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Make Every ‘I Do’ a Can-Do

Martin L. Young Jr. |

The ad promotes outdoor weddings by a lake. It doesn’t mention anything about geese, or what they might leave behind on the shore. Traditional wedding dresses are white, and many have long trains. Outside, lakeshore, geese, long train, white… “Does anyone know a professional drycleaner?!”
Wedding dresses and gowns are a great way to diversify your income stream with little or no additional investment. The business requires specific knowledge about fibers, fabrics and trims — and some effort. Building a reputation as the go-to guy for wedding gowns is an excellent way to enhance your image and differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Many of the wedding dresses you’ll receive will be made of white polyester, the choice of many designers and manufacturers. Polyester is a sturdy synthetic fiber that lends itself to a shiny satin weave. Stains won’t penetrate this fiber readily, so the foods and beverages spilled on them will usually come out with a minimum of wet-side spotting.
Inspection is key to proper processing. Place a safety pin at the end of the seam in the center of the back of the dress, at the longest point of the train. Hang the bodice on a strong plastic hanger in an area with excellent lighting. Place the safety pin over the hook of a hanger and extend the train to its full length, with any bustles opened.
Hook the hanger with the safety pin so that you can inspect the bodice and train by placing a hand under the hem and walking around the dress. On the first pass, look for stains in the body. On the second, inspect the hemline.
Spot the body of the dress on the wet side by hanging the bodice while spotting the skirt; then reverse it, hanging the train while spotting the bodice. Spot any water-soluble stains (food, beverage, pollen, etc.) first, and allow them to dry while working out the hemline on the dry side.
You may wish to include the underarms in your wet-side treatment to remove any evidence of a nervous bride. The hemline is also often soiled heavily from dragging on the ground and floor.
Hang the bodice of the dress and pull the train onto the spotting board for dry-side spotting. Use the safety pin in the back seam as a starting point and work your way around the entire hemline, tamping when necessary.
On the first pass, you can assume that the soil is bonded to the hemline with oil and wax. Your first choice for stain removal should be conservative: A solution of two parts spray spotter and one part volatile dry solvent (VDS) in a spotting bottle will serve you well in removing the majority of the soil.
There is usually a relatively large portion of material turned under at the hem; use this to your advantage by “rolling” the hemline so that the soiled portion is flanked on each side by an inch of fabric. After working the hemline out, hang the dress to dry before drycleaning.
Hang the train and open the back of the dress fully. Place the top of the dress face-down on the nose of the spotting board, exposing the inside of the neckline and bodice. Work the neckline with a mild paint, oil and grease (POG) remover and VDS to remove makeup and body oils. Use a spray spotter on the insides of the underarms.BEADS AND TRIMS
Ornate trims make things more complicated. Take the time to test each variation of trim attached to the dress. Take the time; protect the garment.
Many beads are coated Styrofoam — a substance that’s damaged easily by solvents and spotting agents. Sequins are also fragile, especially if they’re painted to match a white dress. Occasionally, you’ll find rhinestones on a wedding dress; their shiny backings can soften easily in some solvents, producing a “foggy” appearance.
For wedding gowns with care labels that mention water, wetcleaning may be an option. Wetcleaning means strict control of detergent pH, mechanical action, temperature, conditioning and drying.
Prespot the hem with a laundry degreaser or citrus-based product. Turn the gown inside-out and place it in an oversized nylon bag. Do not use large laundry pins; they can damage the trim or fabric; instead, pick a zipper bag or double-tie the bag with cotton cord. Wetclean the gown and hang it to dry overnight.
To reduce finishing time, tension the dress slightly by using a sturdy plastic hanger for the bodice and safety pins at the ends of the seams in the train. After securing the bodice, stretch the train, put large (#64 or larger) rubber bands over the safety pins, and place the other end of the rubber band over the top of a hanger. Hook the hanger so that the rubber bands stretch slightly.
Silk wedding dresses are fragile, and you should respect that fact. Use water only to spot wet-side stains, and prespot the gown on the dry side as much as possible. Try a general dry-side or silk prespotter. Try a mixture of two parts spray spotter and one part VDS on the hemline, and allow the gown to dry completely before drycleaning.
Silk weakens when wet and chafes under even minimal mechanical action. Chafing changes the way the fabric reflects light, often causing a dull, unappealing and highly noticeable appearance.
All gowns offer the opportunity to diversify your business and enhance your reputation as a professional. By taking the time to apply your knowledge of garment characteristics and stain-removal chemistry, you can succeed where many others fear to go — at a profit.

About the author

Martin L. Young Jr.

Industry Consultant and Trainer

Martin L. Young Jr. has been an industry consultant and trainer for the last 18 years, and a member of various stakeholder groups on environmental issues. He is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Launderers & Cleaners (NCALC). He grew up in his parents’ plant in Concord, N.C., Young Cleaners, which he operates to this day. Contact him by phone at 704-786-3011, or via e-mail at mayoung@vnet.net.

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