You’ve seen it – that old letter from Grandma, or even Grandma’s old wedding gown – now yellow. Why does it happen and what can be done to prevent it? White paper and fabric are chemically affected by it’s environment including the oxygen around it. This is the main reason brides preserve their wedding gowns – to avoid the yellowing. But many brides procrastinate their wedding gown care, which can be disastrous as one of the leading causes of bridal gown yellowing is the plastic bags that many brides keep their gowns in. Most plastics give off damaging fumes that actually promote yellowing.
Preserving your wedding gown in an acid-free environment is the best protection against yellowing. But, even with proper care, some fabrics will still yellow some. And it may be impossible to prevent all yellowing. Generally, silk fabric yellows more than synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon and acetate. However, nylon, which is a synthetic, has a tendency to yellow more than other synthetic fabrics.
Padding your gown with acid-free tissue will help to prevent acid migration. Buffered tissue should be used for gowns made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and acetate. The buffering agents in the buffered tissue gives added protection against acid migration. But buffering agents may damage gowns made of animal proteins such as silk or wool, therefore un-buffered, acid-free tissue is recommended for silk fabrics.
Be careful with box storage. Many dry-cleaners use inexpensive preservation boxes. Some may be acid-free, but not lignin free. These boxes can be risky, as the lignin will break down over time, and then the box is no longer acid-free. All preservation materials should be acid and lignin free.
So what can be done if your gown does yellow? Gowns that can be wet cleaned have an advantage, in that if they do yellow, they may be able to be whitened for future use with a fabric whitener. The dress shown below was previously yellowed and recently whitened by our company. It turned out beautiful.