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How to clean a silk wedding dress

Why choose silk for your wedding dress? Silk is a beautiful and luxurious fabric. Delicate in appearance, it’s actually relatively robust. It’s a fine, yet strong fibre that’s produced naturally by certain insect larvae to form their cocoons. These fibres are woven into the soft and smooth fabric that we use to make our silk dresses. As a natural protein, it’s the most hypoallergenic of all fabrics used to make wedding dresses and its smooth surface resists dry dirt and odours well.

Silk garments also outperform other fabrics across all seasons: it can keep you warm in the Winter and comfortably cool when temperatures rise. Silk can be worn as a light and non-bulky outer layer, or as an under skirt for additional warmth. The intricate, prism-like structure of the silk fibre itself, allows it to refract incoming light at different angles and is what creates the shimmering quality of silk garments and the appearance of different colours. When used to make your wedding dress, it creates a delicate, flowing finish that’s comfortable to wear in all seasons.

Silks qualities require it to be professionally cleaned and cared for and should never be washed in a domestic machine or by hand. As with pure wool, linen and rayon, quality and expensive fabrics like silk can be irreversibly changed (in their colour, size and finish) by some washing techniques. In this week’s post, we’re outlining how to look after your silk wedding dress before, during and after your wedding day.

Looking after a silk wedding dress: Q & A

Can I wash my silk dress myself?

For the reasons we outline below, the answer to this is no and we advise against any brides washing pure silk dresses themselves. 100% silk is likely to be damaged by either hand, or machine washing. However, you’re likely to want to wash your dress at some stage, whether your dress has got stained or you simply want your wedding dress looking good as new after your special day.

Wedding dress cleaning and boxing

To make ensure that it’s as good as new after cleaning, it’s important to take your silk wedding dress to a specialist cleaner. We offer in house cleaning services through a company we know and trust, along with boxing in a handmade storage box (further details below).

Non-pure silk

Some high-street silk garments are machine washable (particularly nowadays because modern machines often have programmes for washing delicate items at temperatures below 40 degrees). It’s important to note when choosing your wedding dress, that washable (non-pure) silk can lose its sheen and become dull over time.

Can silk dresses be dry cleaned?

Yes, dry cleaning is a process that cleans clothes without water. The cleaning fluid used is a liquid and the garments are immersed and cleaned in a liquid solvent but a petroleum solvent is used instead of water (hence, the process is called ‘dry’). This process was discovered by accident. Jean Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works owner, noticed that his table cloth became cleaner after a kerosene lamp was accidentally spilled on it. This led to the discovery and invention of what is now known as dry cleaning.

Dry cleaning: the process

  1. Pre-treatment – The specialist cleaner looks for stains on your clothes and treats them.
  2. Dry cleaning – The clothes cleaned in the dry cleaning machine with a solvent.
  3. Spot clean silk – Any lingering stains are removed by a technique called post-spotting.
  4. Finishing – Once the clothes are cleaned, they’re pressed, folded and packaged so they look like new. Silk dresses are best stored in a professional box with acid free paper. This reduces exposure to sunlight, damp or heat. (We offer this service in house.)

Do silk dresses shrink when dry cleaned?

No, these machines are designed specifically to avoid fabric shrinkage. If dry cleaning machines aren’t maintained properly or they malfunction during the cleaning process, shrinkage can occur but this would be unlucky. So when dry cleaning your silk dress, check the machines are checked regularly and that you and the cleaner know exactly what fabric your dress is made from.

What happens if you put silk in the dryer?

Never, ever put your silk dress in the dryer. The heat created in tumble dryers can cause the silk to shrink and the fabric to dull and friction with the dryer drum can create snags or white streaks.

How to care for silk

Keep your dress in a dry place that’s out of direct sunlight and away from heaters or radiators. As already mentioned, the best method of storing a silk wedding dress is loosely folded, with protective, acid-free paper in a professional box. When you do need your dress cleaned, it’s important not to leave this too long after the wedding. As with stains on non-silk garments, often they’re most easily tackled when they’re fresh.

Tips for caring for your silk dress properly:

  • Keep silk out of strong sunlight.
  • Avoid getting any hairspray or perfume onto your silk dress as the alcohol will damage the fabric.
  • Don’t allow silk to become too dirty before washing, as hard rubbing damages the fibres.

Andrea Hawkes can provide cleaning services for your silk dress, carried out by our trusted and experienced cleaners. We also offer storage options for your dress to ensure it’s safeguarding and care before you wear it at your wedding.

 

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