Is Taking Your Wedding Dress to the Dry Cleaners Safe? 10 Questions to Ask
We’re all familiar with your typical, small town (or big city) corner dry cleaning business. Your family may have made it a ritual to bring your winter coats to these establishments during the fall season for their yearly cleaning and your father most likely had his perfectly pleated work shirts cleaned and pressed at that same family-owned dry cleaning business for years. Most small cities have three or four dry cleaning establishments to choose from, many using the same techniques and antiquated dry cleaning equipment for decades without any real hiccups.
While these techniques and equipment may be adequate for your father’s 100% cotton work shirts, are you sure they will be equally effective and most importantly, safe for the delicate fabrics and adornments your wedding dress was artfully crafted from?
Be Sure You Know the Important Questions to Ask Before You Call or Visit
Because our service has been cleaning, preserving, and restoring wedding dresses for over a century, we’re going to guide you along with a selection of very telling questions you can ask your local dry cleaner before entrusting them with one of your biggest emotional and financial investments from your wedding day – your beautiful, delicate wedding dress.
We’re not implying that all corner dry cleaners lack the expertise and technology, however, we’ve seen and heard too many stories of wedding dresses ruined by a lack of delicate fabric handling training, outdated equipment that isn’t effective or safe for delicate fabrics, or just plain negligence. Let’s get started…
#10: Do you send my wedding dress away to another company or do you process my dress in-house?
Asking this question first may save you from continuing down our list. If your gown is sent away, then you’re most likely paying a premium mark-up for the same service you could order from an online wedding gown preservation company with a guaranteed low price promise. Many brides take their wedding dress to the local cleaners because they’re hesitant to send their gown away to be cleaned, only to find that it is actually safer for the average local dry cleaning business to send it to the experts rather than attempt to process it themselves.
We understand. Businesses have rent, bills, and employees to pay, and every business, both big and small, needs to make a profit. However, when you're a newlywed with a tight budget and a new nest to decorate, why not save a few dollars this time by ordering your cleaning and preservation direct and saving a few hundred dollars?
#9: Is your service a fixed price or does your price vary depending on the type of dress, materials and degree of staining?
The answer to this question will be telling of two important items. You’ll instantly know if this is a one-size-fits-all service and their answer will also tell you if you may be overcharged if you go with their service.
Wedding dress styles and materials are as unique as any garment in the world of fashion. There are simple and elegant gowns with deep plunging necklines and there are also couture dresses with feather embellishments, delicate fabrics, and ornate bodices. With such a variety of gowns for a bride to choose from, shouldn’t there be various packages available depending on the style and price of her gown? It is for this reason that we offer a Traditional Wedding Dress Preservation Kit for your average corner boutique wedding gown and a Celebrity Wedding Dress Preservation Kit for the higher end couture, designer gowns that require more attention.
While full wedding dress restorations on antique gowns can get pricier, in general you’ll find the average cost of a quality wedding dress cleaning and preservation ranges from $225 - $300. If a cleaner is charging more, you may be paying more for the same service you could have ordered yourself online, or worse, you may be paying more because this is not a service offering they’re well versed in and you may be paying extra for the risks of any mistakes they may make along the way.
#8: What is the process and chemicals used to clean and preserve my wedding gown?
You should be looking for one word to come up here… “PERC”. PERC is a nasty chemical and is unfortunately still used by many dry cleaning businesses who have yet to upgrade to better and more effective cleaning methods and equipment. PERC is also known to be very detrimental to delicate fabrics that are often found in your typical wedding gown. We’ve had several instances of brides asking us to fix their dress after a local cleaner ruined the fabric by using PERC but unfortunately the material was too damaged (similar to a chemical burn) to be brought back to life. Don't make this mistake with your dress.
Any dry cleaning business that takes their service and the environment seriously has already upgraded to a powerful organic cleaning system like SYSTEMK4. This revolutionary new German engineered delicate fabric cleaning solution is not only safe for the materials that comprise your gown, but it is also more effective at cleaning and lifting very difficult, set-in staining. The additional bonus is that SYSTEMK4 is 100% safe for the environment so you know you are doing your part to keep pollutants out of our water.
#7: Do you offer insurance on my wedding gown in the event something goes wrong?
The majority of national wedding dress cleaners, preservationists, and restorers, offer insurance in the event something goes wrong when a bride’s dress is being processed along with shipping. While extremely rare, there are unforeseeable events that could take place during the shipping or preservation process to warrant the insurance. This is especially true of a dry cleaning business that is not experienced in the preservation process or is unfamiliar with newer fabrics being introduced to the market.
If the cleaner refuses to offer you insurance, it is a pretty good indication that they’re not confident in their process or equipment and it’s a good reason to take your dress elsewhere. Our preservation service comes with $500 worth of insurance on our Traditional Kit while our Celebrity Kit brings the insurance up to $2,000 to cover couture gowns. You also have the ability to include a personal check when sending in your dress to cover as much additional insurance as you desire.
#6: Can you provide me with the names and phone numbers of those who have had their wedding gown preserved with your service in the last 6 months?
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If a cleaner cannot provide you with glowing reviews of their wedding dress cleaning and preservation service, it’s time to walk out. Before you even set up your appointment with the cleaner be sure to check the company Google reviews and Yelp reviews online. This is a good initial vetting process that every customer should perform when looking at their available options.
#5: Does your service include preservation along with cleaning or is it clean-only?
