How to Wash a Costume

Do you have a costume for an upcoming event but need to know how to keep it clean? Washing your costume can seem daunting at first, but with the right knowledge and supplies, you will be able to care for your costume without any damage.

How to Wash a Costume

Costume materials can range from delicate fabrics to heavy-duty materials, each requiring its specific washing method. Here are some general guidelines on how to wash a costume, but always check the care label for any special instructions.

In this blog post, we’ll go over tips on how to properly hand wash and machine wash your costume to look as beautiful and vibrant as when you purchased it. Whether it’s Halloween or an important recital performance, you’ll be prepared once you learn these tricks!

What Will You Need?

  • A large sink or bathtub
  • Mild detergent
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • Mesh laundry bags (optional)
  • Gentle stain remover (optional)

Before you begin, closely examine your costume and note any stains that need to be pre-treated. Always spot test the stain remover on an inconspicuous area of the costume before use.

10 Easy Steps on How to Wash a Costume

Step 1. Preparation:

Begin by placing your costume in the sink or bathtub. If your costume has multiple parts or accessories, separate them before washing. This makes the process easier and helps prevent damage from components rubbing against each other. If your costume contains delicate materials or small pieces, consider using a mesh laundry bag for protection.

Step 2. Pre-Treat Stains:

Now that your costume is prepared, it’s time to deal with stubborn stains. Apply a small amount of your gentle stain remover to the affected area, gently rubbing it in with your fingers.

 Instructions on the Stain Remover's Packaging

Be sure to follow the instructions on the stain remover’s packaging, as some may require you to leave the product on for a certain length of time before washing. Remember, it’s important to test the stain remover on a small, hidden part of the costume first to ensure it won’t cause discoloration.

Step 3. Dilute Detergent:

After pre-treating the stains, prepare a mild detergent solution in the sink or bathtub. It’s recommended to use cold or lukewarm water, depending on the care instructions of your costume. Add a small amount of mild detergent to the water and stir until it’s fully diluted.

If you’re dealing with a stubborn smell, you can add a half cup of white vinegar to the solution for an extra boost. Always remember to ensure your detergent is color-safe and appropriate for the fabric of your costume.

Step 4. Submerge the Costume:

Once your detergent solution is ready, gently submerge your costume in the water. Make sure every part of the costume is wet. Let it soak for about 15-30 minutes. This allows the detergent to penetrate the fabric and break down any soil or stains. Never twist, scrub, or rub the costume while it is soaking, as these actions can damage the fabric.

If your costume has embellishments or delicate parts, be extra careful not to damage them during this process.

Step 5. Gentle Agitation:

Use Your Hands to Lightly Move the Costume

After soaking, gently agitate the costume in the water to help remove any lingering dirt or stains. Use your hands to lightly move the costume around in the water for a few minutes. Remember, avoid twisting or wringing the garment, which could damage the fabric or any delicate embellishments.

Step 6. Rinse Thoroughly:

Next, drain the soapy water from the sink or bathtub. Rinse the costume under cold running water until all the detergent is removed. You may need to press the costume to help remove the soap lightly, but avoid wringing or squeezing it. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear and you can no longer see or feel any soap on the costume.

Step 7. Remove Excess Water:

After a thorough rinse, it’s time to remove the excess water from your costume. Do not wring the costume, as this could damage the piece’s fabric or structure. Instead, gently press or squeeze out the water.

For more delicate costumes, lay the garment flat on a clean, absorbent towel and roll it up to absorb the water. Remember to unroll the towel right away to avoid any color transfer.

Step 8. Dry the Costume:

Drying your costume properly is just as important as washing it. Never put your costume in a dryer, as the heat could shrink or damage the material. Instead, lay the costume flat to dry on a clean, dry towel and reshape it as necessary.

Make sure to dry it in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight, which could cause the colors to fade. If your costume is heavy or structured, hanging it to dry could cause it to stretch out of shape, so laying it flat is usually the best option.

