Costume Tips: Washing Corset, Beaded Costume and other ‘unwashable’ items…

So you have an amazing costume that you’ve taken ages to rhinestone and it’s smelling a bit stale after a few wears… Perhaps your corset needs a bit of a clean or your fringing is getting a bit funky. Sometimes a spritz of Febreeze will not do, as perhaps the item is stained, so here’s a few tips to hep you actually clean it.  

Firstly, never put your corset in the washing machine!
The same rule applies for items that you have hand beaded or sewn heavy embellishments onto, or for glass fringing or for costumes made from a variety of different fabrics. The reason is that corsets have boning, possibly an interlining (that you can’t see) and a lining that might be made in a different fabric from one another. Some of the fabric may shrink at a different rate to the others and the bones might dislodge resulting in a warped corset – you don’t want a warped corset! The same applies for costumes made of different fabrics and as for costumes that you’ve hand beaded, or rhinestoned, you run the risk of all your hard work being undone! Plus the rough and tumble way of washing in a machine will destroy the fabric and boning – even if you wash it on delicates. Fear not – you don’t have to dry clean these items, there is a way to wash them by hand (we’ve even removed blood from a white corset this way), but you must be very careful…

Hand washing

Firstly, you must check that the item is colour fast – certain silks might not be colour fast so do a spot test first on an area that can’t be seen (eg the modesty panel in the back, etc). If it is not colourfast, do not proceed!

You’ll need some detergent that’s for delicates or hand washing, and you must make sure it’s the non harsh type (I use Ecover for delicates). Fill the bowl with water that is hot enough for the hand to take (not boiling hot from the kettle) and immerse the corset or other costume piece into the water a few times to penetrate the fabric. Concentrate on gently rubbing (or sponging, if the fabric is a bit more delicate) the areas that may be dirty (the busk at the front, eyelets at the back, under the arms etc). DO NOT SCRUB any area as it can ruin the lie of the fabric and the fibres.


Once you are satisfied it is clean, run under cold water until all traces of detergent have been removed.

Drying the item

Press the excess water out of the corset or costume piece then lay it flat on a clean towel and roll tightly, swiss roll-style. This will remove most of the excess water.

You can dry the costume rolled up like this on a radiator, airing cupboard or anywhere that’s warm (not in the cooker/ microwave/ on a fire – lol!!)

This washing technique also applies for any highly embellished or beaded items (like Belly Dance Bedlahs) that cannot be dry cleaned as the high temperature or cleaning powder would melt the beads. If the item is sequinned check on an area that can’t be seen that the sequins are colourfast, as some lose their colour when they get wet.

For items that you can’t wash by hand, you can remove stains and bacteria with vodka. Yes, we know, there are some among us who would think it to be a waste of good vodka (a-hem Natalia Kalashnikov!) but putting neat vodka in a spritzer and spraying it in areas such as under arms will remove stains, smells and bacteria. Again, check that the costume or beads/embellishments are colourfast as the vodka can cause colour loss).  

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