Just as harsh weather conditions affect and damage our homes, vehicles, roads, and buildings, they can do the same to our memorials and headstones. Proper headstone maintenance and cleaning at least twice a year is crucial, as it helps ensure a longer-lasting, beautiful monument and allows you to gauge if the harsh weather is causing issues.
Winter weather can damage a monument over time. Dust and debris often build, sticking to a headstone through moisture, making a memorial look dull and faded.
If you would like to help protect and preserve your loved one's memorial, especially during harsh weather, some tips can help ensure the monument looks clean and maintained, even after the weather passes and snow melts.
We know that we mention this frequently, but we do so because it is genuinely vital to protecting and preserving a loved one's headstone. You should aim to clean a loved one's headstone twice a year, especially if the memorial is placed near or under a tree. Using water, a microfiber cloth or a very soft brush can keep dirt and grime from penetrating deeper within the granite, which can lead to permanent damage. This is especially important for areas with harsh winters, as leaked moisture can expand within the porous granite, which may cause cracking.
Remember when cleaning to avoid:
- Acidic and alkaline agents such as bleach, borax, and any household cleaners
- Chemical cleaners
- Household cleaners
- Hard wire brushes
- Abrasive pads
Avoid Any Sealants
It would seem that since granite is such a porous stone, it should be fine to use a sealant to protect it from anything getting into those microscopic holes and causing issues. Unfortunately, a sealant does far more harm than good on granite. There is no way for you to ensure that no minerals or moisture are already lodged within the granite, so when you use a sealant, you could trap them inside the memorial, preventing the granite from breathing. This can cause the trapped water to expand during winter. Several studies have shown that sealing debris and moisture into granite can affect its structural integrity and cause it to deteriorate faster.
Repair Issues Immediately
Another way to preserve and keep your loved one's headstone in top condition is to fix any issues the moment you spot them. Waiting to fix flaws like cracks or chips in the granite until after winter could lead to further damage or worse. Snow can fall into cracks and chips, thawing and freezing, which worsen cracks.
Reach out to a monument restoration professional to repair any issues as soon as possible once you notice them. We do not recommend attempting any repairs yourself. Also, try to do a regular cleaning before a winter freeze occurs.
Protecting Bronze Accents and Plaques
Bronze is a highly durable metal, which is why it is one of the most common materials for accents, accessories, and plaques for memorials. It has an excellent lifespan and low maintenance requirements, but it can suffer from wear during winter.
If used, salt from nearby roadways could collect on the bronze, leading to potential corrosion that can scar the metal's surface. Fluctuating temperatures from hot to cold can also cause the metal to expand and contract slightly. While bronze can withstand most temperature changes without damage, oxidation—a process that happens when oxygen combines with an element or compound—can turn bronze darker brown, black, red, blue, or even green. We recommend cleaning any bronze twice a year, along with the granite.
Like granite, the proper cleaning and maintenance of bronze will protect it from the elements. Here are the steps you can take to clean bronze:
- Always use the mildest soap possible and sparingly.
- Use a soft, lint-free cloth, and avoid brushes.
- Wet the bronze with mild soap and water, then use a cloth to clean the surface gently.
- Ensure to thoroughly rinse with clean water to remove any soap, as the residue left behind can cloud the metal's surface.
- It is essential to let the metal dry entirely. If you wish, you can use another soft, lint-free cloth to remove any leftover moisture gently.
- Cleaning solvents
- Pressure washers
- Abrasive cleaners or cleaning supplies
Before winter arrives, protect your loved one's memorial with these easy-to-follow steps. At Legacy Headstones, our goal is to provide beautiful, enduring monuments while supporting and answering the questions you may have about our memorials. Should you have any further questions about how to protect a headstone in harsh weather, feel free to contact us.