How To Clean Headstones Made From Different Materials

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closeup depth of field shot of gravestone

How To Clean Headstones Made From Different Materials

Headstones serve as lasting memorials to preserve the past of the ones we love and the memories we cherish with them. By cleaning the headstone once a year (or even less frequently, depending on the material), you can prevent grime and decay, and keep your loved one’s headstone looking fresh and untarnished. Learn how to clean a headstone without damaging it.

Supplies Needed For Cleaning Headstones

First, you’ll need some cleaning supplies to get started. Supplies vary based on the gravestone material. Here, we’ll go over what you’ll need for marble, granite, and bronze headstones.

Marble Headstones

  • Clean water
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Ammonium hydroxide detergent or household ammonia mixed (1 oz per gallon of water)
  • Gloves
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle
Granite, Sandstone, Slate Headstones

  • Clean water
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Non-ionic detergent (1 oz per gallon of water)
  • Biocidal cleaning solution
  • Gloves
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle

 

Assess The Headstone

First and foremost, assess the condition of the headstone. If it shows signs of flaking, crumbling or cracking, then avoid using hard-thistle brushes, do not scrape, and avoid power washing. Be sure to avoid using bleach because it causes brown staining over time. Sandstone, slate, and marble gravestones will gradually deteriorate after cleaning, so they should be thoroughly cleaned every 7-10 years, and no more.

Marble headstones should only be cleaned if they are in decent condition. If too much cracking or damage decay is present, attempting to clean it could cause further irreparable harm.

How To Clean Marble Headstones

  1. Soak: Soak the stone by spraying it down with a hose or dumping a bucket of clean water over the entire surface. Headstones can be very porous and can soak up the cleaning solution before it has a chance to work. Spraying down the headstone first will help maximize the effectiveness of the cleaning solution.
  2. Mix: Dilute ammonium hydroxide (use with caution) 1:4 with water when cleaning light colored stones. This is particularly effective for the removal of biological growth. Make sure you are rinsing thoroughly with clean, fresh water.
  3. Apply: Use a brush to gently apply the soap/water mixture. Test your solution in an inconspicuous area first, this will ensure that you get the desired results once dried.
  4. Scrub: With a soft-bristle brush, gently scrub the headstone in orbital motion from bottom to top. Avoid any cracks or flakes when scrubbing. You may want to avoid cleaning the entire stone if there is an excessive amount of scratches or flaking.
  5. Rinse: Avoid pressure washing the stone. Always rinse the stone from bottom to top to avoid streaking. Rinse with a hose or bucket of water with clean, fresh water until the stone is clear of any cleaning solution.

Be sure to keep the headstone wet throughout the procedure.

Repeat this process every 2 years for thorough cleaning, although normal dirt and residue may be removed simply with water and nothing else.

How To Clean Granite Headstones

  1. Soak: Soak the stone with a hose or by dumping a bucket of clean water over the entire surface. Headstones can be very porous and can soak up the cleaning solution before it has a chance to work. Spraying down the headstone first will help maximize the effectiveness of the cleaning solution.
  2. Mix: Non-ionic detergents are generally recommended for cleaning granite headstones. Mix just one-ounce of non-ionic detergent to 5 gallons of water.
  3. Apply: Use a brush to gently apply the cleaning solution. Always test the solution to ensure the best results after the area has dried.
  4. Scrub: With a soft-bristle brush, gently scrub the headstone in an orbital motion from bottom to top. Avoid any cracks or flakes when scrubbing. Avoid cleaning the entire stone if there is an excessive amount of scratches or flaking.
  5. Rinse: Always rinse the stone from bottom to top to avoid streaking. Rinse with a hose or bucket of water with clean, fresh water until the stone is clear of any cleaning solution.

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