How to Clean Dance Costumes

Dear Daisy,

I am wondering if you have any suggestions for cleaning my belly dance costumes.  I am always afraid of damaging them and would love some advice on a safe way of keeping them fresh.

–          Curious

Dear Curious,

Cleaning costumes depends on the type of costume and what material went into the construction.  Most non-beaded skirts, pants, and tops can be hand washed separately in cold water and then hung or laid flat to dry.  Always check first for colour fastness if your costume may have come from overseas (especially Egypt or India) as many foreign dyes are not colour fast and will run.

If your costume has bead work and sequins you may still be able to hand wash it by placing it in cold water and gently swooshing it back and forth.  Always test a small hidden spot for colour fastness first though.  When hand washing, use only very gentle liquid soap as powders can be hard to rinse out and can leave white residue.  When you have finished washing your costume do not wring it out simply take it straight out of the water, lay it on or wrap it in a towel and gently squeeze out the extra water then hang it or lay it flat to finish drying.  If you lay it flat remember to turn it over to make sure each side gets a chance to dry properly.  If the costume is stretchy or very heavily beaded do not hang it as it can stretch while the fibres are weak from being wet.

I don’t recommend dry-cleaning costumes with plastic beads, sequins, rhinestones or specialty fabrics.  They can melt with the dry-cleaning chemicals making a horrible mess of your costume.

If you do not want to risk washing or your costume is not colour fast you can either purchase a sport style, bacteria killing, fabric de-odorizer or mix 1 part alcohol to 1 part water in a spray bottle.  Very lightly mist the inside (only the inside) of your costume making sure not to get any spray on the sequins or beads.

Another option is to lay your costume inside out in the full sun for a few hours; often this will be enough to freshen things up.

To help maintain your costumes freshness, never pack them in plastic.  Always make sure to air them out after every use and then pack them in a breathable container or garment bag.  If there is any moisture in your costume you can find yourself with a bad case of mildew next time you go to wear it so make sure it is completely dry every time you put it away.


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