A day in the life of a wedding dress cleaner

There really is nothing like the satisfaction you get when after the big day someone entrusts you with their once pristine wedding dress which has sadly been traipsed through the mud and grass, with the odd red wine stain on them. Expectations are always high that I will be able to restore their lovely dress to exactly how it was on that big day, in pristine condition.

Often when I collect dresses brides expectations are low and I am often met with ‘I’m sorry, it’s filthy, I doubt you will get it spotless, I have left it like this for a year, just do your best’. Taking it away I smile inwardly knowing that when I return that dress I will have hopefully exceeded all her expectations when she opens the cover to see her beautiful dress back to how it was when she first saw it in the shop.

I’m extremely proud how effective my unique cleaning system is and that over the many years I have been doing this I have got hundreds of wedding dresses spotless.

I think having this passion to please the customer with a beautifully cleaned dress makes me stand apart from the competition. I will wash a dress, then spot clean remaining marks then wash again repeating until every mark possible has come off.

Wedding dress cleaned by dry cleaners
Wedding dress on the left is how a dry cleaner returned it after saying that’s the best they could do. On the right is how clean I got it with very little effort at all!..

I lose count of how many dresses I have had where brides have already paid hundreds of pounds to have them professionally cleaned elsewhere only to be told that the stains could not be removed. However with some time and patience I have been able to remove these stains.

Owning a bridal shop helps me to understand how delicate and how precious these garments are to the brides and I also understand the different materials and reactions to being cleaned and every dress is treated with the utmost care and attention. Everything I wash is done by hand and I would never dream of using any bleaching or harmful solutions, there are too many delicate parts making up a wedding dress to even contemplate doing that.

I often see on social media pages many brides suggesting to other brides to just ‘bung it in the washing machine’. I also see some even saying that ‘Mine turned out perfectly’…. Yes, your dress may have turned out perfect, you were extremely lucky.. you were lucky the material didn’t pull, bobble or rip, you were lucky that any embellishments didn’t ruin or tear off and you are extremely lucky your washing machine still works with the weight of a heavy wedding dress inside it! Please do NOT risk the washing machine routine just to save a few pounds. Think also about how will you dry it when you take it out of the machine? There is a delicate and complicated process to washing AND drying a wedding dress and why would you spend anywhere from £500 to £4000 and more on an item you are willing to just throw in a washing machine?.

So what is involved in cleaning a wedding dress and why does it cost so much?

Approximately half of my week is travelling as most people prefer their dresses to be collected and delivered to them. The rest of the time is taken up with the actual cleaning process.

Most dresses come in covered in mud particularly along the bottom of the train and this is always the hardest part to clean, especially if it is a lace edge which cannot be scrubbed. For the most part this is where the bulk of the cleaning is required on a dress although I do see red wine, gravy, or grass stains, but as a general rule dirt from the floor is the main area of concentration.

I obviously can’t give too many trade secrets away or I’ll find myself out of a job so my processes and cleaning solutions will not be fully disclosed but to give you a general idea of what’s involved I start by looking at the entire dress for any set-in stains like red wine, grass, make-up etc. These are treated with my unique solution which I have developed over the years which lifts out most common stains. Once completed the dress is fully treated by hand in another solution ensuring all stains are individually identified and treated. Then the dress is spot checked again for any minor marks that may need further attention. The final treatment stage ensures 100% of the stains have vanished, before the setting stage.

When the dress is dry I often find out what colour carpet the bride was standing on most of the day as extremely tiny fragments of the carpet are always left in the dress netting. I remove this using a lint roller and the dress is then ready to be preserved in a nice box to return to the bride.

(Please note that the methods and solutions I use are specific to my needs)