Putting common gown cleaning and preservation ideas to the test

You could say Greg and Margaret Butler know a thing or two about bridal gown care. In 1934, Greg's father, Bernard Butler, founded Hudson Cleaners, the predecessor of Dublin Cleaners. “We are a three-generation family business,” Margaret says of their dry-cleaning company, which specializes in bridal gown cleaning and preservation.

Over the years, the Butlers—who personally handle every bridal gown that comes through Dublin Cleaners—have heard it all when it comes to gown-care misconceptions. We asked them to give us the dirt.

Rumor: You can hang the dress in a plastic garment bag to protect it until the wedding.

Result: Busted

“The word ‘plastic' should not be mentioned when storing any item,” Margaret says. “It should be hung in a cloth bag.”

Rumor: Club soda will remove a stain.

Result: Busted

“Club soda dilutes the stain, but it doesn't remove it,” Margaret says. Greg, who specializes in gown cleaning and restoration, notes, “It sometimes adds to the problem, too, because you're adding sugar to the stain.”

Rumor: If a dress has no visible stains, it doesn't need to be cleaned after the wedding.

Result: Busted

“You slice open an apple or banana and let it sit, and what will it do? It'll brown,” Greg says. “Same thing with if you spill champagne or something on [a dress]; it'll oxidize and brown. It can take months or sometimes years before it'll brown out like that.” Even if you think your dress is pristine, you should take it in for an assessment. “We haven't seen very many that are completely clean,” says Margaret.

Rumor: A dress doesn't have to be preserved immediately after the wedding.

Result: Confirmed

“The only issue that [needs immediate attention] is if you spilled red wine on silk or somebody spilled a plate of lasagna on you, something real egregious,” Margaret says. “Most things can wait.” Greg recommends bringing the dress in within four to six weeks after the wedding.

Rumor: You only need to get your gown preserved if you think a family member will want to wear it someday.

Result: Busted

“The reason is, you're preserving your gown the way it looked on your wedding day for an indefinite period of time. We had somebody who wanted to have her gown displayed at her 50th wedding anniversary party,” Margaret says, adding: “A bride may not want to wear her mother's dress, but she may want to use parts of it. She might want to use the veil or harvest some lace from it and use it in her bouquet.”

Rumor: Only dresses made of certain materials need to be preserved.

Result: Busted

“I've restored dresses that are synthetic or silk, and anything can turn yellow,” Greg says. “The silks are more critical, but even synthetics can turn yellow.”

Rumor: Any items you wore on your wedding day can go in the preservation box.

Result: Partially confirmed

“That would be true as long as they're all fabric items,” Margaret says. “Flowers and shoes can't go in [the preservation chest]. I discourage metal pieces.”

Rumor: Removing the gown from the preservation box will “undo” the preservation.

Result: Partially confirmed

“A successful preservation is a clean gown put into a proper environment, which is an acid-free chest,” Margaret says. “There's no chemical, except for what's used for cleaning. So what can cause undoing of the preservation is to take it out and handle it with your [bare] hands,” which can leave oils from your skin or perfume on the fabric.

Rumor: Once your dress is in the preservation box, it's bomb-proof—you can just toss the box in storage and forget about it.

Result: Busted

“You can't put it in the basement,” Margaret says. “Moisture is going to breech that bridal chest. And then if you put it in an attic, it bakes, basically. A closet or under the bed is the best place to store it.”