As I started planning Tony’s and my wedding, one of the first things I did was decide on a dress. I felt it would set a tone for the style of wedding we wanted and I searched through thousands of dresses online and in stores. I really wanted something unique, not expensive and with a vintage look. After feeling very overwhelmed, I decided to try on my late maternal grandmother’s wedding dress, which my mom had in an old trunk. I tried it on and it fit very close to my shape. The dress had a few layers of tulle and a satin lining all covered by delicate lace. However, the dress was last worn 59 years ago and was in desperate need of a thorough cleaning. There was also a 2 inch red wine stain directly on front of the lap part of the dress.
I contacted dry cleaners who specialized in wedding dresses to see what our options were. They told me it would cost around $300 and they couldn’t promise how clean it would get or if they could get the stain out. There also wasn’t a label in the dress, so knowing the exact fabric or care for the dress was challenging.
We finally decided to take the matter into our own hands. We are very crafty and my mother is a great seamstress, so she felt like she knew enough about the fabric on the dress to take a chance. But what really drives us is a good challenge! We thrive on being DIYers and it’s not like the dress was going to any use in that trunk. So we went to the store and bought a box of Oxi Clean!
Here is our experience with using the product. We have used it before with cleaning curtains or shoes and we felt like it would be gentle enough for the delicate lace, but still be able to take out the yellow color while not bleaching the dress stark white. My mother knew the dress was originally a cream color.
Here is the dress before. I have not altered the pictures at all, not even the lighting.
Yay, Oxi Clean to the rescue! So we excitedly and slightly nervously took our beloved product home. We filled my mothers large, clean, garden tub with warm water as the directions say to do. We also added a little gentle detergent as well.
Here is what the dress looked like prior. You can easily see the red wine stain on the front of the dress.
Here goes nothing! The water immediately turned a dark yellow. After only 15 minutes we could smell a very strong gross smell coming from the tub. Perhaps my grandparents smoked during their first years of marriage which would also attribute to the dress’s yellow color. We had to keep in mind, the dress had been stored through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.
Submerging it for the first time. You can see how yellow the water turned after just one hour.
We decided to change the water after only 1 hour once we got the initial pollution off the dress. Then we started again with a fresh batch of water. We did not dry the dress between these two cycles. We then left the dress in the water for 4 additional hours.
That’s our little helper, Opy! The wine stain is still visible.
Here’s what it looked like after 4 hours of soaking the dress. You can see how clear the water is compared to the first cycle.
Next, we rinsed it and laid it flat to dry.
*Note- when air drying certain items, it is best to use a technique called blocking. Lace, knit and other delicate fabrics should be reshaped on towels or using blocking tools such as pins. This technique will help keep the fabric’s shape.
After drying the item for a day, we didn’t think it was quite bright enough. The wine stain still persisted to show although it had been lightened. So we completed the process once more. You can see how clear the water was after 6 additional hours.
Once we completed this last cycle, we laid the dress flat to dry, however we forgot to block it. After it dried, we did notice the hemline was uneven. We are still not sure if the dress was like that to begin with or if it happened during the drying process. Instead of getting the garment wet once again (we just didn’t want to be too rough with the fabric), we decided to just trim up the bottom hem line ourselves, since it all needed to go up about 2 inches anyway.
Here is what the dress looked like after this process.
To update the dress, we added more tulle to give it life again! And we embellished it with a beautiful bow my mom made. You can see the color is bright again and the wine stain is barely there! I consider this to be a job well done!
Photography by Danny Gorman
Oxi Clean has not specifically endorsed this post. I just wanted to share with my readers our experience using this product.