The Definitive Guide on Wedding Dress Yellowing and How You Can Restore Your Yellowed Gown
Imagine the following situation… It has been 10 years since your wedding day and your 8 year old daughter is asking all kinds of questions about that special day when your new life began. “Come with me!” you say, “I’ll show you my wedding dress that you loved so much from our wedding album”. Excited, you lead her to your bedroom closet, reach way in the back, and take out your 10 year old wedding dress, still in the original plastic dry cleaning bag. You notice that it looks a little different, but you think that it may just be that the dry cleaning bag has discolored. You take it out into the daylight and lay it out on your bed only to find your once brilliant white wedding dress has dulled with time into a bland, yellowed shadow of the brilliant gown it once was.
Unfortunately, the above scenario is all too familiar. Nearly every day we have brides contact us asking why their gown has yellowed, how it happened, and what they can do about it. Let’s take a look at the answers to all these great questions and some options you can take to return your yellowed wedding gown back to its original wedding day brilliance.
Why Does Fabric Yellow Over Time?
One of the oldest and most widespread quality problems within the textile industry is fabric yellowing. The fabric colors that are most susceptible to yellowing (and very unfortunate for brides) are market whites and shades of pastel. The simple answer to this age-old question is that wedding gown yellowing is an unanticipated chemical degradation of the original fibers that compose the fabric. This means that as colorless chemicals that are within the fabric begin the inevitable process of decay, they change color to become light to moderately yellow in color. It is very common to see older gowns that have very dark brown (in extreme cases these stains can become black) stains on them which is an indication of continued chemical decomposition over an extended period of time due to a stain that was most likely invisible before the gown was put into storage.
It has been common knowledge for some time now that fabric yellowing is on the rise. Why? The reason is due to the simple fact that there are more synthetic fiber blends in wedding gowns than ever before.
What Causes Wedding Gowns to Turn Yellow?
Now that we know fabric yellowing is due to the breakdown of the chemical makeup of the fabric, let’s take a look at the possible culprits that may have led to the initial breakdown in the fabrics of your wedding dress.
The breakdown of fibers in your gown can become accelerated due to a number of environmental factors such as light radiation (direct sunlight), high humidity, or exposure to excessive heat. While these factors do have a negative impact over the long term, fiber degradation is far from the most influential factors that may have contributed to the yellowing of your gown.
While no fault of a bride, a common cause of wedding dress yellowing results from chemicals that were added during the manufacturing process of the fabric that comprises her dress. Often time’s, chemicals in textile softeners (chlorine, oils, animal fats, waxes, etc.) can begin to decompose due to the effects of incorrect chemical formulation combined with long-term wedding dress storage. In addition, these chemicals can attract harmful particulates such as dirt, dust, and oils from your busy wedding day which can speed up the yellowing process.
Pollutants in the Atmosphere
Atmospheric pollutants can be one of the most potent agents that cause fabrics to yellow, particularly nitrogen. These oxides can come from automobile pollution, home heating systems and various industrial processes. It’s important to note that yellowing from air pollutants normally only occur on the surface of the gown. This is one reason why the preservation facility your dress is processed in has a state of the art air circulation and purification system to keep out all air contaminates during the wedding gown preservation process.
Transferred contaminates are contaminates that are transferred to your dress during storage, both before and after you purchase your gown. For years it has been well known that polyethylene (plastic) bags cause fabric yellowing knows as “phenolic yellowing”. Beyond just plastic coverings, phenolic yellowing can also be caused by cardboard, acidic papers, and other wrapping materials. For this reason the Wedding Gown Preservation Kit uses acid-free tissue paper and an acid-free wedding dress storage box to eliminate transferred contaminates during the long-term storage of your wedding gown.
Think about your wedding day… Throughout the day your wedding dress is bombarded with contaminates that can stick to, or absorb, into the fabrics of your gown. You have dirt from the dance floor, body lotion, grass stains from an outdoor photoshoot, a wine stain from a toast with a friend, sugar stains from cutting the cake, perfume re-application, sweat from tearing up the dance floor… you get the idea. Are these stains worth it? We say, of course! It’s those memories that will last forever and with our advanced wedding dress cleaning service, you can keep those memories close to your heart, and off your gown, before it is put away into storage.
How Long Does it Take a Wedding Dress to Begin to Yellow?
The delicate fabrics in a wedding dress will begin to yellow after just six months if your dress is not cleaned, cared for, and stored properly after your wedding day. While you may think your wedding dress looks pretty close to perfect after your big day is over, keep in mind, it is the stains you can’t see that are the main culprits in future spot staining in addition to general fabric yellowing.
Delicate fabrics, such as satin and chiffon, will become a dulled yellow color after just 6 months, then slowly begin to turn darker shades of yellow over the years, finally reaching hues of light brown in just a few decades. This situation is an example of fabric yellowing in an environment where heat, moisture, and temperature are ideal. Storing your wedding dress in a musty basement, in a hot attic or garage, or in an area of direct sunlight, all speed up the yellowing process exponentially.
Along with overall fabric yellowing, invisible stains will also cause what is known in the industry as spot “scorching” to your wedding dress. These unsightly brown spots were once perspiration, deodorant, white wine, and other contaminates from your wedding day which were invisible to your eye when you put your dress away in storage. These invisible stains contained chemicals, along with latent sugar that caramelizes over time into the fabrics of your gown, breaking down those delicate fabric fibers.
Can a Yellowed Wedding Dress Be Whitened?
