Coming Clean: How to Bathe Your Belly Dance Costumes

If Billy Mays were with us, he would be proud!

People always ask me how I clean all my expensive belly dance costumes. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t know. Usually, I only wear them for one or two shows before passing them along, and air ’em out before putting them back in their storage bins. The prospect of taking my precious costumes to the cleaners or even giving them a Woolite wash generally scares the living daylights out of me. My friend Sonja puts her Bellas in a pillowcase and throws ’em in the wash – but, surely, putting your “children” in the wash must be illegal in my state!

But then, there are times when cleaning your costume is inevitable. After all, many of us perform on dirty restaurant floors, smoky hookah bars and other spaces that are less than ideal.

aavideo2Recently, I did an awesome music video shoot where the musician really had his heart set on a white costume. Of course, I wore it. But as you can imagine, music video shoots are no walk in the park. Little did I know, I would be doing floorwork in it (yikes!), that the floor would be dirty (eep!), and that there would be a smoke machine spewing smog into the air for 7 hours (egads!). After allΒ this “good, clean fun,” my pristine white costume looked like it had been through a war zone – the bottom edge of the skirt was brown. There were a couple of small stains that looked like makeup. There were bronzer stains from 7 hours of sweating. And the whole thing was dingy and gross. I almost thought it was ruined.

The good news? With patience and LOTS of elbow grease, I got my grody costume looking brand new again. Here are my grime-busting, stain-fighting tips.

You will need:

  • A tub of Oxy-Clean powder. (Yes, the stuff from the infomercials. I got mine at Walgreens).
  • Woolite detergent or something equally gentle
  • A baby-fine toothbrush or a nail brush
  • A large basin, sink or tub

What to Do:

  1. 1. ALWAYS do a patch test, especially with Oxy Clean. If you can sacrifice a small piece of your costume with the same beads, sequins and stones – like a headband – this is perfect. I soaked my headband in Oxy Clean for 2 hours and the stuff ate the finish off the silver sequins! This saved me from making a very expensive mistake.
  2. 2. Grab your Oxy-Clean and follow the instructions for a spot treatment. Prepare the solution, then lay the costume flat and use your toothbrush or nail brush to gently scrub at the individual stains or dirty areas. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Don’t soak your costume in Oxy-Clean unless it passed the patch test. Even then, I wouldn’t advise it.
  3. 3. Prepare a Woolite bath for your costume: fill the basin with cool water and add a capful of Woolite. Gently swoosh your costume around. Rinse with cool water.
  4. 4. Look at your costume. If there are still any spots, repeat steps 2 and 3 until the spots are gone.
  5. 5. Lay your costume flat to dry and let it dry completely. Dampness can rot the threads.
  6. 6. Store your clean, dry costume in a storage bin or drawer with a nice, fresh-smelling sachet. Next time your client asks you to wear your white Bella to the dirty hookah bar, kindly suggest a workhorse costume in a dark color ;)

This combination of Woolite and Oxy-Clean worked amazingly for me. No more stains and it’s back to its usual blinding white! Looks better than new. What are your favorite costume cleaning tips?