How to Wash a Silk Wedding Dress: Step-by-Step Guide

As a bride, you likely spent countless hours finding the perfect silk wedding dress to make you feel like a princess on your big day.

To preserve the delicate fabric for years to come, proper cleaning is crucial.

This guide will walk you through hand washing your silk gown at home, from inspection to drying and storage.

Follow these best practices to keep your dress in pristine condition for generations.

silk wedding dress

Why Proper Care is Essential for Silk Wedding Dresses

Silk is a luxurious but delicate material that requires special handling, especially for formalwear like a wedding dress.

The fibers can easily snag, tear, or become discolored if cleaned improperly.

Following the manufacturer’s care instructions is key. Most silk garments need to be hand washed or dry cleaned to avoid damage from machine washing.

Being cautious will preserve your silk wedding dress in its original glory. You want to avoid:

  • Fading or yellowing from harsh detergents
  • Snags and pulls from rough handling
  • Shrinkage from hot water temperatures
  • Loss of beading or appliqués from agitation

With the proper techniques, you can keep your silk wedding dress looking brand new even after many years in storage.

pristine white silk cloth

Gathering the Necessary Cleaning Supplies

Before washing your silk wedding dress, assemble the following supplies:

  • Mild liquid detergent: Choose a gentle detergent made specifically for delicates and silk. Avoid regular laundry detergent as it can be too harsh.
  • Large basin or bathtub: You’ll need a basin big enough to lay your dress flat for cleaning. The bathtub often works well.
  • Vinegar: For pretreating certain stains. Dilute with water.
  • Soft towels: Have several clean towels on hand to gently press water from the dress.
  • Garment bag: To store the dress after washing and drying. Look for breathable, cotton garment bags.
  • Gloves: Wear gloves during washing to prevent transferring dirt and oils onto the silk.
  • Soft-bristle brush: Helpful for gently scrubbing soiled areas. Make sure it is silk-safe.
  • Color catcher sheets: These help absorb excess dye during the wash cycle.
  • Seam ripper: For removing beading, appliques, or embroidery before washing.

Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) is perfect for silk fabrics. It cleans deeply without harming the delicate nature of silk, keeping it as luxurious as ever.

heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

Gather all supplies and prep your workspace before filling the basin/tub with cool water for washing.

Inspecting Your Silk Wedding Dress for Stains

Before wetting your wedding dress, inspect the entire gown for stains that may need pretreatment. Look along the hem, train, bodice, and underside of sleeves.

Common stains you may encounter:

  • Food or drink stains: Grease, oil, wine, chocolate, etc.
  • Grass or dirt stains: Often found along the hem or train.
  • Perspiration stains: Underarms are prone to discoloration.
  • Cosmetic stains: Makeup and self-tanner can transfer.

If you spot a stain:

  • Identify the stain type if possible.
  • Mix a pretreatment solution appropriate for that stain.
  • Use a clean cloth to gently blot the stain. Avoid vigorous rubbing.
  • Let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes to penetrate the fibers.
  • Rinse the area with cool water before washing the full dress.

This helps prevent the stain from setting during the wash process.

white silk fabric fineness

Recommended Stain Removal Methods

Use the following pretreatments for common wedding dress stains:

Type of StainTreatment
Food stainsMix warm water with a small amount of mild detergent. Gently dab on the stain.
Dirt/mud stainsTry pretreating with a paste of water and baking soda. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Grass stainsPretreat with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water to avoid damaging silk.
Oil/grease stainsDab cornstarch on the spot and let it sit before brushing it off. Avoid using water or vinegar on these stains.
Wine stainsCreate a solution of 3 parts water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide. Apply gently to the stain and let sit for a few minutes.
Perspiration stainsRub a paste of baking soda and water on the underarms before washing.
Cosmetic stainsGently dab liquid makeup remover onto the stain. Avoid pulling or tugging.
Unknown stainsTry a few drops of mild, pH-neutral soap in water. Test on an inconspicuous area first.

Always rinse with cool water after pretreatment and before washing. This prevents stains from setting.

