Preserving an antique garment is a delicate and potentially nerve-wracking task. All things age or wear with time, but cloth is especially prone to deterioration. However, with proper care and maintenance, you can protect vintage clothing from ill effects. Doing so requires a gentle hand, especially if you're working with a wedding dress, which is likely to have fine, delicate details. Nevertheless, you can restore or retain the integrity of a gown for years to come.
Mend any tears, rips or holes. Friction and chemicals from cleaning can worsen defects, so it's best to remedy them first.
Mix together 1 gallon of water, 1/4-cup of gentle soap and 1/4-cup of non-chlorine bleach. Make this washing solution in a sink or similar-sized container.
Fully immerse the dress in the washing solution. Don't move it around once it's thoroughly saturated.
Leave the dress to soak until you notice the solution has begun to discolor. Over time, the cleaning chemicals will pull the dirt out of the fabric, causing the solution to darken slightly. This may take two or three hours.
Remove the garment from the water once the water is discolored. Discard the solution and prepare another batch if the dress still needs brightening. Repeat the soaking process.
Discard the solution and replace it with fresh water. Soak the dress in the water to remove excess cleaning chemicals. Let the garment soak for one hour.
Remove the dress from the water. Lay or hang it outside in direct contact with sunlight. If you lay it down, turn the dress periodically. Make sure the entire dress receives prolonged, direct sun exposure.
Iron the dress once it's fully dry. Turn the dress inside-out. Use the low setting on the iron. Place a layer of thin cotton material between the dress and the iron.
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