Do you guys know how to whiten dresses that have yellowed with age because I want to be able to wear my mother's dress for my wedding?
By Sveta from West Springfield, MA
How to safely restore the white to the dress depends on the fabric. It also depends on your budget, professional restoration is pricey and skyrockets the more detailing like beading, flounces, netting and/or lace, etc, there is on the dress.
At home, all cotton wedding dresses can be carefully soaked then washed in lukewarm water with a gentle soap+a whitening agent like OxyClean or a laundry 'blue' product. Some cotton wedding dresses have lace or net made from synthetic fibres and may not clean as well as the natural fibres, so make sure any lace or net detailing has been done with an all cotton fibre.
Carefully follow the product measuring directions-you use less product in hand washing than in a machine. Too much product in the hand wash water makes a lot harder to completely rinse.
And because even a 'simple cotton wedding dress' will usually have fragile detailing like embroidery and/or beading, it's best to do this by hand in a sparkling clean and well rinsed bathtub. The large space of the bathtub will ensure plenty of room for the many yards of fabric in even the simplest vintage wedding gown to be completely covered with water-the fabric should be able to float loosely during the soaking and washing. Use a very gentle squeezing from neckline to hem, over and over and over again to work the soap and whitening agent through the fibres.
Be sure to rinse well to get all the soap and whitening agent out of the fabric as the residue can cause the fabric to still look dingy and pressing will make things even worse by ironing the residue into the fibres.
Drain the wash water, gently squeezing the excess soapy water as the water drains. Refill the tub with cool water and gently swish and squeeze the gown in the rinse water-repeat the draining and refilling the tub until the rinse water is no longer soapy when you gently swish and squeeze the fabric.
Squeeze as much of the excess water as you can from the dress, then put sections of it between thick absorbant towels and press to remove more of the water. Then place the dress on a flat surface out of the sun (use a clean spread out bed sheet or comforter to protect the gown from the surface you lay it out on). Hanging it may cause distortion of the shoulders and hem, so avoid that if you can.
If the dress is silk, natural fibre satin, or a synthetic like polyester, rayon or taffeta, really your best hope for restoring the white is a professional dry cleaner who specifically advertises expertise in restoring antique and vintage wedding dresses. Again, this can be an expensive option but is the best and usually safest way to ensure your heirloom gown is wearable for your wedding.
Be sure to get all the details of the promised work in writing from the dry cleaner so that you have recourse in case the dress is ruined-it has happened to brides and the only time the courts will award damages is if there is a written promise agreeing all the details.
Make sure you read all the fine print before signing and before leaving your dress; take good photos of the dress before leaving it with the dry cleaner, too.
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