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Kiss those wine, mud, and makeup stains goodbye.

By Mary Marlowe Leverette
April 07, 2021
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You've found the perfect wedding dress and chosen your colors, a venue, and a theme to showcase its beauty. But because perfection is so difficult to maintain, a stain appears on the dress and is as obvious as a flashing neon sign. Don't panic, there are ways to remove stains from a wedding dress, even at the last minute.

Rules for Removing Stains From a Wedding Dress

The number one rule of stain removal is don't make it worse. Never go with your first instinct to rub or scrub the stain on your wedding dress. Instead, if the stain comes from a liquid, use a white paper or cotton towel to blot away as much moisture as possible. For solid residue on the fabric of the dress, use the edge of a spoon, a dull knife, or a credit card to gently lift it away.

When it is time to treat the stain, always work from the outer edges toward the center to help prevent the stain from spreading. All cleaning products should be tested first on an interior seam to make sure there is no color change or damage to the fabric. Once the stain is removed, if you must dry the area in a hurry, use a hairdryer, but be sure to keep it set on low heat and at least six inches away from the dress to prevent damage to the fabric, trim, and beading.

How to Remove Stains from a Wedding Dress, 2 women in white wedding gowns
Credit: Getty Images

Stock Up on Stain Removal Supplies

  • Cotton swabs
  • White cotton or paper towels
  • Clear dishwashing liquid
  • Stain removal wipes or pen
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Sticky tape
  • Dull edged knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Baby powder, cornstarch, baking soda, white or off-white chalk

Out, Damned Spot, Out (or at Least Hide), I Say

If a stain finds your dress in the weeks before the wedding, the safest bet is to take it to a professional dry cleaner. But if there isn't time for all that, here are some tips on how to remove or hide different types of stains on your wedding dress and save the day.

How to Remove Common Stains from a Wedding Dress

Pollen

Whether the yellow stuff comes from your bouquet or the great outdoors, it can leave a nasty stain. Grab some sticky tape and carefully lift away the grains of pollen. If you rub, the pollen will go deeper into the fabric and won’t come out. If the pollen has stained the fabric, hide the stain by covering it with baking soda, cornstarch, baby powder, or chalk. Feel free to mix the powders until you find a shade that comes closest to matching your dress.

Mud

If there is time, let the mud or dirt dry so it can be brushed away before treating any discoloration. If there isn’t time, lift away any solids with a dull edge and blot away as much moisture as possible. Using a stain removal wipe or stain removal pen, start at the edges of the stain and work toward the center. Keep blotting with a white towel to help absorb the soil.

Grass

Unless the grass stain is center stage on the dress, leave it alone, because grass stains are almost impossible to remove at the last-minute. If you need to camouflage the stain, use baby powder or chalk. A professional dry cleaner can remove the stains after the wedding or photo shoot. 

Red Wine

Grab a white towel as quickly as possible and blot away the wine. Separate multiple layers of the dress with white towels and treat each layer of fabric. Mix a solution of one part dishwashing liquid and three parts water. Dip a white cloth in the mixture and work from the outer edges of the stain toward the center.

Oil or Grease

As soon as the oily drip hits the dress, cover it with a thick layer of baby powder or cornstarch to absorb the oil. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes and then gently brush or blow the powder away and then repeat to help absorb as much of the oil as possible. Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol (or vodka) and dab from the outer edges of the stain toward the center. Allow the fabric to air-dry.

Makeup

Prevention is the word when it comes to makeup stains, because lipstick and mascara are so difficult to remove. Use a silk scarf to cover your face if you must slip your dress over your head. Drape your dress with a robe or cloth for last-minute touch-ups.

If the worst happens, try sticky tape or a hairdryer to remove dry powders, and lift away blobs of lip gloss or foundation with a dull edge. Use baby powder to absorb oily smears and a stain removal wipe or a bit of makeup remover on a cotton swab for colorful stains. Again, always work from the outer edges toward the middle to keep the stain as small as possible.

Blood

Blot away fresh blood with a white towel. Dampen a cotton swab with saliva (it has enzymes that help remove the bloodstain) or cool water and dab the stain. Keep moving to a clean swab as the blood is transferred. Allow the fabric to air dry and camouflage any remaining stain with baby powder.