Although most burial monuments and headstones are made out of durable stone or metal, they still need proper care to keep them looking their best for many years to come. Hard water, dust, mold, fungus and lichens are common causes of headstone grime, but with regular care, they can be easily removed. It is recommended to clean your monument only once every 10 years.
Preparing To Clean Your Stone Headstone or Monument
- First of all, you must acquire permission from the lot owner or next-of-kin, if that is not you. Talk to the cemetery caretakers to find out about routine cleanings they might already do.
- Inspect the monument for any flaws, such as cracks, flaking or any sign of deterioration. This may be more present in concrete or limestone monuments. DO NOT clean a wooden headstone.
- Ample supply of natural or distilled water.
- Soft, white-bristle brush.
- DO NOT use natural bristles when cleaning your monument, this can encourage organic growth.
- DO NOT use wire bristles or any other metal instrument to clean your monument.
- If your headstone is very dirty, use ONLY non-ionic cleaners.
- DO NOT use household cleaners, including bar soap, borax, vinegar or bleach.
- DO NOT use pressure washers.
- DO NOT use sealants of any kind.
- DO NOT use shaving cream. (Once a popular cleaner, now shown to be harmful to the materials used.)
Granite is the strongest of monument materials, followed by marble. These two monument materials can be scrubbed a bit more aggressively than say, limestone or sandstone. For these types of softer materials, use extra care to keep from sanding off layers, which will encourage eroding.
Tips for Cleaning Your Headstone or Monument
- Wet the headstone completely before beginning the cleaning process.
- Work from the bottom up. You do not want stains and water building up on the bottom while you clean the upper section.
- Use LOTS of water. Be sure to rinse off any cleaners used thoroughly.
- Do not attempt to remove deep-set stains which remain after cleaning.
- Report any damage, no matter how slight, to the cemetery caretaker or owner.
These tips are for care and preservation of modern monuments. For very old headstones or monuments in bad conditions, contact an expert for the exact care procedures.