Everything To Know About Wedding Dress Cleaning

Updated August 7, 2023

Everyone knows how to clean jeans or a shirt. However, wedding dress cleaning is much more intricate than that.

Wedding gowns are usually white, delicate, and expensive. They often feature intricate embellishments, draping, and layered skirts.

Attempting to clean your wedding gown at home without doing proper research beforehand may lead to catastrophic results. Unfortunately, even your local dry cleaners have a high chance of messing it up.

Can you skip wedding dress cleaning at all if it’s so tricky? The short answer is – no, cleaning is essential for most gowns.

As each gown is different, you should learn which cleaning method is better suitable for your dress fabric, design, and condition. The right choice of a cleaning company is vital to preserving the beauty of your dress.

Is Wedding Dress Cleaning Essential?

Weddings are costly, and many women see professional wedding dress cleaning as an unnecessary additional expense. Meanwhile, it’s essential in most cases, even if your dress seems to be in perfect condition.

The necessity of professional cleaning is obvious with gowns that have hard-to-remove stains, but even seemingly clean dresses may have sweat and other spots that only show up as yellow stains later.

Furthermore, most floor-length dresses have some amount of grass or dirt on the hem. Thankfully, professional dry cleaning isn’t the only way to get rid of such stains – you may clean your dress at home if you’re limited in budget.

If you neglect wedding dress cleaning, the fabric may become yellowish. In worst cases, brown oxidation spots may appear in the place of stains over time.

In short, wedding dress cleaning is necessary for every gown, though the type of cleaning may differ. You should clean your gown if you plan to sell it, donate it, preserve it as an heirloom, or transform it into a keepsake.

Dry Cleaning vs Wet Cleaning vs DIY Cleaning

Different gowns require different cleaning approaches. The choice of cleaning method depends merely on the gown fabric and design but also on your budget and plans regarding the dress.

Most brides choose professional wedding dress cleaning, as experienced cleaners know how to handle delicate fabrics. Professional cleaners use two methods: dry and wet dress cleaning.

Wet wedding gown cleaning is performed by hand. The main benefit of this method is that it removes all water-based substances from the fabric better than dry cleaning solvents and reduces the risk of irreversible fabric damage as it doesn’t involve harsh chemicals.

However, dry cleaning is better at removing oil and makeup stains. Dry cleaning usually involves using a cleaning agent called perchloroethylene or PERC.

PERC is well-suitable for cotton and synthetics but may melt sequins and beads and irreversibly damage silk and other delicate natural fabrics.

Furthermore, dry cleaning involves tumbling that is always done in a machine that may physically damage embellishments.

On the other hand, some luxurious fabrics such as Duchess silk satin and taffeta are only suitable for dry cleaning.

If your dress features delicate material that can’t be wet cleaned, ask the dry-cleaning company whether they have agents other than PERC.

Some gowns require both wet and dry cleaning to get rid of all stains. For instance, if your dress is made from Duchesse silk but has water-based stains on it, the cleaners will have to remove the stains by hand first.

Your local dry cleaners will be able to advise you on the best suitable cleaning method for your gown if you call them. However, if you don’t have the budget for professional cleaning, you may clean your dress at home.

DIY wedding dress cleaning is only possible if the label explicitly states the fabric is suitable for wet cleaning. If the dress can only be dry cleaned, don’t attempt to clean it in your bathtub.

If you choose DIY wedding gown cleaning, read the label carefully before starting. Use liquid detergent for delicate fabrics and avoid soap or harsh powder detergents.

If you need to remove grass and dirt stains from the hem, soak it in warm water with a bit of detergent. Then, rub the hem gently with your hands and rinse the fabric thoroughly. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove other spots.

Dry your wedding dress flat. Mot dresses have heavy skirts, and the weight may damage the dress construction if you dry it hanging.

Wedding Dress Dry Cleaning Cost

Professional wedding dress cleaning is a significant expense, so you should include it when planning your bridal attire budget. The average price of wedding dress dry cleaning in the U.S. is about $150-$200.

