After booking several bridal salon appointments and trying on countless designs, you finally found your dream dress. Since you went on quite the journey to secure your gown and made a significant investment in purchasing it, every bride’s worst nightmare is discovering a stain on the bodice or skirt. Whether it’s a splotch of champagne or a smear of lipstick, accidents are bound to happen on your big day, and while a big-day stain might seem like the worst-case scenario, it doesn't have to be a cause for panic. Luckily, there are effective steps you can follow to remove the stain with ease. Below are the best stain prevention and removal tips and at-home remedies to follow if an emergency happens during your nuptials.
Meet the Expert
- Stephanie White is the creative director and designer of Odylyne the Ceremony, which is located in Los Angeles. She’s been working in the bridal fashion industry for eight years.
- Diane Cho is the CEO and owner of BeFitted Tailoring Co. based in Washington D.C. She’s been preserving wedding dresses for more than 20 years.
- Joseph Hallak is the president and partner of Hallak Cleaners in New York City. He has been running the company with his brother for over 42 years.
How to Prevent Staining Your Wedding Dress
The solution to every problem starts with prevention. Although soiling your gown in some way is pretty much inevitable—especially if you’re hosting an outdoor wedding—there are a few things you can do to avoid damaging your dress.
When you’re on the hunt for the perfect wedding dress, Stephanie White of Odylyne the Ceremony recommends considering your venue location and the activities that will ensue at your nuptials to avoid any potential catastrophes. “Are you wearing a long train in the forest and surrounded by grass and dirt heading up to the altar?” she asks. “Are you going to be dancing the night away with wine in hand? Are you going to be jumping in the pool or running into the ocean at the end of the wedding?” Choosing attire that makes sense for your location will protect you from some of the most preventable stains.
Keep Your Dress Out of Reach
Before you put on your ensemble, Diano Cho of BeFitted Tailoring Co. encourages brides to store their wedding dresses away from any possible contaminants. “Keep your gown hanging upright on the hanging straps in a closet or over a door and away from nosy people and pets,” she instructs.
Safeguard Your Gown
Once it’s time for hair and makeup, wear a robe or a set of pajamas before changing into your wedding dress, so a smudge of mascara or a dusting of eyeshadow doesn’t make its way onto your whites. Have your bridal party help you step into the gown, and consider using a cloth over your face to stop makeup transfers from happening. If you have to make touch-ups later in the evening, Cho says to put a towel or robe over your dress.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
If you have to touch your dress, always wash your hands beforehand. That way, you’ll make sure your fingers won’t transfer any dirt, debris, or food particles onto the design.
Don't Forget to Bustle
A wedding dress bustle refers to the hooks, ties, and buttons that a seamstress sews into your train to keep any extra fabric off of the ground after the ceremony. Unless you plan on wearing a design with a mini or midi hemline, a bustle is necessary. Without one, your dress will drag across the floor all night, picking up any debris along the way. Not to mention, guests will be stepping on your train left and right.
The Best Wedding Dress At-Home Stain Removal Tips
Even after taking all precautionary measures, staining your dress can still happen. If there’s a last-minute fashion emergency, here are a few expert-approved tips to keep in mind.
Do Some Research
If an unwanted substance appears on your bodice, you want to be prepared. White suggests spending a little time researching your garment and the best stain removal process for its specific fabric well ahead of the wedding. Before attempting an at-home remedy, you’ll want to know that the solution is a guarantee—otherwise, you could actually make the stain worse.
“On all stains, the more sheer the fabric, the more gentle you must be in order to not distort or damage the fabric,” Joseph Hallak of Hallak Cleaners says. Of course, you should treat any stain with care, but chiffon and silk pieces require the most cautious handling. The material composition is also important to note for the type of solution you use, Cho says, as some fabrics might leave water spots.
Use a White Towel
No matter what kind of outfit you’re wearing, if it’s white, always use a white cloth or towel when cleaning. “Using any cloth with color can result in dye transfer from the cloth to the garment,” Hallak notes. The last thing you want is a colorful smear on top of a muddy mark.
Once you have a clean white towel, treat the stain by dabbing it with gentle force. “The biggest mistake a bride can make when trying to remove stains is rubbing too much,” Hallak shares. “Sheer fabrics can distort from over-rubbing, and satin gowns can lose the shiny lustrous finish if over-rubbed.” Not to mention, rubbing the soiled spot will make the mark even larger.
How to Remove Common Wedding Dress Stains at Home
From eyeliner smudges to red wine spills, these are some of the most frequent stains brides get on their gowns, plus how to remove them.
Whether it’s a drop of foundation or a fleck of mascara, makeup is one stain that wedding dress cleaners see time and time again. If beauty products are the culprit, Hallak recommends grabbing some dishwashing detergent. Although any detergent will work, the best is a lemon-scented solution because it contains limonene, which Hallak says is the most effective at cutting through oils in the makeup.
To remove the stain, add a couple drops of the liquid detergent to a damp cloth and lightly blot the stain. Then, dampen a clean section of the towel and dab the mark to rinse it out. You can either let it air dry or speed up the process by using a blow dryer or a hand dryer in a restroom.
Dirt or Mud
If you’re saying “I do” in the great outdoors, debris or dirt on the ground might stain your train. First, try to let the grimey mark dry, which will mean you can brush any excess dirt away before treating the stain. If you’re pressed for time, use a dry towel to remove the clump and absorb as much moisture as possible. To work on the discoloration, take a stain removal wipe or pen, starting at the edges and working toward the center. Blot the area with a white towel to eliminate the soil.
Another common stain during outdoor weddings is grass. Since these types of marks are usually at the bottom of your train and are almost impossible to remove at the last minute, it’s best to leave them alone until after the big day. Trying to treat the discoloration yourself might create a bigger and deeper smear, so let a professional cleaner take on the job.
For red wine spills, you’ll need to act fast. Grab a towel and try flushing it out with a solution of one part dish soap and three parts water. Start dabbing the outer edges of the stain and make your way inward. Remember to separate the layers of your dress and treat each one separately.
Oil or Grease
Whether it’s a slice of pizza or grease from your getaway car, oil-based stains are another repeat offender. Place an absorbent cloth underneath the layer of fabric with the smear. Then, mix one part dish soap and one part white vinegar and dab a Q-tip soaked with the solution on the dress. Flush the contaminated area with lukewarm distilled water to finish.
If you get a cut or scrape and the blood spreads to your wedding dress, remove the red mark by wetting the stained spot with a damp towel. Douse a Q-tip or a corner of the towel in peroxide, and lightly dab the area. For stronger stains, Hallak says following up with a few drops of laundry detergent or dish soap on a rag will do the trick.
Pollen can make its way onto your ensemble from your bouquet or during an outdoor spring wedding. To clear the mess, extract the grains of pollen with a piece of tape. Whatever you do, do not rub the pollen because the flakes will go deeper into the fabric. If the pollen leaves a stain, cover it with baking soda, baby powder, or cornstarch.
When to Take Your Dress to a Professional Cleaner
If an unexpected wardrobe malfunction happens on your big day, treating it with an at-home remedy is probably your only option. However, there are some scenarios when removing a stain on your own will actually make things worse. If the soiled spot is larger than one inch, Cho suggests getting it professionally cleaned. Additionally, if your wedding dress has ornate detailing or tulle or mesh fabric, Cho says trying to solve the problem by yourself is a risky choice.
Even if your attempt at removing the stain on your wedding day was a success, you should still take your outfit to a professional cleaning service following your nuptials. After a night of drinking and dancing, it’s rare that a gown will be left in perfect condition.