Hand Washing Your Silk Wedding Dress

Once you’ve pretreated any visible stains, follow these steps for hand washing your silk wedding gown:

1. Fill basin/tub with cool water

  • Fill your clean basin or tub with enough cool water to submerge your dress.
  • For a large gown, you may need to wash sections separately.
  • Add a small amount of silk-safe detergent to the water. A teaspoon is usually sufficient.

2. Gently lower dress into water

  • Gradually lower your dress into the water, letting the fabric become fully saturated.
  • Lay the dress flat in the tub and avoid bunching up the fabric.
  • Use your gloved hands to gently move the dress around in the water. Do not agitate or twist.

3. Allow the dress to soak briefly

  • Let your dress soak for 2-3 minutes once fully submerged.
  • This allows the detergent to penetrate stains.
  • But avoid extended soaking, which can damage silk fibers.

4. Drain dirty water and refill with clean

  • Drain the dirty wash water from the basin. Do not wring out the dress.
  • Refill the tub with cool, clean water to rinse the dress.

5. Rinse dress until water runs clear

  • Move the wet dress slowly around in the clean rinse water.
  • Rinse until the water comes out completely clear.
  • Repeat the rinse cycle if needed to remove all soap residue.

6. Drain water and gently press out excess

  • Drain the rinse water completely. Do not wring or twist the dress to remove water.
  • Gently press towels against the dress to absorb excess moisture. Focus on one section at a time.
  • Lay flat on a clean towel in a well-ventilated area and let air dry completely before storage.

The key is to handle the wet silk fabric gently at all times. Never wring, twist, scrub, or stretch the dress when washing. This can cause permanent damage to the silk fibers.

Explore the ideal methods for washing silk gowns for special occasions.

white silk wedding dress

When Machine Washing May Work

While dry cleaning or hand washing are best for silk wedding dresses, machine washing may be possible in some cases.

You can machine wash your silk dress only if:

  • The care label specifically says “Machine Wash.”
  • The dress has a simple A-line design sans embellishments.
  • Your machine has a “delicates” cycle and low-agitation wash mode.
silk fabric care label

If attempting to machine wash:

  • Use a mesh garment bag to protect the silk fabric.
  • Wash alone on a delicate cycle using cool water.
  • Use minimal, silk-safe detergent.
  • Line dry only – never put in the dryer!

However, machine washing risks damage to beadwork, lace, or other embellishments. It can also cause excess stress on seams or silk tears.

Consult a wedding gown preservationist if unsure whether your dress can withstand machine washing. Hand washing is always the safest method.

Drying Your Silk Wedding Dress

After washing your silk wedding dress, it’s crucial to let it fully air dry to prevent mildew and shrinkage.

Follow these drying guidelines:

  • Lay the dress flat on a clean towel or drying rack. Silk is prone to water spots.
  • Reshape the bodice gently while still damp. This prevents creases from prolonged hanging.
  • Use your gloved hands to lightly shape and smooth out the skirt and train.
  • Make sure the dress is completely dry before storing it to prevent yellowing – this may take up to 12 hours.
  • Point a fan on the dress to speed up drying time if needed. Avoid direct heat or sunlight.
  • Once dry, steam or press with an iron if needed to remove any wrinkles or creases. Use the lowest setting.

Proper drying ensures your silk dress maintains its shape and structure after washing. Never hang or bunch up silk fabric when wet.

white silk material elegance

Storing Your Silk Wedding Dress

The final step is storing your dress properly after washing so it stays protected when not in wear. Follow these storage tips:

  • Store your wedding dress lying flat or on a wide, padded hanger to maintain the shape.
  • Keep the dress in a cool, dry place away from direct light sources. Attics or basements can damage the silk.
  • Cover the dress in a breathable cotton garment bag and zip closed. This prevents dust buildup.
  • Store your dress lying flat if possible. Fold along seams sparingly to help it keep its shape.
  • Consider using acid-free tissue paper to buffer and cushion folded areas.
  • Avoid using plastic bags or dry cleaner bags, which trap moisture.
  • Hang or store your dress away from other garments to avoid color transfer.
  • Check on the dress every 6 months or so. Refold or reshape if needed. Watch for yellowing.

