We've got the answers to all your wedding dress cleaning queries.
Why is it so expensive to clean my wedding dress?
Cleaning a wedding gown isn’t cheap, but there is good reason for it. Wedding dresses are handled by an entirely different department from the rest of the drycleaning we do, it doesn’t just go through standard processes. Our bridal specialist cleans the gowns entirely by hand initially, followed by any dipping or machine cleaning required. The level of care and skill involved is significantly more than any other items.
An evening gown might cost $200 - $500, so if we are handling a wedding gown that costs $2,000 - $20,000 to purchase, this is up to 50x more valuable regarding monetary value, let alone the sentimental value. People entrust us with these extremely high value, extremely precious garments, and in return we handle them with the utmost care and individuality. We have a strong reputation for producing beautiful results on wedding gowns, and we clean gowns with values of up to $30,000. Our specialists dedicate their time to individually assessing the gown, pre cleaning and hand cleaning, followed by dipping or machine cleaning, pressing, often recleaning after pressing if any further stains are discovered, repressing, quality control and finishing touches. The pressing alone can take hours, especially with beautiful detailing such as lace and flowers, and long trains. Veils are included in the cleaning cost as well as any additional components that are part of the gown.
At the end of the day, you are paying for 30 years of experience and skills, and the highest level of care and service, for one of the most expensive and precious garments you will ever own.
Why are there so many risks?
When you bring in your gown for assessment, you may have a discussion or receive an email with a lot of different risks mentioned, and a consent form. Gowns are complex pieces of art, that are made by varying designers with varying fabrics and components, special detailing and are really made ‘to wear’ not ‘to clean’. Unlike everyday garments that are sold in retail stores and worn regularly, there isn’t much focus on how the gown will be cleaned during the design process.
We think the transparency of all the potential risks is critical when dealing with items that are so special to our customers. They are intended to allow the customer to make a fully informed decision, as opposed to the alternative, which is to not mention risks. This approach might be fine 99.9% of the time, but the 0.1% where something may go wrong it would be unacceptable (in our opinion) for our customer to have been advised that there were no risks with something so important.
Over the past 30 years based on feedback from customers and our experience, we believe that the transparent and fully informed approach is always the best one. Therefore, we have all the risks mentioned and a consent form, but it certainly doesn’t mean that we think any of these risks would happen, nor are likely to all. It is a possibility, and it is important for you to be aware of that, but we are also confident in our skills and experience and have a long and successful reputation with over 20,000 gowns cleaned absolutely perfectly.
Why does it take so long to clean?
We say gowns take 8-10 weeks during the ‘off season’ and up to 12 weeks during the busy season. The timeframe is because we are cleaning thousands of gowns a year, and with the hand cleaning and specialist attention required, we often have up to 200 gowns at any given time in the queue. We can always bump any gown up the priority list when it is needed sooner and can do them as fast as a week when required. Generally, brides don’t require the gown in a rush (as it has been worn for its only event!) so it isn’t an issue, but if the timeframe was ever an issue, we can always work some magic.
Should I try clean it somewhere else that is cheaper?
There are lots of options out there nowadays for a cheap quick clean of your wedding gown. There are several online operators that may have cool names, but don’t exist physically as a store that you can visit. These operators often don’t actually do the cleaning themselves and outsource them to different drycleaners depending on where you are in the country. Other wedding gown cleaners do exist physically but aren’t necessarily specialists in this area. They simply haven’t had the quantity and experience that we have had to be able to offer the same level of service. We have done approx. 20,000 wedding gowns at our Regal Newmarket facility, and many members of our team have been here for over 10 years, a few have been here for over 20 years. It’s extremely unlikely that others would have the same experience to compare to.
You may wonder, does it really matter? A clean is a clean? Well, sometimes. I am sure there are many instances where a cheaper provider, or outsourced option has cleaned gowns very successfully. But we don’t hear about those stories, we only hear about the horror stories. Just last week someone sent a gown to us from the South Island after sending a pleading enquiry to our website. Their local drycleaner had not been able to remove the stains on their gown. We will now clean the gown and the customer will end up paying for 2 gown cleans (so it certainly isn’t cheaper anymore), but that that’s not the worst part. Once a drycleaner has attempted to remove stains and failed, the chances of us being able to remove them are significantly less. As soon as certain cleaning products, and especially once heat is used on the stains, it is so much harder to remove, and often impossible. Another customer from Auckland brought us their gown that was soiled when the gown was altered pre wedding. Her dress maker sent it to be cleaned somewhere else nearby, apparently cleaned 7 times and came back worse each time. She cried in our Newmarket store when she brought it to us, and then almost cried again (with joy) when we gave her back a perfect gown after we sorted it out.
So, should you clean elsewhere for cheaper? Possibly, but keep in mind that if they fail to clean the gown perfectly, you won’t just be up for double the money, but you may never get the stains out. Also, when using online services, remember to question who is cleaning your gown, where are they located, and can you go in and see their facility.
Should I get it preserved or not?
Deciding what to do with your gown after it is cleaned can be a tricky and personal decision. If you are planning to sell your gown, then obviously preservation is not necessary. But if you are undecided, wanting to keep it, or pass it on, then its important that you find a way to minimize risks of aging and damage.
No fabrics or clothing does well sitting around for years or even decades, they just aren’t made to do that, so there can be issues if you do not properly preserve your gown. The most common issue is yellowing age marks, these can be severe and extremely difficult to remove. Fabric can also weaken, especially where age marks have appeared. If you are planning to keep your gown, the first most important thing is that it is not kept in plastic. We obviously recommend it should be preserved, in either a box or a bag.
The museum quality preservation boxes we use are from the USA, the gown is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and muslin wrap before being placed in the preservation box. An alternative option that saves space is our preservation bags. These are also made of muslin and are actually used by Warner Brothers to store costumes long term! Its important to note that no box or bag can completely remove the risk of aging and yellowing, especially over a long period of time, but they will significantly slow down this process. Its also important to know that if you preserve or store your gown WITHOUT cleaning it, then stains that were previously transparent (white wine/champagne, perspiration) will definitely yellow, and quite fast.