As you get ready for your wedding day, you’ve tried to guard against anything that can go wrong, from a rainstorm to tears of happiness that ruin your makeup. But, throughout the long day, you know your dress will be exposed to a number of potential hazards, and that it might get stained along the way.

No matter how careful you are when it comes to sipping your wine and keeping your train off the ground, there’s always the chance that you’ll get caught up in the moment and let your guard down. In fact, you should—you can’t let your dress-anxiety spoil your celebration. But, what should you do if something does stain your dress on the big day? To prepare yourself, read on for our top five tips on how to get a stain out of a wedding dress.

Tip #1: Know Your Dress

Whether you’re wearing a white wedding gown, a red saree, or an eclectic jumpsuit, it’s always possible that you’ll end up with a stain on your outfit at some point on your wedding day. The first line of defense is your knowledge about your wedding garment. Before you take it out on the town, be sure to ask its seller:

  • What fabric is the dress made of?
  • What are the embellishments (lace, etc.) made of?
  • Are there any care instructions?
  • Are there any absolute no-nos when it comes to treating stains on the dress?

Knowing how to treat your dress’ specific fabric is important. While you may be able to pop a polyester wedding dress in the wash while finishing your makeup, the same isn’t true for a silk dress with intricate embroidery. Once you know the dos and don’ts of your specific fabric and embellishments, you can start taking steps to address the stain.

Wedding Dress Stain Removal Tips Photo Credit // Sweet Alive Photography

Tip #2: When in Doubt, Dab

So, you have a wedding dress stain—step one is to take a deep breath. It’s not as bad as you think it is. Keep calm, carry on, and start troubleshooting your stain. You’ve probably removed stains from clothes in the past, and the same basic principles apply to your wedding dress. The steps to removing a stain include:

- Protect the garment’s other side. If you’re not wearing your dress yet, and, perhaps, even if you are, you want to isolate the affected segment so that it doesn’t make contact with other parts of the dress. Place a towel underneath the affected area.

- Find a clean white napkin. While paper towels and toilet paper can be handy, you don’t want paper fibers sticking to your dress (especially if it has embellishments).

- Blot the stain. Use a clean cloth to remove as much pigment or liquid as possible. Do not rub. Your goal is to gently, quickly remove whatever you can before it dries or settles into the fiber.

- Test your cleaner. If you have a Tide stick, lemon juice, or other stain-removing cleaner, test it on a discreet part of the dress to make sure that it doesn’t cause any fading or discoloration.

- Blot to clean. Apply your cleaner of choice to another corner of your clean napkin. Blot to transfer it onto the stain. Continue blotting until the stain is removed.

- Dry the area. You don’t want an odd wet spot showing up in your photos, so if there’s a hairdryer handy, spend some time drying the spot.

While these basic instructions can help deal with most stains, having a plan for any circumstance and stain might help you keep peace of mind on your big day. Read on to learn more about specific cleansing protocols for wedding dress stain removal.

Tip # 3: Assemble an Emergency Stain Kit

From your guests’ lipsticked kisses, your reception meal, and even the very ground you’ll walk on, your environment will be full of things that stain. It can be overwhelming to imagine all the perils your dress may face, but preparing ahead of time can help you stay grounded in the event that your dress is eventually stained.

To guard against any possible stain, put together an emergency kit with the following:

  • A stain stick
  • A clean napkin
  • Dish soap
  • White vinegar or lemon juice
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cornstarch or baby powder
  • Chalk in a color that matches your dress

To better understand how and when you can put these must-haves to use, let’s look at some common culprits for wedding dress stains.

Tip #4 Treat Your Specific Stain

Different stains require different treatments. While it might be perfectly safe to dab a little water on the spot where you dropped cake icing, the same technique could cause an ink stain to spread and spread. Use your emergency kit wisely, depending on the kind of stain you suffer.

Cosmetic Stains

Your own makeup and your guests’ are equally likely to stain your gown. Be sure to cover your dress when having your makeup done, and ask your makeup artist to use a setting spray to help you keep your game-day face on. Besides that, prepare for these specific types of cosmetic and personal care product stains.

Lipstick and Makeup

Eye shadows, lipsticks, and foundations are made of a variety of different ingredients, and, unfortunately, none of them come with a stain removal guide. However, because most are oil-based, there are some common methods that should work. If your granny stains the sleeve of your dress during a long embrace, try out the following tricks:

  • If there’s excess makeup, try to scrape it off with a spoon.
  • Use a stain removal stick.
  • Use the blotting instructions above with rubbing alcohol.

Mascara

Formulated with oil, mascara often contains wax or other ingredients to make it waterproof—that means dabbing alone might not work. If you get a little teary and forget your sleeve is the last thing you should use to wipe your eyes, try:

  • Using rubbing alcohol, as noted above.
  • Creating a solution of dish soap and water to dab the stain.

Deodorant

If your deodorant makes its way onto the armpits of your dress, leaving behind an unsettling white residue, use a dryer sheet or pantyhose to dab at the stains.

Food and Drink

Beyond makeup, the most likely time that you’ll stain your dress is while eating your post-ceremony meal. You may have planned your entire menu to avoid such mishaps, but when all else fails, use the solution that best treats your stain.

Oily Stains

If some stray salad dressing lands on your dress, start by trying to absorb the oil. Use the following instructions:

  1. Place baby powder or cornstarch over the oil and let it sit as long as you can (we know, you have to circulate, too).
  2. Follow up by dabbing with rubbing alcohol or a stain stick to remove the borders of the stain.
  3. Dry the spot.

Wedding Dress Stain Removal Tips Photo Credit // Manuel Montenegro Photography

Red Wine and Other Dark Stains

Red wine is one of the most fearsome threats to a white dress, but coffee and other dark liquids are also cause for worry. Dab stains from dark liquids with a solution of lemon juice or white vinegar to remove the stain.

Environment and Venue

If you’re having an outdoor wedding, be prepared against the common stain culprits in your environment.

  • Dirt and grass stains. As with red wine and coffee, try a solution of vinegar or lemon juice. Mix in a drop of dish soap for extra stain-fighting power.

  • Blood. Use hydrogen peroxide and water to blot blood and other protein-based stains (i.e. sweat).

  • Smoke Bombs. Do smoke bombs stain wedding dresses? The answer is yes. If you’re looking to add drama to your wedding portraits, these are high reward, but also high risk. If you do stain your dress, use a vinegar and soap mixture to dab at the stain.

  • Ink. If you have a small ink stain, try blotting with a dish soap solution. However, if it’s large, it’s better to leave it alone then end up accidentally spreading it. Try to cover it up, instead.

Tip #5: If All Else Fails, Hide It

If a stain just won’t come out, don’t let it ruin your day. We promise, your guests aren’t paying nearly as much attention to it as you are. To cover up your stain during your big day, try any of the following:

  • Cornstarch
  • Baby powder
  • Chalk in a color as close as possible to your dress

Take another deep breath, get back out there, and enjoy your day. You can take your garment to the cleaners later. Professionals may have more tools for getting your wedding dress back to its pristine form.

Plan Your Wedding With Zola

Getting married can be stressful for any couple. From wedding dress stains, keeping track of RSVPs, to planning the perfect registry, all the steps involved leave you worrying about everything simultaneously. At Zola, our goal is to make planning your ceremony and reception easy so that you can enjoy your day and roll with the punches. After all, what’s a little stain when you’ve just spoken your vows to the person you love most in the world?