How do you whiten an old bridal veil?

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Heirloom hand-me-downs remain hot-ticket trimmings for wedding-day wear, although these bridal bells and whistles rarely leave the storage bin looking ready-to-adorn, no matter their age. Dust, dirt, stains and time's yellowing can make a vintage veil that's seen better times look less than pristine -- but don't let a little laundry puzzle lessen your wedding-day bliss. Freshen up a dull, dingy antique veil or turn a drab-coloured veil white with gentle, low-fuss laundering by hand.

Many brides keep their wedding attire for sentimental reasons, and some pass on their cherished dresses to their children when it's their turn to get married. Alas, some fabrics like tulle turn yellow with age, and bringing them back to their near-pristine condition requires some effort and know-how.

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Wearing an heirloom veil on your wedding day is a unique way to honour a loved one or to infuse a vintage vibe into your bridal look. Many times antique veils are not appropriately preserved and become yellowed throughout the years, detracting from an otherwise gorgeous style statement. Try cleaning tulle, illusion netting and lace at home, but take caution with certain fabrics -- silk veils and ones with satin trim or intricate details are best left to a professional dry cleaner.

If you're frantically googling "how to wash a wedding veil" because you're either working with a vintage wedding gown, wearing your mom's, or tragically spilled something on your brand new bridal veil — don't worry. Your gorgeous wedding has been saved because we caught up with top laundry and cleaning experts to break down the most comfortable and safest way to save that beautiful wedding veil.

"Lace is much more of a challenge than your standard t-shirt," explains Taylor Nations, product development manager at ECOS. "Throwing lace garments or textiles directly into the wash can damage these special items, even in the delicate setting. Lace items can get tangled, ripped, stretched or unraveled when jostled around together in a washing machine. It's best to hand-wash all lace items separately with cold water and a gentle detergent."

This is a project that'll take a little time, so get ready to commit at least an hour of your life and a day or so for active drying time. While this task may sound daunting, the idea of using a professional dry cleaner to get your veil spotless may sound less appealing when you realize they often charge $75-200 for vintage lace cleanings. There goes an extra centrepiece or your perfect bridal updo, right?On the top of a tub full of water, which might result in uneven bleaching.

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Step 1

Look at the veil closely. If you notice dry or brittle spots, send the veil to a professional for cleaning. Self-cleaning could create a hole in the fabric, and satin trim is likely to wrinkle when dry. Place a large, clean white towel onto a flat surface. Lay your veil over the towel and fold the veil corners inward to fit the size of the towel.

Examine the veil closely. If it's fragile or brittle, or you have any doubt about whether it will stand up to hand-washing, take it to a pro. Specialists can test it (something you can't do at home) to see if it can safely be restored. Inspect the trim, too. A wide satin band, for example, might wrinkle if cleaned at home; outsource the job if that's the case.

Next, inspect the fabric. If it's tulle, illusion netting, or lace, Joe Hallak, principal owner of Hallak Cleaners in New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey, suggests the following method for hand-washing: Lay the veil flat between two clean white towels, folding it if necessary to fit. The towels will keep the fabric from tearing under its own weight while wet or floating. 

Want more idea about cleaning a wedding dress? Check out our post on What are the different ways to clean a wedding dress?

Step 2

Read the manufacturer instructions on the bleach to determine how much to use. Fill a cup with a few tablespoons of hot water and pour the bleach into it. This helps to dissolve the bleach better once it's poured into the bathtub.

Cover the veil with a second towel to create a towel sandwich that will help hold the veil steady.

Step 3

Fill a bathtub with about 10 inches of warm water. Pour the bleach mixture into the warm water and gently mix with your hands. Add 1/4 cup of colour-safe oxygen-based powder bleach to a small plastic container or cup. Fill the container with hot water and agitate it with a spoon to mix the powder completely.

Soak the veil in a lemon juice solution. Mix in a tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of water. Make enough solution to immerse the veil, and then gently wash it. The acid in the solution is strong enough to repel any odour while eliminating mildew growth.

Immerse the tulle in a detergent solution. Soak for two hours and keep the soapy water warm. Run water over it afterwards but avoid squeezing or twisting the fragile material dry.

Use the lemon juice method on the tulle. If you find out the lemon juice is inadequate for whitening, use a light bleach-and-water mixture then soak the veil in it. Follow the instructions for the proper concentration and procedure.

Soak the tulle in starch and boiling water. Mix a teaspoonful of starch in boiling water then submerges the veil in the solution. Place the veil on a dry towel then roll the towel. Unroll the towel, place the veil on the other side then roll again to get most of the water out. Hang it on a rod or line to dry.

