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How to Care for Heirloom Textiles


Here are a few tips for preserving those special dresses or other textiles

You may have a wedding, christening, or First Communion dress that you wish to preserve. While there is no guarantee that you can prevent damage over time, you can take a few precautions that may help.

The most important step is to make sure the garment is clean before putting it in storage. If it has been worn, there may be invisible stains that will not show up until months later. Body oils, perspiration, residue from antiperspirants and perfumes, plus unnoticed debris from eating and drinking all contribute to future staining. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning - either at home or at a dry cleaners.

For specialty clothing, especially wedding gowns, ask the sales representative for specifics on cleaning and preserving. If you are directed to use dry cleaning, make sure they are equipped to handle heirloom textiles. You may not need the extra "anti-bacterial" treatment as most general dry cleaning processes will address this issue.

Remember, too, that any beading may cause problems, especially if the dress is made with faux pearls. These, along with the glue that holds them, can dissolve during the dry cleaning process.

Check garments at least once a year to check for signs of aging or damage. Remove from packaging to make a thorough inspection. Wrinkles and stains, once set, may be difficult to remove.

If hand washing is acceptable use the mildest type of detergent. You can let the garment soak and then gently rub any spots. Rinse thoroughly to remove any soap or pre-treatment residue.

For storage, lay flat if possible, and use acid-free tissue (white) and boxes. Allow for air circulation. Avoid colored tissue, which could transfer color when wet and never use cardboard boxes or plastic bags. Cotton sheets will work, but re-wash them at least during the annual inspection.

The above tips are very basic ideas for preserving special garments. You should always talk with a professional before attempting to clean an heirloom textile.


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