Step 9. Ironing (if necessary):

If your costume has wrinkles and is safe to iron, you can lightly go over it with an iron on the appropriate setting for its fabric type. Always check the care label before ironing, and consider using a pressing cloth between the iron and the costume to protect it. Avoid ironing over embellishments or decals, as they can melt or become damaged.

Step 10. Storage:

Store Costumes in a Cool Dry Place

Once your costume is completely dry and wrinkle-free, it’s time to store it properly until the next use. Always store costumes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Consider using a garment bag for added protection. If possible, try not to fold the costume to prevent causing creases or wrinkles. Hanging it or storing it flat is the best option.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure your costume stays clean and well-maintained for future use. Always check the care instructions on the label and test any products or methods on a small, hidden area before applying them to the entire garment.

5 Additional Tips and Tricks

  1. Check the Label: Always read the costume care label before washing. Some costumes may require hand washing, while others may be machine washable.
  2. Delicate Cycle: If your costume is machine washable, use a gentle or delicate cycle to prevent damage.
  3. Use a Mesh Bag: Place the costume in a mesh laundry bag before washing to protect delicate or small pieces. This will prevent any pieces from getting tangled or lost during the wash.
  4. Avoid Hot Water: When washing your costume, use cold or lukewarm water instead of hot water. Hot water can cause colors to bleed and fabrics to shrink.
  5. Air Dry: Always air dry your costume instead of using a dryer. The heat from the dryer can cause damage to delicate fabrics and embellishments. Hang the costume in a well-ventilated area or lay it flat on a drying rack.

With these additional tips and tricks, you can ensure that your costume will last for many more upcoming events and performances.

5 Things You Should Avoid

Avoid Harsh Detergents  Bleach  or Fabric
  1. Avoid Harsh Detergents: Avoid harsh detergents, bleach, or fabric softeners on your costume. These can damage the fabric and fade the colors.
  2. Avoid Direct Sunlight: When air drying your costume, avoid direct sunlight. The intense heat and UV rays can cause colors to fade and fabrics to break down.
  3. Avoid Ironing: Unless necessary, avoid ironing your costume, as the heat can damage certain fabrics and embellishments. If you must remove wrinkles, use a steamer instead.
  4. Avoid Storing in Plastic Bags: Do not store your costume in plastic bags or containers. These can trap moisture and lead to mildew or mold growth.
  5. Avoid Wearing Without Undergarments: Always wear appropriate undergarments with your costume. This can help to absorb sweat and protect the costume from bodily oils and odors.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can help preserve the quality and lifespan of your costume.

Can Costumes Be Dry Cleaned?

The answer to this question depends on the type of fabric and embellishments used in your costume. Some costumes may be labeled as dry clean only, while others can be safely hand or machine-washed. If you are unsure, it is best to consult with a professional dry cleaner for their expert opinion.

Always inform them of any delicate pieces or attachments on the costume so they can properly care for it. Remember that dry cleaning can be costly, so it may be best to reserve this method for special occasions or heavily soiled costumes.

Overall, it is important to treat your costume carefully when washing and storing it. With the right techniques and caution, you can keep your costume looking vibrant and in top condition for many uses ahead. Remember always to check the label, use gentle methods, and avoid common mistakes to ensure the longevity of your beloved costumes.


No matter what particular costume you have chosen to sport, you are guaranteed to stand out at your Halloween party with the right combination of proper techniques and attention to detail.

Washing a costume properly is not an exact science–it requires special care and a little creativity to ensure your costume stays clean and vibrant.

So follow the tips listed above and start your Halloween experience with no problems or mishaps. With a successful cleaning process, you’ll enjoy all night without worrying about your costume deteriorating or looking less than perfect!

By following these helpful steps on how to wash a costume, you can have a stress-free Halloween experience that will leave everyone talking about your spectacular ensemble!

Photo of author

Jennifer Branett

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