The good news is there is hope for your yellowed wedding dress. Advancements in technology along with new breakthroughs in delicate fiber cleaning formulations have made now a great time to consider having your old, yellowed wedding dress whitened and restored. Through a process of wet cleaning, dry cleaning, and spot cleaning, your yellowed wedding dress can be restored to its original brilliance to be enjoyed by future generations. Professional wedding gown restoration companies are experienced in treating and whitening every type of delicate fabric found in your yellowed wedding gown, from satin, to fine lace, and even silk.
With each fabric in your wedding dress having its own unique properties, attempting to clean your own yellowed wedding dress in a bathtub or washing machine can have disastrous results. If you plan on keeping your wedding dress as a memory to be passed down, it is best to leave this process to the professionals with the experience, training, and equipment to whiten your yellowed wedding dress.
Will Cleaning My Yellowed Dress Myself Damage it?
As much as it would be great if there was a DIY kit to clean a yellowed gown, there are so many variables and fabric types available that it makes it just about impossible to promise you won’t end up doing more harm to your gown than good. If you do choose to undergo this painstaking process yourself, here are a few important notes.
Bleach – While great for getting stains out of Johnny’s baseball pants, bleach is a killer when it comes to delicate fabrics such as silk. In addition to not getting out stains very well, bleach can dissolve the adornments on your gown and cause permanent fabric damage.
Soak, when possible, don’t scrub – Most fabric specialists recommend soaking your wedding gown in lukewarm water rather than scrubbing the fibers of your gown. Soaking allows stains to gently lift out of the gown without damaging or fraying the fabric.
Determine your Fabric Type – The main question here is silk or non-silk. Non-silk wedding gowns have a much higher threshold for cleaning solvents. As long as your wedding dress has simply yellowed and doesn’t have deep-set brown to black spot staining, you may be able to restore your gown yourself. Silk is a much different story. Also keep in mind that while topical type stains such as lipstick are easier to remove, deep set stains such as body oils or wine are best left to the professionals.
Use Caution with that Iron – Ironing your dress can get you into a sticky situation – quite literally! If delicate fabrics are sticking to your iron, it’s time to turn the iron down, or better yet, turn it off. First you should try running your bathroom shower as hot as it will go for around a half hour with your dress hanging on the back of the door. Sometimes a bit of a steam bath is enough to allow stubborn creases to fall away.
My Dress isn’t Yellow Yet but how do I Know it won’t be in the Future?
The majority of the staining on your wedding gown is invisible to the naked eye. Your dress may look great now, but in 5, 10, or 20 years from now those invisible sweat stains or sugar stains will be big, ugly, brown splotches that continuously eat away at the chemical composition of the fabrics in your gown. The only way to truly be sure your gown won’t suffer from yellowing or spot-staining is to have your wedding dress cleaned and preserved before putting it into storage.
How we Painstakingly Restore Your Yellowed Gown
The process created by the Wedding Gown Preservation Company is of the most thorough and comprehensive of any textile company you’ll be likely to find. Their team of wedding gown cleaning experts focuses on one thing and one thing only – removing stains from your dress and transforming your gown to be as brilliant and vibrant as the day you first tried it on at the boutique.
The process begins with a full assessment of each gown:
Fabric Identification – in this step the fibers of your gown are identified so it can be assessed as to how your gown will take to various cleaning methods. While the tag on your gown many times will identify the various fabrics, the fabrics in older gowns more often than not will need to be identified using other various methods developed by the in-house fabric experts.
Fiber Evaluation – Just as important as what types of fabrics your dress is comprised of is what type of condition those fibers are in. For example, many times a gown with a “French Bustle” can suffer from having a car door accidently slammed on the bustle or become damaged and frayed from being dragged along a rough surface such as an asphalt driveway.
Stain Evaluation – Deep set stains require careful consideration. If fabric decay is too advanced, treating the stain aggressively can do more damage. Each stain on your gown is marked and notes are made on how best to proceed with spot treatment along with a stain grading score. If the experts feel that your gown is too damaged to proceed, the team will call you to review our full assessment and determine together how to proceed.
The Cleaning Process
The wedding gown cleaning process consists of the world’s most advanced cleaning system combined with natural cleaning formulas passed down by generations of professional fabric cleaners. The system that is used to clean your dress is a German born cleaning agent called SYSTEMK4. This three part cleaning agent is safe for the environment, safe for the fibers of your gown and aggressive on stains and yellowed fabrics.
The three parts consist of a gentle dry cleaning, spot stain removal, soaking, and a post treatment that protects your gown from yellowing in the future and protects the gown if it is worn again. This amazing system was utilized in all the before and after photos you see throughout this post.
View Amazing Wedding Dress Transformations
The Wedding Gown Restoration Kit is the nation's #1 top selling service for cleaning, restoring and preserving wedding gowns that are over 20 years old. Our proprietary delicate fabric cleaning formulas and techniques will return your old, yellowed wedding gown back to its original beauty. Lace, tulle, embellishments and other fine materials will also be returned to their original brilliance. The same wedding dress restoration process we use is used by museums around the world to bring garments back to life. For the low price of $224 (includes FREE shipping) you too can bring your vintage wedding gown back into family heirloom status.
Get a Complimentary Assessment of Your Gown with any Kit Purchase
So… how do you proceed with transforming your gown from dull and yellow to amazing and bright? Since each gown that is processed with us goes through the same examination process, it’s best to order the Traditional Kit or the Celebrity Kit to get your gown into the hands of fabric experts. You will be notified if additional processing to treat yellowing will be necessary for your gown, at which point you can send an additional $45 in by check or pay online for a full, detailed wedding gown restoration.