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Garment Care 101: The Do's and Don'ts of Dance Costume Care

Posted by Trista on Dec 15, 2016

How to wash a dance costume

When it comes to washing dance costumes and skate dresses, we've probably seen it all.  Color bleeding, shrinking, burn marks, makeup stains, and rhinestones falling off - there are lots of things that could go wrong when washing your costume!  Don't fear the unknown though!  As long as you are informed, washing your dance costume can be a breeze. Follow these garment care Do's and Don'ts and your dance costume will be clean and damage free in no time!  

The DO's and DON'Ts of Caring for Your Dance Costume or Skate Dress

DON'T Be Afraid to Launder Your Garments

We can’t say it enough! The best thing you can do to enhance the longevity of your costume is to wash it. Perspiration and chemical residues like hair spray can actually promote wear and break down specialty fabrics like hologram and myst. Plus, major stink bomb!

If you're afraid of the unknown, check out this step-by-step guide on how to wash your dance costume, skate dress, or cheer uniform!   Still not convinced? Many costume companies have laundry services! Get your costumes washed for a small fee, and have minor repairs done at the same time! 


DON'T Dry Clean

Handing off the messy task to your corner dry cleaner may seem enticing, but don’t even think about it! The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process can actually damage specialty fabrics and adhesive applied finishes. Fabrics with a shiny or foil finish, spangles and sequins will 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!


DO Spot Clean - DON'T Use Shout

Before washing, it's best to spot clean troublesome areas with a spot cleaner. Use a gentle product that won’t damage your specialty fabrics.  We don't recommend Shout or other similar drug store products though!  They're too harsh and may leave permanent damage.

The go-to choice for our in-house laundry team is Stain Remedy from Forever New. In a pinch or 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, and let it sit on the stain for a couple minutes before washing. 

Always test the spot cleaner on a fabric scrap or hidden area of your costume though!  It's better to test it once to see if it will damage your fabric.  


DON'T Use Tide or Woolite - DO Use Forever New

Be sure to use a mild soap, such as Forever New.  Don’t be fooled by Woolite, it’s not actually a mild soap! We don’t recommend it because it could potentially damage your costume and specialty finishes.  


DO Hand Wash - DON'T Let Your Costume Sit in a Washer

The safest laundry method is to hand wash your costume.  One question we know is on your mind though: 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 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!!! Colors are likely to bleed, and cause more damage.  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!

How to wash a dance costume

Color from the black sleees transfered to the white body of this jacket after sitting in the wash. 

DON'T Use Hot Water, Soak, or Wring

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.

Always use cold water to prevent bright colors from bleeding onto lighter colors.  Hot water will make fabric bleeding worse! Check out the images above, of one color transferring to the other on the garment.  This is something that can't be removed, so expect to have your costume replaced if color bleeds.  


DON'T Put Your Costume in the Dryer - DO Hang to Dry

One of the worst things you could do to your spandex-based costume is to stick it in the dryer! The stretchy fabric is made up of elastic fibers, meaning it will shrink when exposed to heat! Definitely not fun. 

The best drying technique? First, blot excess water from your garment by using towels. Then hang to dry! Blotting the water may require using several towels.  Make sure there isn’t any water dripping from the garment - if there is, your colors could bleed!  


DON'T Iron Your Costume - DO Steam It Instead

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! 


How to wash a dance costume

An accidental burn mark from an iron on this Hunter Biketard.  
Learn from our mistake and be careful when applying heat transfer embellishments with irons!

DON'T Store Your Costume When It's Wet, or in Plastic

Store your costumes 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.


DON'T Split Up The Laundry Task 

Choose one person to launder your entire team's garments instead!  “Many hands make light work” is something my mom likes to use, but sadly this old adage is best left for tackling that mound of Thanksgiving dinner dishes rather than costume care! The best thing you can do to ensure all of your team’s garments are washed properly and consistently is to have only one person take on this task.

If each dancer or skater launders their own garment, there’s always the risk one person may not follow directions and potentially damage their garment. We know you don’t want that one person standing out from the rest of the team, or to spend more money getting a costume remade! Avoid this by appointing a cleaning ambassador.


DO Protect Your Garment from Perspiration and Hair Spray

Chemical residue can advance wear, and dull specialty fabrics like holograms, sequins, spangles, or foils. Common culprits include: hair spray, perspiration, perfume, and some deodorants.

To protect the brilliance of your performance wear, do your hair before putting on your costume, OR get dressed like a starlet and use dressing gowns! A warm-up jacket will do the trick, as well.  Dress shields, sold at most craft stores, are another great way to protect your garment in an area where one sweats the most - the underarms.

 How to wash a dance costume


DON'T Wear Your Costume Outside of Performance 

Given the cost and delicate nature of dance costumes and skating dresses, the last thing you want is for your costume to wear out before that big performance. Saving your garment for special occasions can help prevent wear and minor accidents and like snags or holes in delicate fabric. It can also help specialty fabric like holograms and sequins from abrading and becoming dull over time.

On performance day, wear warm-ups over your costume to prevent an accidental food spill - pop or pizza stains are nobody’s friend!


DON'T Wear Your Costume Immediately After Getting a Spray Tan

The color from your spray tan is likely to transfer to your costume and discolor it!  This is most noticeable on white uniforms.  If you do get spray tan on your white costume, our washing expert Antonia recommends putting a little bit of Carbona Stain Devils into the water during washing to remove spray tan stains.  Always test for colorfastness with colored costumes though first!  This product is best used with white garments.  


So there you have it - 13 tips to make costume care easier.  Have some tips of your own, or need more help?  Let us know, we're happy to help!  In the meantime, happy washing! 

Check out more posts in the Garment Care 101 series:


Looking for more tips?  Check out our Budget Tips Guide, below! 

Custom Costume Budget Tips Guide - Free Download


Topics: Garment Care

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