If wine hits your wedding dress, don’t panic—use these expert tips.

This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in December 2019.

Just thinking about a smudge or splash sullying the wedding attire is enough to send some into a stress-dream spiral. But the reality is, these things sometimes happen—be it from a rogue meatball or a fresh bed of mulch. If you fall victim to a sartorial smear, don’t fret! Many stains can be removed or mitigated by following a few calm and slow steps. We asked Greg Butler, who owns Dublin Cleaners with his wife, Margaret, to share his expert insights into when to blot, and when to not.

First things first: If the stain happens before your wedding day, call a dry cleaner that has experience working with the delicate fabrics of a wedding gown. Not only do the pros know how each stain type and fabric should be handled, they often are willing to rush an order when needed.

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“A lady brought a gently-used wedding dress on a Wednesday, because it had arrived later than expected; we cleaned and pressed it Thursday, and she wore it that Saturday,” Butler says. “If it’s before the wedding, there’s a lot we can do to improve the problem; 95 percent of the time, the stain will come out for us or be greatly diminished. We’re generally able to do most anything for people [with an urgent need] within 48 hours.”

He confides that the nastiest common wedding-attire offenders tend to be red wine, asphalt and oil (picked up from parking lots, driveways or paths), though even those can usually be removed by a professional. To be on the safe side, take small sips and high steps.

If stains happen during your big day and are too obvious to be covered up or ignored, Butler advises to stay calm and gently blot, avoiding the urge to frantically rub, as “80 to 90 percent of stains will get worse as you try to rub them. Chances are, you’ll make it spread. People tend to get anxious and in a hurry and make it worse.”

According to Butler, synthetic polyester is sturdier and generally will hold up to heartier stain-fighting efforts, though he warns that commercials for detergent pens and wipes tend to show basic stains and fabrics, so results may be underwhelming.

Silk fabrics, on the other hand, are quite delicate and require more care. Because detergents and liquids can displace color and leave rings, he recommends blotting silk dresses and ties gently (if absolutely determined to attempt DIY stain-fighting) with a slightly damp, white cotton cloth. For smaller stains on white or ivory fabric, some have found an effective temporary stain cover-up in simple classroom chalk. Butler confirms that chalk generally will not damage fabric.

That said, Butler’s most important expert tip is simply to keep things in perspective. “The less you do, the better off you are,” he advises. “[Stains are] not that big a deal. Everybody at your wedding knows what’s going on; it’s nothing to get too upset about.”


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