The answer you’re looking for depends on what your purpose is in having your wedding dress cleaned and/or preserved. If you’re looking to sell your wedding gown in the very near future, or gift it to another bride, then a clean-only option might be sufficient. If you’re looking to transform your wedding dress into a living family memory that can one day be worn again, then a full preservation is the only option. The reason for this is that the Preservation Chest will protect your gown in the long term from yellowing, dust, stains and UV light.
Another benefit to a full preservation is that it will have the final step of our SYSTEMK4 cleaning technology applied which prevents long-term yellowing and works to protect the fabric and repel stains should the gown be worn again. It’s best to ask yourself what your hope is for your dress in the future so you can ask the right questions when it comes time to make the decision between cleaning and preserving your wedding dress.
#4: What type of storage do you provide for my wedding gown after it is cleaned and preserved?
The only way you can ensure your gown will maintain its color, along with its shape, after it is cleaned and preserved is to make sure that it is stored properly over the long term. The unfortunate truth is that many brides store their wedding gowns inside a plastic cellophane bag like you would receive after having your clothing cleaned at the dry cleaners. This type of plastic is not at all friendly to fabric over the long-term and chemicals from the cheap plastic can leachate into the fabrics of your gown, along with retain moisture which could lead to fabric mold and rot. If you choose not to clean and preserve your wedding dress, the best type of storage is a breathable fabric bag which will help release moisture and keep your dress from being rubbed against which will cause fabric fray.
It is a very common misconception that a preserved wedding gown should be stored in an air-tight container. The natural fabrics of your gown need to breathe in order to maintain their integrity. Our wedding dress preservation box allows your dress to breathe and also prevents fabric stress by allowing your gown to form to a bust rather than hang off of a clothes hanger, causing permanent damage from fabric stretch. Be sure the company you choose is providing you with an after-care solution to keep your gown safe and beautiful for years to come.
#3: Is your staff continually re-trained and certified on the latest methods for stain removal, fabric care, and color restoration?
As wedding dress trends and styles come and go, so do the fabric types that make up the beautiful new wedding gowns that appear at the bridal shows each year. The only way a dry cleaning company can truly understand these new materials and how they can be safely cleaned and treated is to make sure their staff is interacting with the designers and fabric makers along with testing the techniques used to clean stains and repair damage that can occur to these fabrics during the course of a wedding day.
Along with new materials, it is also important to learn about new cleaning and preserving techniques from organizations such as the Dry Cleaning Institute of America. The expert team that will be processing your dress when you order from us attend multiple yearly education seminars to learn about fabric disaster restoration techniques to continue their education on the best methods to safely and effectively restore the brilliance back into your gown.
#2: Do you have a portfolio I can view of the more challenging wedding dress preservations/restorations your service has performed?
As with any service you’re investing in, it’s always best to ask for concrete examples rather than simply taking their word for it. Any wedding dress cleaning, preservation, and restoration service should have an extensive portfolio full of examples of stain removal, yellowed fabric restorations, and full vintage gown restorations. If a company can show you an impressive vintage wedding dress restoration then they’re capable of cleaning and preserving your gown which has seen much less stress.
We have many examples in our before & after wedding dress restoration gallery which illustrates the effectiveness of the technology, techniques, and expert care that is incorporated into every cleaning, preservation and restoration performed by our experienced team.
#1: Do you stand behind your work by providing a guarantee against my wedding dress yellowing or stains coming back in the future?
The issue with services that clean and preserve wedding gowns is that you have to take them at face value that your gown was indeed properly cleaned and cared for under their supervision. Many stains that occur on your wedding day are invisible (such as perspiration and oils) which will become more yellowed and even brown over years in storage if left untreated. To be sure that your gown is properly cleaned, it is important to make sure that every gown that passes through their door has a thorough inspection process both before and after cleaning.
Even more importantly, it is important that the dry cleaner stand behind their service by offering a guarantee against the one telltale sign that their service was less than effective – future fabric yellowing. We’re extremely confident in our technology, process, inspection methods and people that all work together to make your gown beautiful for future generations to enjoy. This is why we go beyond a lifetime guarantee and offer a 100 year guarantee against future yellowing which begins the day your beautiful gown is returned to you looking like it did the day you first set eyes on it at the bridal boutique - much longer than the industry standard 100-year guarantee.
What is a guarantee worth without a strong company to back it up? You guessed it, nothing. With Alfred Angelo suddenly shuttering all 70 of it's retail stores, leaving brides out in the cold, and David's Bridal recently filing for bancruptcy, we understand why you would (and should!) be concerned with a guarantee. Our service is the only wedding gown cleaning and preservation company that has been in operation for over 100 years, remaining strong throughout multiple nationwide financial collapses, world wars, and much more. We're confident our service will be preserving wedding gowns for another 100 years and more into the future to back up our guarantee should anything happen.
Asking the Right Questions Today Can Save You from a Wedding Dress Nightmare in the Future
We encourage you to print out these questions and bring them with you when visiting or calling your local dry cleaners or boutique. If they answer all the questions to your satisfaction then congratulations, you’ve found a competent business that is well-versed in the intricacies of wedding dress cleaning and preservation! If their responses left you feeling a little uneasy with more run-around than straight answers, then the our experts are ready to help answer all your additional questions and help you on your way to transforming your beautiful wedding gown into a family heirloom that will be adored by future generations.