Keep your wedding gown looking its best for years with proper cleaning and care

After just a day of wear, your wedding gown might no longer be a vision of white. Even the most dainty bride usually ends up staining her dress with something-even if she can't immediately see it. So before tucking that potential heirloom away in the closet, experts recommend having it professionally cleaned.

"Hidden spills may appear later in time," said Margaret Butler, marketing director and bridal specialist for Dublin Cleaners. "Champagne, white wine, cake icing and other clear, sugary or white substances may not be seen immediately, but will eventually appear as a brown or yellow stain."

To keep their gown looking as perfect as the moment they walked down the aisle, many brides opt for gown preservation, Butler said. Dublin Cleaners has practiced the art for nearly 30 years and uses a rigorous process that includes wet or dry cleaning (depending on the fabric), followed by thorough inspection.

Some fabrics fare better than others when it comes to removing stains, Butler said. Silk is the most fragile, while gowns made of synthetic materials are more resilient.

Clothing Care, another local dry cleaner that services gowns, has even treated accidental pre-wedding stains, said general manager John Phillippi.

Beyond cleaning soiled dresses, many dry cleaners are also in the business of restoring vintage gowns and returning yellowed fabric back to its original color.

"Some people bring in gowns from 60 or 80 years ago," said Steve Smith, co-owner of Columbus Lace. "We did a gown that was 107 years old."

The typical cost to clean or preserve a gown ranges from $200 to $400.

While brides should, of course, try to stay pristine on their big day, they should also know that almost anything can be fixed.

"The most important thing," Butler said, "is to focus on having a fabulous time."