The price of wedding gown cleaning may vary depending on your gown fabric type and amount, design, location, and other factors. Some brides pay as little as $50 and as much as $300.

Dresses from luxurious lace, natural silk, taffeta, organza, and those with beading or sequins are the most expensive to clean. Such gowns can’t be cleaned with PERC and require special equipment.

The dry-cleaning company may have to outsource the job and charge an overhead if they don’t have the necessary equipment and cleaning agents on-site.

And even if they do, they will charge you more as they need to cover the costs of supplies.

On the other hand, dry cleaning of minimalistic gowns without embellishments made from cotton or polyester can cost significantly less than average.

Dry cleaning tends to cost more in major metro areas and less in small towns, and that’s no wonder – the cost of living in these regions differs drastically.

Brides from New York, California, and the District of Columbia pay the highest rates.

On-Site vs Third-Party Cleaning Companies

When choosing a dry-cleaning company, you should ask whether wedding gowns are cleaned on-site or sent away to a third party. Many dry cleaners don’t have the necessary experience or equipment to do the job on-premises.

That’s not necessarily bad – your gown will be safer with bridal wear experts than with someone who has never cleaned wedding dresses before. The only drawback is the added overhead, so you may want to skip the middleman.

Online Wedding Dress Cleaning

Finding an experienced wedding dress dry-cleaning company in your area isn’t always simple. That’s especially relevant for brides living in small towns.

The solution is online wedding dress cleaning services. Unlike one-size-fits-all dry-cleaning businesses, such companies specialize in wedding gown cleaning.

Online wedding dress cleaning companies accept orders across the U.S. and typically have more experience than regular dry cleaners. They also tend to offer better rates as they don’t charge overhead.

Such services are very convenient – all you need to do is pack your gown in a box, ship it, and receive it at your doorstep.

However, consider the shipping costs when choosing such a company and ensure the insurance covers the shipping. Sometimes, the shipping costs may exceed the cost of cleaning itself.


No matter how carefully you choose your dry-cleaning service or how much you pay, accidents happen. The dry-cleaning company must take responsibility in the case of damaging your gown.

Furthermore, sometimes, unforeseeable circumstances occur during shipping the gown. Even if the cleaning was performed correctly, you could never be sure your dress is 100% safe until you receive it and inspect it.

Avoid dry-cleaning companies that don’t give any guarantee. A good company will reimburse the entire cost of your dress and the dry-cleaning service if something goes wrong.

If your gown is too intricate for them to clean, they should refuse the service instead of risking it. Make sure that the insurance and guarantees are mentioned in the contract.

Some dry cleaners offer insurance at an additional fee, though most include it in the base service price. You may come across different dry-cleaning packages with varying insurance worth for a flat rate.

Do Your Research

Finding the right cleaning company is vital to ensure your dress preserves its initial beauty and won’t be damaged.

Unfortunately, the price doesn’t always correlate with the service quality, so you should know some tips for choosing a wedding dress dry-cleaning company.

Ask the company whether they clean wedding gowns on-premises or send them away. If they don’t have the necessary equipment, proceed with your search to avoid overhead costs.

If the company says they clean wedding dresses on-site, ask which agents they use, whether gowns are cleaned individually, and what the process is like.

Look for companies that clean each gown individually instead of tossing it in a pile of other clothes.

These questions will help you understand whether the cleaners have the necessary experience. How a company issues the quote can also tell a lot about their expertise.

Each gown is different, and the cleaners must inspect your dress to give you a price. They can’t give you an exact price over the phone, though they may give an estimation based on your dress’ description.

Some services charge a fixed rate for all wedding gowns. These are usually one-size-fits-all services that charge above-average rates and won’t give your dress the necessary attention.

Of course, reviews are helpful. Ask your relatives and friends or search for reviews in Google or on the company’s website.

Lastly, brides wishing to keep their dress as an heirloom should consider wedding dress preservation instead of dry cleaning.

It includes gown cleaning, fabric treatment against yellowing, and packing in an air-tight box to maintain its initial condition for many decades.

Image credit: Unsplash

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