Step 4

Lay a towel flat, place the veil on the towel and cover it with another towel. Place the towels and veil into the water until it reaches the bottom of the tub. Wait 20 to 30 minutes and check to see that it's whitening. Keep the veil in the tub no longer than 2 hours. Fill the bathtub with warm water. Pour the contents of the plastic container into the tub and let the bleach solution disperse.

Submerge the tulle in oxygen cleanser and fabric wash. Fill a basin or tub with warm water, a teaspoonful of cleanser and some drops of fabric wash. After letting the tulle soak in it, gently move it around the solution. Dry the veil using the towel roll system.

Bring it to a professional cleaner. Old wedding veils are fragile, and many expert cleaners have the experience to handle it gently while possessing the necessary chemicals to whiten it. If the veil starts to fall apart using your home whitening method, stop immediately, dry it with the towel method, then look for a cleaner in the yellow pages or online. Ask the operator if they can process your tulle, and don't press any further if they refuse. Your veil is too valuable to risk except for the most confident cleaners. You can also ask your colleagues to recommend a good cleaner.

In a bathtub, combine warm water with all-colour powder bleach, such as Clorox 2, according to the manufacturer's instructions; mixing the bleach with a small amount of very hot water before adding it to the basin of water helps ensure it dissolves fully.

Submerge the towels completely, with the veil between them. Soak for 20 minutes to 2 hours, checking every 20 to 30 minutes for whiteness. When it's done, rinse the towel-and-veil "sandwich" thoroughly with cold water. Wring gently. Remove the veil, lay it flat on a dry white towel, and tamp with another dry towel to remove excess water. Let dry; if the veil is made of tulle or netting, you can then hang it on a plastic hanger to store.

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Step 5

Drain the tub and turn the faucet to cool water. Keep the veil between the two towels and rinse under the water. Wring the veil gently in between the towels. Lay the towel and veil flat in the empty tub. Remove the top towel and carefully pick up the veil. 

Put on a pair of latex gloves to protect your hands and lower the towel sandwich into the bathtub. Submerge the towels fully.

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Step 6

Let the towels and veil soak for up to 2 hours. Check the colour of the veil once every 30 minutes and remove it from the bath once it has whitened to your liking.

Place a dry towel on a flat service. Spread the veil on the towel and place another dry towel over it. Press lightly to absorb leftover moisture. After the veil dries, gently comb and arrange the veil with your fingers and hang on a plastic hanger. Drain the tub and rinse the wet veil and towels under cold running water to remove the bleach. Gently squeeze out excess water, but do not wring or twist the veil. Spread the veil over a dry white towel and blot it gently with another white towel. Let the veil air-dry completely.

"We suggest applying a bit of detergent directly to the item and rubbing it into fibres, focusing on especially soiled areas," shares Taylor. "Then allow the item to soak for a bit, waiting longer for dirtier items. Rinse with cold water until the rinse water is free of suds. It's equally important to lay your lace items flat to dry, rather than putting them in the dryer because, in the same way, they can be damaged in the washer, the dryer can cause tearing, stretching or tangling."

She stresses that washing delicates should always be done with cool water, and you can kiss your laundry machine goodbye for this project — there's no such thing as a "safe" cycle for a wedding veil of any kind, style, or age. She strongly recommends using an enzyme-free laundry detergent like ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent, because although enzymes are high for breaking down stains, they can actually be far too tough on delicate fibres like lace. If the tulle veil is also deteriorated to be reused as part of the bridal dress, it can still be recycled as part of the decoration. Turn it into the centrepiece of the church, set up or decorate the main reception table with it. This way, a valuable family heirloom can still take part in a special celebration that bridges generations in a family.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Veil

This cord symbolizes lifetime unity or the everlasting union of the bride and groom when they officially become husband and wife, as well as a symbol of marital protection; while the loops formed signifies their love for one another.

A veil is a romantic addition to any wedding dress. It's usually a piece of tulle fabric that complements the dress, but it does not have to be. Whether your style skews ball gown or tea-length, it adds the perfect finishing touch.

The most common method is for the father to raise the blusher of his daughter's veil when they reach the altar, and then hand her off to the groom. The second option is to leave the veil down during the entire ceremony until the pronouncement of husband and wife. The groom then lifts the veil and kisses his bride.

Godparents drape a ceremonial lace veil over the bride's head and the groom's shoulder to symbolize being clothed as one. A ceremonial cord called a yugal is wrapped around the couple in figure eight. This symbolizes an eternal bond of fidelity.

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