Your wedding gown is probably the most valuable garment you will ever own, and certainly the most sentimental as well, so selecting a dry cleaner to clean your wedding gown can be a daunting task.  You probably feel comfortable having your shirts and suits cleaned at your local cleaners but may be hesitant to risk your wedding gown to them. So how can you tell if your local cleaners should do the job?

There are several things that you should know about your local cleaners that one phone call should determine:

  1. Does your dry cleaner clean their own wedding gowns or do they send them to a wholesale cleaner?
  2. What solvent does your dry-cleaner use?
  3. How often is the solvent distilled?
  4. Who cleans the wedding gowns and how much experience do they have?

Does your dry cleaner clean their own wedding gowns or do they send them to a wholesale cleaner?  Many dry cleaners prefer not to clean wedding gowns and send them to wholesale cleaners.   The wholesale cleaners usually clean wedding gowns in large volume, perhaps 30 dresses at a time.  This may mean that your wedding gown receives little individual attention.  We recommend finding a cleaner that cleans the dresses themselves. You will probably be happier with the results.

What solvent does your dry-cleaner use?  At one time most all dry-cleaners used perchloroethylene solvent.  It is a good cleaner, but may damage beads and sequins, and can be harsh on the environment.  The environmental impact is why some local governments are passing laws to eliminate it.  Consequently many “green” solvents have emerged (Greenearth, hydro-carbon, D-F 2000, etc.)  All of the green solvents are safe for weddings gown trims, but  may not clean the gown as well as the “perc.”

Wet cleaning is very “green,” usually safe for most gowns and removes many stains better than dry cleaning.  This is because dry cleaning solvents do not remove water based substances .  A good dry cleaner will use both dry cleaning and wet cleaning selecting the best one for the wedding gown depending on the fabrics, trims, style, etc.

How often is the solvent distilled?  Some newer dry cleaning machines will distill the solvent with every batch ensuring the solvent is very clean. However, older machines will distill their solvent manually (perhaps weekly) although they  “filter” it regularly.  When the solvent is distilled, it is returned to a “new” or “virgin” solvent which will get your wedding dress the cleanest.  Garments that smell like dry-cleaning solvent have likely been cleaned in dirty solvent.  If the solvent is fresh, there should be no smell on your wedding gown.  For best results ask that your wedding gown be cleaned in freshly distilled solvent. cleans the wedding gowns and how much experience do they have?  This is one of the most important questions that you should ask.  Dry cleaners clean, press, handle hundreds of garments a day, usually by minimum wage staff.  Your wedding dress will need more care and many dry cleaners have one person who does this job.  Find out how experienced they are. Ask  how long that they been cleaning wedding gowns?  What training have they received?

To find out more about the care your wedding gown should have read our report:

Get the Facts! A Wedding Gown Cleaning and Preservation Guide.

Wedding Planning Survival Tips
Third Generation Communion Dress Restoration