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. You may have brought your winter coats to them each fall for their ritual yearly cleaning and your father most likely has had his work shirts cleaned and pressed at that same family-owned dry cleaning business for years. Most towns have 3 or 4 options when it comes to businesses you can take your dry cleaning to and many of these businesses have been using the same process and the same equipment for years with no real hiccups. While these techniques and equipment may be great for your father’s cotton work shirts, can you be sure they’ll be equally effective and most importantly, safe for the delicate materials your wedding gown was artfully crafted from?
Arm Yourself with the Right Questions Before You Call or Visit
Because we’ve been involved in the wedding dress cleaning and restoration business for many years, we’re going to help you by arming you with some 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 dry cleaning businesses are bad or lack the skillset and technology necessary to restore the original brilliance of your wedding gown, we’ve just seen and heard too many stories of dresses being ruined by a lack of understanding, outdated equipment that simply isn’t effective or safe, or just plain negligence - some of the dresses from those stories we’ve come across have been damaged beyond repair. 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 retailer with a guaranteed low price promise (like we have J). 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 get it, these businesses have rent, bills and employees to pay and every small business needs to make a profit. However, being a newlywed with a tight budget and a new nest to decorate, why not save a few dollars this time by ordering 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 and materials?
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 about as different as they come. 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 package for your average corner boutique wedding gown and a Celebrity Wedding Dress Preservation package 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 cleaning and preservation ranges from $150 - $225. If a cleaner is charging more, you may be paying a big margin into their pocket, 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 possibility of mistakes made 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 that haven’t yet upgraded 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 higher end wedding gowns. 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.
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 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, preservers and restorers offer insurance in the event something goes wrong when a bride’s dress is being processed. While extremely rare, there are unforeseeable events that could take place during the shipping process 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 the 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 $1,500 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, then a clean-only option might be sufficient. If you’re looking to transform your wedding dress into a family heirloom that can one day be worn again, then a full preservation is in order. 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 goals are for your dress in the future so you can ask the right questions when it comes time to make a decision.
#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 repel moisture.
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 chest 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 which can cause 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 constantly re-educated on the latest popular wedding dress fabrics and best techniques to use when removing stains and restoring color?
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 a yearly education seminar to learn fabric disaster restoration techniques to continue their education into the best methods to safely and effectively restore the brilliance back into your gown.
#2: Do you have a portfolio I can view of some of the more difficult wedding dress preservations/restorations your business 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 preservation service should have an extensive portfolio full of examples of stain removal, yellowed fabric restorations, and full antique gown restorations. Surly, if a company can show you an impressive antique wedding gown 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 stand behind your work by providing a guarantee against my wedding dress yellowing or stains coming back in the future?
The problem 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 sweat 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 business put their money where their mouth is and offer 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. It is for this reason that we go beyond a lifetime guarantee and offer a 100 year guarantee against 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.
Asking the Right Questions Today Can Save You from a Wedding Dress Nightmare Down the Road
We encourage you to print out these questions and bring them with you when visiting with or calling your local dry cleaning business. 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 experts as the Wedding Gown Preservation Company are ready to help answer all your additional questions and help you get on your way to transforming your wedding gown into a family heirloom that will be adored by future generations.