Wedding dresses, christening gowns, and other heirloom garments can mean a lot to us, representing important occasions in our lives. It may be a family tradition to pass down wedding gowns, quilts, afghans, and other types of textiles. Proper care of these items can extend their longevity and help to avoid fabric deterioration, discoloration, and irreversible damage.
If something is worn or even slept with, it should be cleaned within a few days of use. Even if there are no odors or visible stains, fabrics still need to be cleaned. This is mainly because our body oils have come in contact with the fabric. Over time, these oils break down fabrics, causing them to oxidize and yellow, or even deteriorate. These oils are also what attract damaging insects. Properly cleaning garments is a must before they are stored.
Dry cleaning is a great way to remove body oils, make-up, and food stains from garments. However, dry cleaning is not meant to remove sugar-based stains, such as alcoholic beverage or soda stains. Point out areas that might be affected by spilled drinks to your dry cleaner so that they can treat these stains separately. Don’t bother with unnecessary, expensive, and potentially dangerous treatments that are meant for killing bacteria or fungus. Do, however ask for a “no tumble” cleaning for delicate garments. If your dry cleaner does not do this, ask around before you pay to have it shipped somewhere.
You may have heard that your wedding dress or heirloom quilt should be “heirloom sealed” by a special dry cleaner. This process consists of the garment being cleaned and sealed in an acid-free box with acid-free tissue paper. Sometimes the garment is vacuum sealed. The International Fabricare Institute says that this process is not necessary. Garments need to breathe. Using acid free cardboard and tissue paper is a good idea, but you can also use clean, white sheets as well. You can even use regular white tissue paper if you replace it yearly. Wash sheets every year or two as well because natural acids can build up in the fabric.
To Hang or Not to Hang?
If you want to hang a special dress, make sure that you use heavy duty dress hangers that are meant for supporting the weight of a heavy garment. Cedar hangers are great because they absorb moisture from the area around the garment and repel pests that could damage the garment. For longer-term storage, you may consider storing the garment horizontally to minimize the stress on an especially heavy garment.