Proper storage keeps your silk wedding gown preserved in pristine, wearable condition so you can still fit into it for your 5, 10, 20+ year anniversaries!

With the proper care, your dress will become an heirloom to pass down.

Special Considerations for Silk Satin and Lace Dresses

While the washing, drying, and storage principles are similar for all silk wedding dresses, satin, and lace fabrics have a few special considerations:

For silk satin:

  • Pretreat oil-based stains quickly as satin absorbs them rapidly
  • Use extra care when moving or reshaping to avoid permanent creases
  • Wash sequins, pearls, or beading separately to avoid snags
  • Lay flat immediately after washing to prevent water spots

For silk lace:

  • Hand wash only to avoid rips, tears, or lost lace pieces
  • Avoid harsh scrubbing and use extra gentle detergent
  • Reshape and smooth out lace sections after washing
  • Use acid-free tissue or fabric buffers when folding or storing
  • Check regularly for snags or holes developing in the delicate lace
white beige silk fabric combination

With extra precautions, both silk satin and lace wedding dresses can be cleaned and preserved successfully at home.

Discover how to wash silk sarees without losing their vibrancy and texture.

When to Consider Professional Dry Cleaning

While hand washing is the ideal cleaning method for silk wedding dresses, professional dry cleaning is sometimes the safer option.

Consider sending your dress to a specialty dry cleaner if:

  • It has an intricate train with bustles, flounces, or heavy beading that would be very difficult to hand wash properly.
  • The dress is highly structured and may lose its shape without steam pressing at the dry cleaner.
  • You do not feel confident attempting the hand-washing process for your wedding dress.
  • The dress has stubborn stains that did not come out from home pretreatment.

Ask for recommendations from other brides so you choose a reputable dry cleaner. Be sure to specify it is a high-value garment requiring special care.

Alternate DIY Cleaning Methods to Try

While dry cleaning or hand washing are the standard methods for silk wedding dresses, you can also try these alternate DIY approaches:

  • Spot clean only – For minor stains, use a silk-safe spot cleaner and gently dab the soiled area. Avoid wetting the entire dress unnecessarily.
  • Steam clean – Use a handheld steamer on problem areas like underarms. The heat can sanitize and freshen.
  • Vodka spritz – Some brides recommend gently misting vodka on veils or dresses to remove odors and perspiration buildup. Test first!
  • Freezing – For gum or wax stuck on silk, try freezing the area to harden the substance so it chips off more easily. Use caution not to damage beads or embroidery.
  • vinegar rinse – When hand washing, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse water to further remove detergent residue and brighten the silk.

Always start with the gentlest method possible to clean your treasured silk wedding dress. 

The goal is to disturb the delicate fabric as little as possible while still keeping it beautiful for generations.

beige and white silk fabric blend

Tips for Cleaning an Heirloom or Vintage Silk Wedding Dress

For fragile heirloom dresses, extra precautions are needed to clean and preserve them. Here are some cleaning tips for vintage silk wedding gowns:

  • Hand wash only, using minimal and gentlest detergent possible.
  • Do not fully submerge the dress. Carefully spot clean stained areas only.
  • Pad out any structured areas like the bodice before attempting to wash.
  • Handle the fabric extremely gently and do not reshape or stretch the dress.
  • Dry slowly and reshape while still damp, allowing it to fully air dry.
  • Consider having a professional textile specialist do any needed repairs before attempting to clean.
  • Store the vintage dress in an acid-free box with archival tissue paper rather than hanging it.
  • Display your vintage gown in a dress form rather than wearing it if highly fragile.

With great care, even the most delicate heirloom wedding dress can be preserved and passed down for generations to enjoy.


Cleaning your treasured silk wedding gown properly takes time, care, and patience. But it is well worth the effort to extend the life of your dress for decades to come.

Always start by checking the fabric content label and following the recommended cleaning methods. When in doubt, go with the most gentle approach possible.

By keeping your silk dress away from harsh chemicals, heat, sunlight, and abrasion, you can maintain its soft, flowing beauty and wear it down the aisle all over again for your 10 or 20-year anniversary!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *