How to clean a headstone

Headstones installed in a cemetery or any other outside location must be cleaned from time to time to increase its longevity. Headstones of your loved ones and ancestors need proper maintenance. Depending upon the age and condition of a headstone, the overall cleaning process can either be a long and difficult task or can be done in an easy manner.

Before you arrive at the cemetery to start the cleaning process you need to have the right cleaning knowledge. If the cleaning of a headstone is done in a wrong way, it will have direct impact on its beauty and longevity.

Cleaning a headstone

First of you all you need to have the right materials for cleaning a headstone. You must use distilled water or rain water, a soft nylon bristle brush, and some non-ionic cleaner. When cleaning a headstone, it is advisable not to use soap, commercial household detergents, or any other product that contains harsh chemicals. Use of such products may stain the headstone or may cause the stone to deteriorate.

Before you start the cleaning process you must analyze the condition of the headstone properly. If the condition of the headstone is really bad, try not to clean it on your own. It is better to get it cleaned by some professionals. Avoid cleaning headstones that are cracked as little pressure can break the stone.

Check the material of the headstone as not all materials are suitable for cleaning. For instance it is not a good idea to clean a headstone made of wood as it can be rotten from inside. You can clean cast iron headstones and stone headstones by yourself. 

While cleaning a headstone do not make the mistake of removing moss, fungi or any other natural elements growing on the headstone. Cleaning such things can cause more damage to the headstone rather than restoring its beauty and elegance. Also in some cemeteries you need to take proper permission from the cemetery director before you start the cleaning process.

Once you have the necessary materials and permission you can start the cleaning process. First of all wet the headstone properly using rain or spring water. In no way you should hard water. Now with the help of a soft bristled brush gentle start cleaning the inscriptions and other detail work done on the headstone. You can even use clean cotton swabs to clean the engravings on the headstone properly. It is advisable to start cleaning from the bottom of the headstone and then slowly proceed upward until you have covered the whole headstone. Always scrub a small portion of the headstone and then rinse it properly.

If necessary you can use some biodegradable or gentle cleaners to remove dirt and stubborn marks from the headstone. Finally rinse with plenty of water. If clean water is not available at the cemetery you must carry your own water.

Some more points to remember:

  • Do not use high pressure hoses or equipment, or abrasive tools of any kind.
  • Do not clean marble, sandstone, or slate stones too frequently. Clean them once in every ten years.
  • It is recommended not to use any kind of a sandblaster or pressure-washer on a headstone.
  • Before starting the cleaning process use personal protective equipments such as aprons, gloves, shoes and.
  • If you notice any kind of damage on the headstone, you must report about it immediately to the caretaker or owner of the cemetery. 

To conclude, you can increase the longevity of a headstone through proper maintenance. Clean the headstone at regular intervals but avoid doing it more frequently.

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One Response

  1. Norma
    Norma at | | Reply

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    Good morning, I would like to know what to do when the words had faded on the tombstone. It’s been nine years now but we cannot reads the words and names of my late dad. Please help what can we do.I’m originally from Eastern Cape, Peddie,at Cisira Location. You can also refer to the nearest branch in East London or King William’s Town. The tombstone is green in in colour and words are gold but now they are faded, we cannot even read it. Can we please furnish it in order to restore that memory of my late dad. If you do how much will it cost to do it. Thank you in advance. Norma 0839280478

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