinse the Gown
Pour lukewarm water into a clean basin, add soapy detergents such as Woolite or Ivory Snow powder, and stir. Add at least three scoops of oxi-clean to the mixture if appropriate for the type of fabric used to design your bridal gown.
Soak the dress in the mixture for at least 24 hours. If the water becomes yellow, empty the basin, refill the bath, and put the dress back in the water.
After 24 hours, rinse the dress three times and then lay it on a flat surface to retain its shape.
Frequent questions about wedding dress restoration
How do I get the yellow out of my old wedding dress?
Fill the tub with lukewarm water, and add gentle liquid laundry detergent. Do not use bleach. Turn the dress inside out before placing it in the tub. Gently swish the dress around; do not scrub.
Can a yellowed wedding dress be restored?
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.
Can you bleach a wedding dress?
If your wedding gown features some adornments, you shouldn’t use bleach, because it will probably destroy them for good. If the fabric fibers are frayed, you should refrain from using bleach, as there’s a very high risk of damaging them.
How do you whiten old yellowed fabric?
If linens are yellowed, add 1/2 cup oxygen bleach to 2 to 3 gallons of water (do not use chlorine bleach, which can weaken fibers). Gently agitate by hand, then let soak until the cloth appears white (this may take several hours). Rinse with cold water.
How much does it cost to restore an old wedding dress?
If the gown has holes in the fabric, is stained, or doesn’t fit, the wedding dress restoration cost can range from $300 to $800 or more depending on how much work needs to be done. If your gown is very fragile, it may need to be lined and mended onto the lining so that the lining will support it.
Can you iron a wedding dress?
Using a regular iron to steam a wedding dress can leave iron marks and other stains. Ironing it wrong can result in other creases that you will have to try and remove. Steam irons or hanging your dress in the bathroom with a hot shower running can result in water stains on your dress before the wedding.
Why do white dresses turn yellow?
Even white fabrics made from natural fibers like cotton and linen can turn yellow if they are exposed to too much chlorine bleach. Overuse of chlorine bleach can also cause white clothes to yellow when hung on a clothesline outside to dry because the sun adds another layer of bleaching due to ultra-violet rays.
How do you whiten yellowed lace?
The safest way to whiten and brighten lace is to use an oxygen-based bleach. In a sink or bathtub-something large enough to completely submerge the lace-mix a solution of warm water and the oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are some brand names).
Cleaning a wedding dress that has yellowed isn’t going to be as easy as washing your regular clothes. But it’s something you can do within a day.
After cleaning the dress, store it in a really good wedding dress storage box at home. Or you can send it to a professional who specializes in wedding dress cleaning and preservation to help you store the dress in good condition for generations to come.