A stiff, shiny fabric often used for special occasion dresses, taffeta is traditionally made from silk fibers. Synthetics -- such as polyester, acetate, nylon and rayon -- often make up newer taffeta fabrics. Take silk taffeta to a professional dry cleaner, because dry cleaning prevents water stains and maintains the fabric's softness and sheen. However, taffeta dresses made of sturdy synthetic fibers can withstand careful home laundering according to the garment care tag instructions.
Fill a sink or large basin with lukewarm or cold water. Although taffeta is shrink-resistant, hot water may cause colors to bleed or fade. Add a capful of gentle shampoo or soap for hand washables. Never use bleach, which is harsh and may strip the color from the garment.
Dunk the taffeta dress gently in and out of the sudsy water. Use gentle motions and avoid rough handling or agitation.
Rinse the dress twice, or until the water runs clear and all soap residue is removed.
Squeeze the excess water carefully from the dress. Avoid wringing or twisting, which may stretch the fabric and distort the shape of the garment.
Roll the dress in a clean white towel to remove excess moisture, then hang the dress on a rustproof hanger.
Allow the dress to dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid direct sunlight, which may weaken the fibers.