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Garment Care 101: How to Wash Your Dance Costume!

Posted by Trista on Feb 24, 2016

washing tips image

The excitement of competition season is drawing to a close for many dance and synchronized skating teams, which leaves us with one not so exciting – though very important – question. What do I do with these stinky costumes?!? This month on the blog, we’re giving you our best costume care advice to take the stress out of washing your costume.

We know you’ve spent time, energy, and $$$$ designing the best costume for your team, so how do you make sure your garment is fresh and ready for next season? If we have to pick one single piece of advice it’s this: don’t be afraid to wash your costume!

We know, we know! The thought of something going wrong and potentially ruining your costume is enough to make you want to ignore the stinky mess! But not cleaning your costume can potentially cause more damage than just the smell factor.

Perspiration and chemical residues like hair spray can promote wear and break down of specialty fabrics. Shiny finishes like hologram and myst can dull over time from exposure to these items, and the stretch fibers that make up your spandex fabrics can break down and lose their elasticity (think saggy swimsuit butt!)

So - the best thing you can do if you are going to wear a costume for more than a couple times? Launder your garment to promote longevity, and keep it sparkling fresh for another year - or more!


How to Wash Your Dance Costume or Skate Dress in 5 Basic Steps

Ok, so how do you wash your dance costume, skating dress, or cheer uniform, you ask? Rest assured, you can easily do it yourself without risking damage to your costume. We worked with the experts in our laundry department to distill the process down to 5 simple steps, safe enough to use for most garments.


do not dry clean

Step 1: Do Not Dry Clean

The thought of handing off the messy task to a professional seems enticing, but don’t even think about dry cleaning your costume! The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process, much like perspiration and hair spray, can actually damage specialty fabrics and adhesive applied finishes. Fabrics with a shiny or foil finish, spangles and sequins will all dull, reducing their sparkle factor. We’ve also heard a few horror stories of all of the rhinestones falling of a skate dress after dry-cleaning. Considering the amount of time and energy it takes to apply stones by hand, re-stoning is a task no one would want to repeat! Plus, you’ll save yourself some serious cash in dry cleaning fees!


spot clean

Step 2: Spot Clean as Needed

Before washing, spot clean troublesome areas with a spot cleaner. It’s best to use a product that is gentle and won’t damage your specialty fabrics. We DON'T recommend Shout or other similar drug store products - they are too harsh and may leave permanent damage. The go-to choice for our in-house laundry team? Stain Remedy from Forever New. Looking for a DIY version? Our owner Deb makes her own special stain sauce, known to work some minor miracles! Combine one part Dawn dish soap with one part hydrogen peroxide, stir lightly to blend.

Before applying the spot cleaner, the most important thing to do is test your fabric! Apply the spot cleaner in a hidden area, like inside of the collar, or request a fabric swatch from us if you’d like to play it safe. Make sure the product you choose doesn’t alter the color of your fabric or dull shine.

Once you’ve determined your chosen product is safe, apply it directly to the stain with your fingertips. Let it soak for 2 minutes, and rinse with cold water.


hand wash

Step 3: Hand Wash

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves! It’s best to wash one garment before the rest, to ensure everything goes smoothly. Hand wash your garment in cold water with a small amount of mild soap. Again, using the right product is key here to ensure you don’t damage your uniform. Use a mild soap, such as Forever New. Don’t be fooled by Woolite though, it’s not actually a mild soap! We don’t recommend it.

Avoid color bleeding with a few simple tips: use cold water, don’t soak or leave your costume unattended while washing, and remove from the water promptly. Protect against further damage by avoiding abrasion: do not wring, rub or agitate your garment, and wash it inside-out if it has specialty items like rhinestones or spangles.

Finish this step by rinsing out the soap thoroughly with cold water.

One question we know is on your mind: Can I put my costume in the washing machine? Our owner, Deb, has been known to wash some garments in a washing machine, turned inside out, on the gentle cycle, and in a mesh garment wash bag. Warning: proceed with CARE! If you forget and leave the garment in the washer - even for a short period of time - be prepared to replace the garment!!! Even we have been absent minded enough to have made that costly mistake. This option should only be used with the gentle cycle, attending to the machine at all times!


line dry

Step 4: Hang to Dry

One of the worst things you could do to your spandex-based costume is to stick it in the dryer! Your spandex-based fabric is made up of elastic fibers, meaning it will shrink when exposed to heat! Definitely not fun. The heat from the dryer will also break down the elastic fibers - meaning your garment will lose its elasticity over time and stretch out.

The best drying technique? First, blot excess water from your garment by using towels. This may require using several towels! Second, make sure there isn’t any water dripping from the garment. Then hang to dry!


do not iron

Step 5 - Steam & Store - but Never Iron

The best way to get any wrinkles out of your garment is to use a steamer! Whatever you do, don’t use an iron! Your specialty fabrics will melt if an iron is applied, leaving burn marks. Trust us, we’ve accidentally done it ourselves! But don’t worry, we’d never send a costume out to a customer this way ;)

Now onto storage. The best way to store your garments is to hang them, which will avoid further wrinkling. Most importantly, store them in a breathable container, like a old pillowcase. Avoid plastic or nylon garment bags - these will trap odors, letting them fester and grow (pee-ew!). And ALWAYS make sure your garments are dry before storing. Damp items will mold or mildew, and again, lead to a smelly mess. Also, store away from sunlight to prevent fading.


Hopefully this helps take away the anxiety of garment care - if you follow these 5 steps, you’ll have your garment "so fresh and so clean, clean" in no-time!

Looking for a little more detailed information about those sequins, rhinestones, fringe, or other specialty items? Download the full garment care instructions PDF from our website!

Still have anxiety about garment care or don't have time to tackle the job yourself? No worries! We’re equipped with a talented team of cleaning experts that can have your dance costume, skate dress, or cheerleading uniform sparkling in no time! Contact us toinquire about our washing services! 

Up NEXT: Garment Care 102: 5 Must-Know Garment Care Tips!


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Topics: Garment Care, Budget Tips

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