Most brides are pretty horrified by the condition of their wedding gown when they take a close look at it after the wedding. If you were fortunate enough not to get any actual spots on it from food, wine, lipstick, makeup or whatever else you encountered, the hem of the gown is still going to filthy. Even you if you didn’t drag it through anything gross in particular, it probably got stepped on by dirty shoes many times on the dance floors.

Graphic Credit: Mulberry’s Cleaners

Do not try to DIY the cleaning of wedding gown unless you are willing to live with the idea that you might ruin it in the process. Different stains require different solvents. Which solvent to use is determined by what kind of fabric the dress is made from. Some fabrics were never intended to be wet-washed. Even spot cleaning can change the color in that one area, permanently.

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get motivated to spend hundreds of dollars having your gown cleaned when the big day is finished. I mean, you WANT to clean and preserve it properly, but it costs a bundle. In the aftermath of the actual wedding and its associated bills, lots of brides tuck the dress away with the intention of having it professionally cleaned later on, when they can afford it. Not gonna lie – having my dress cleaned between my destination wedding and at-home reception was a nightmare. The usual turn-around time is more like a month, and I needed mine back in five days. With some repairs to that ridiculous French bustle I should have said no to in the first place. It cost more than $600 the first time around.

After the DC reception, the dress needed to be cleaned again, badly. We’d gone out bar hopping in our wedding attire – and while it was so much fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, it was still really rough on the hem of my dress. Plus there were some other random stains on it from other people spilling cocktails on me. That round – cleaning and preservation of the dress – ran me about $750. My mom paid for it, and I had to pay her back. Thirteen years later that dress is still in its box, on a shelf in my closet. And I fully intend to wear it again to renew my vows someday. With the costs associated with professional wedding gown cleaning, it’s easy to see how a bride would put it off as long as she could get away with it. But unfortunately, the longer you let the stains set on your wedding dress, the less likely it is they’ll be able to clean it so that it looks brand-new again. Even horrible-looking stains may be removed by a drycleaner if they get to it in time.

Mulberry’s Cleaners, with locations in San Francisco and Minneapolis, put out these cool graphic guides to give brides tips on how to handle their wedding gown cleaning. Their CEO Dan Miller says choosing a dry cleaner who knows how to handle wedding gowns is critical, and has some tips on what to look for when deciding to take your dress in.

Graphic Credit: Mulberry’s Cleaners

“First, is the cleaners a certified dry cleaner with actual training in the field of wedding gown cleaning… Second, they should research the dry cleaning solvent that the cleaner uses. Many cleaners use toxic chemicals in cleaning that can irritate your skin and pollute the environment… Finally, they should research the way the dress will be preserved. Many cleaners just hang the dress on hanger, which will not prevent yellowing and fiber decay. Ensure that the cleaner uses professional acid-free wedding gown preservation materials,” Miller says.

It’s easy to set your dress aside because you don’t need it, and cleaning it will be expensive. But I promise you that you’ll regret it if little stains that could have been removed become permanent fixtures, and you can’t loan the dress to a friend, or even sell it, later on.

The moral of the story: Research your dress cleaning options ahead of the actual wedding and budget money to have your gown cleaned within a few weeks of saying “I do.” Some cleaners will even pick it up, so go ahead and schedule so you don’t have a good excuse!

Until next time, happy wedding planning!