What are the different ways to clean a wedding dress?

wedding dress

Now that the dust has settled and you have enjoyed every bit of that amazing wedding ceremony and honeymoon, time to see what to do with your wedding dress, right? Like almost every other happy bride on this planet, you want to hold on to that stunning gown that’s filled with loving memories and a promise for long-lasting love. Maybe, you want to keep it not only as a reminder of your most special day but in order to pass it on to your daughter one day! Either way, the key is to make sure you take proper care of your bridal gown.

If you want your wedding dress to stay as beautiful as the day you wore it, have it cleaned as soon as possible. Waiting allows stains to set that may be difficult or impossible to remove. Even if the wedding gown looks clean and stain-free, body oil left on the dress will cause the fabric to yellow over time.

We have compiled a list of Melbourne Wedding Dress Shops to make the search as easy as possible for your perfect gown.

Here’s what you need to know:

With Virgin Solvent

If your local dry-cleaner uses a virgin solvent to clean wedding dresses, you are in great luck. This is because solvents need to be recycled due to ecological regulations. However, impurities are NOT removed from the used solvent, which means that they might as well find their way on your garment and stain it. You can distinguish a wedding gown that has been cleaned in the dirty solvent by the odour it will have after it’s been cleaned (it will have that dry-clean smell).

For greatest success, find a dry-cleaner who cleans wedding gowns in-house and uses virgin solvent. Because of government regulations (and expense), solvents are recycled. Impurities not filtered out of used solvent will be deposited onto cleaned garments, leaving that familiar dry clean smell.

The best dry-cleaners will use virgin solvent on their customer’s wedding dress cleaning. Virgin solvent is either new solvent or newly distilled solvent. A good wedding dress cleaning should have no noticeable odour.

Dry-cleaners that respect themselves and their clients will use a virgin solvent (distilled or brand new solvent) on all dry-cleaned garments, including wedding dresses. In this case, expect no noticeable smell when it is handed over to you.

wedding dress in Melbourne


This is nothing but cleaning with water and is considered the best cleaning option for dirty hems, the majority of food stains, and sugar spills. Besides that, know that water washing removes the sizing of the fabric, which, in turns, helps protect the dress. The sizing is a substance that looks pretty much like starch. It is added to the fabric during its manufacturing and is particularly alluring to insects and mice. That aside, wet-cleaning (if done correctly) will also help preserve the dress and keep it in mint condition for as long as possible.

Often dry-cleaning shops utilize wet-cleaning for their wedding dress cleaning. Wet cleaning is cleaning with water and has quite a few benefits.

  • Water is the best cleaner for most food spills, sugar substances (alcohol, soda), and even dirty hemlines
  • Water cleaning leaves no chemical residue, which helps keep the dress in the best condition.
  • Wet cleaning removes sizing, which is a starch-like substance added during manufacturing to the fabric. This helps protect your wedding gown because mice and insects are attracted to sizing!

Wet cleaning removes all water-based substances better than dry-cleaning. Dry-cleaning solvents do not remove water-based substances. They are great for oily stains, however. But if a wedding gown needs to be dry-cleaned but has water-based stains on it, it will need to be hand spotted and completely dried before dry-cleaning.

Wet cleaning wedding gowns also leaves no residues on the gown. Residues could be detrimental to the fibres over time. Almost all synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, can be safely cleaned with wet cleaning. About 85% of wedding gowns are made of polyester and other synthetic fabrics. Many silk fabrics can also be safely wet cleaned. However, there are a few wedding gowns that wet-cleaning could damage, particularly some silk fabrics such as Duchess silk satin or silk taffeta and need to be dry cleaned.

Want to know the best wedding dress style for you, check out our post on Most Flattering Wedding Dress Styles.


The most commonly-used, dry-cleaning solvent is perchloroethylene, which is great for degreasing rayon, silk or acetate wedding dresses (needs extra attention not to damage beads and sequins); yet, it is strictly regulated the last few years mainly due to its environments impact. In some areas, the use of this solvent is not even allowed by law, which is why we now see the emergence of a variety of new solvents.

Some older dry-cleaners use harder-to-find, petroleum-based Stoddard solvent, which is a much safer option to clean bridal gowns with beads and sequins, compared to perchloroethylene. However, take note that it bears strict fire regulations, so pay attention to the location of the facility.

Although less effective at degreasing, Hydro-carbon (aka Exxon DF-2000) is safer for sequins and beads than the other two mentioned above. It is among the newly formulated solvents and is a petroleum-based product with the least fire restrictions of all. Many dry-cleaners opt for this formula, and it is believed it will become the most preferred solvent in the future.

Because of environmental factors, many states are regulating dry-cleaning solvents, and some states have passed laws limiting perchloroethylene. Perc has traditionally been the most commonly used solvent. But now new solvents are being developed to replace perc. The most common solvents in use are listed below.

There are several different dry-cleaning solvents used for wedding gown cleaning in the United States. The most common is perchloroethylene, commonly called perc. But beware, because perc can melt beads and sequins. When choosing dry cleaners for wedding dresses, do not choose a dry-cleaner who uses perc if your wedding dress has beads and sequins. Most other solvents are safer for beads and sequins. But all dry cleaning is done in a machine where your wedding gown will be tumbled. Other damages can occur, such as beads become loosened, and some beads may be damaged from the action

There are some silk fabrics that can safely be cleaned with expert wet cleaning, but some silk wedding gowns have been damaged by wet cleaning. It really does require a very experienced cleaner who understands the fibres, fabrics and trims to make the correct judgment. When in doubt, dry-cleaning is safest.

Wedding Dress Cleaning Solvents


Perchloroethylene is still the most common dry cleaning solvent in use in many areas. For degreasing, it is the most effective solvent available. It may be your best choice if your wedding dress hemline is very dirty, and your wedding dress is silk, rayon, or acetate. However, perc is likely to damage beads and sequins and melt the glue if embellishments are glued on. A good dry-cleaner should know how to protect the beads and sequins on your wedding dress.

Stoddard solvent

Stoddard solvent is a petroleum-based solvent that is hard to find. This solvent cannot be used in strip malls because of fire regulations, and so is not commonly used. You may find it in older dry-cleaning shops that have their buildings and have been around a long time. Stoddard solvent shouldn’t melt beads and sequins or affect any glue trimmings that are glued on.


Hydro-carbon (sometimes called DF-2000) is a reformulated petroleum-based solvent. It is safer for beads and sequins than perc, but is not quite as good at degreasing. However, it has fewer fire restrictions than the Stoddard formula, and fewer government restrictions than perc, so many dry-cleaning shops are changing to this solvent.


Greenearth is a silicone-based solvent. It is safer for beads and sequins than perc, but like Hydro-carbon, it is not quite as effective at degreasing as perc. However, it is the safest solvent for the environment and has fewer government restrictions than any other solvent.

Greenearth is relatively new in the field of Orange County wedding dress dry cleaning and preservation. It is a silicone-based solvent. It’s safe for sequins and beads, which is a plus. The problem is that it’s not quite as effective at getting things like grease out of a gown as perc is. It is the most environmentally friendly of the various solvents that are out there, which is always nice.

Finally, there is Greenearth solvent, which is a silicon-based formula that shares the same features as Hydro-carbon solvent. It is also the more loosely-regulated solvent; hence, safer for both the garment and the environment.

But Which One is Best to Use?

It would be tough to declare that any one of these three is superior to the other two. Each of them has its advantages as well as drawbacks. Perc could be regarded as delivering the most thorough or deepest clean, but there is the chance that the more delicate features of the gown might be damaged. The other two will be easier on the pearls, lace, etc., but you won’t get that deeper clean.

In determining which cleanser you want, it’s best to speak frankly with the Orange County dry cleaner about your concerns and get a detailed description from them about their preferred method for cleaning wedding gowns. It’s possible that they have some specific process that they prefer, and they should have plenty of pictures of dresses they’ve cleaned to demonstrate that their system works.

Petroleum-based solvent

Some wedding dress care labels say, Dry clean only with petroleum-based solvent. The Stoddard solvent and hydro-carbon are both petroleum-based. Usually, if this statement is on the care label, it is to protect beads and sequins on the dress. Or the manufacturer may have a standard care label for all dresses, which may include many gowns with beads and sequins. You should be aware that Greenearth solvent will be as safe as a petroleum-based solvent for beads and sequins on your wedding dress. You should be able to find a cleaner using hydro-carbon or Green Earth with a few phone calls or a website search.

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Silk Wedding Dress Cleaning

Experience is the most important factor to consider if your wedding dress is silk. Silk is more challenging to care for than polyester and other synthetic fabrics and requires a skilled cleaner. Call your local bridal shops to see which dry cleaners they use. They will probably give you good recommendations. Ask the following questions to any dry cleaner you are considering:

  • Does the dry-cleaner clean wedding dresses in their shop or send them to wholesale cleaners? (If they send them out, the wholesale cleaner should answer the following questions.)
  • Does the dry-Cleaner use wet-cleaning? Or dry-cleaning or both?
  • If dry-cleaning only, what solvent do they use?
  • How much experience does this dry-cleaner have with wedding dresses? Who does the wedding dress cleaning in their shop? Often one highly skilled person, with expertise in this area, will have this job. How much experience do they have?
  • How often is their solvent distilled and is a virgin solvent used for wedding dresses?
  • How many wedding dresses are cleaned in the machine at each cleaning? Will yours be alone or with other gowns?
  • What kind of insurance does the dry cleaner have? Will your gown be fully insured while in their care?

Cleaning bridal gowns made of silk, rayon, or acetate without beads or sequins should safely be done with perchloroethylene (perc.) That will be a plus if your dress is really dirty (look at the hemline!) Of the different dry-cleaning solvents available, perc is the best degreaser. Cleaning a wedding dress with beads and sequins is safest with wet-cleaning or the Stoddard, Hydro-carbon, Greenearth or DF-2000 solvents.

If your wedding gown and/or lining is silk, rayon, or acetate but does not have beads or sequins, you should be able to use a dry-cleaner that uses perc. That will be a plus if the dress is really dirty (look at the hemline!) perchloroethylene is the best degreaser. If your dress is silk, rayon, or acetate, but has beads and sequins, the Stoddard formula, Hydro-carbon or Greenearth will be the safest.

Be sure to point out any stains to the dry-cleaner. Also, notify the dry-cleaner of any spills on the dress, even if they don’t show. Dry-cleaning fluids will not remove sugar stains (such as wine or soda), so the dress needs to be pre-treated.

If your dress and lining are polyesters, with or without beads and sequins, wet cleaning should be safe and will get your dress the cleanest. Check your label carefully, and look for a hand wash or dry-clean only label, or the symbol indicating water washing. If in doubt, test clean an inconspicuous area of the dress. You should be able to hand wash most polyester gowns if you are careful safely. 

*Disclaimer: Check the care label carefully. The manufacturer’s directions should take precedence. The previous and following information is given in good faith but is without warranty. You must make the final decision on how your dress is cleaned. If in doubt, take your dress to the best dry-cleaner available. Use the above information to find one.

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