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How to Clean a Headstone

Though a cemetery may seem like just a final resting place, family members, friends, and loved ones often visit gravestones to pay their respects long after death. While modern memorials are designed to withstand wear and tear for several centuries, any headstone is susceptible to bird excrement, calcium deposits, discoloration, and more. Cleaning headstones is an essential way to honor our loved ones and keep their graves intact for years to come. We've put together an expert guide on how to clean a headstone so you can preserve your loved one's grave in immaculate condition. 

Safety Guidelines for Cleaning Headstones

It's important to examine the headstone's condition before you start cleaning. If you see any signs of instability or fractures, contact one of our experts at Legacy Headstones or your funeral provider. 

Next, look for signs of chipping, scaling, flaking or deterioration. If any of these exist, avoid brushing and scraping as part of the cleaning process.

Additionally, you'll want to make note of what kind of stone or material the headstone is made of before buying necessary the headstone cleaner and supplies. No matter what kind of headstone you’re cleaning, remember to be as gentle as possible.

How to Clean a Headstone: Granite

While true granite should resist natural deterioration and discoloration from season to season, that might not stop your gravestone from weathering over time. 

Opposing factors like these put headstones at risk: 

  • Water
  • Temperature
  • Mineral and chemical composition of the rock
  • Moss
  • Sap
  • Lichens
  • Bird droppings 

To start the cleaning process, you'll want to have a clean bucket, dishwashing liquid, water, cotton balls or swabs, and clean cloths for washing and drying. If you're dealing with mold, mildew, or rust, you may need special cleaning solutions.

Begin by removing any excess debris on or around the headstone. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid into a bucket filled with at least two liters of water. You should never use ammonia, vinegar, or lemon cleaners on granite, as their acidic formulas will eat away at the gravestone’s surface. After that, soak a clean cloth in the soapy water, wring to remove any excess water, and wipe the granite headstone thoroughly. 

Once the headstone looks clean, wash it off with water to remove soapy residue. To do this, get a couple of liters of clean water and wash the headstone with a clean rag. 

After that's done, use a clean cloth to dry the headstone as soon as possible. Make sure to clean engravings or inlays with a cotton swab or ball and a little soapy water. Once everything is clean, buff the headstone with a dry cloth.

How to Clean a Headstone: Bronze

Bronze headstones that lie horizontally are exposed and susceptible to environmental weathering. While most bronze grave markers feature protective coatings, they wear away over time. With regular cleaning, you can keep a bronze headstone looking like new for years to come and prevent oxidation. 

Start off with two clean, dry cloths, distilled water, non-ionic soap, paste wax, a soft bristle brush, a toothbrush, and an applicator brush.

Proceed by removing any debris on or around the bronze memorial. Next, wet the headstone with water and scrub gently using a soft bristle brush to remove scum. Use a toothbrush to reach nooks and crannies. Rinse the brushes frequently to ensure that you remove all debris that you can. Refrain from using any abrasive materials while cleaning because sandpaper and steel wool can scratch bronze surfaces and cause permanent damage. 

After that, use non-ionic soap to create a simple soap mixture and scrub again to remove any stubborn stains or grease. Once clean, rinse the grave marker with clean water and dry it completely with a clean cloth. 

Allow the headstone to air dry. You might choose to add a protective coating to the bronze headstone. If so, add a thin layer of paste wax and allow the wax to dry. Once it's dry, buff the surface with a dry cloth.

Find Premium Headstone Cleaner and More at Legacy Headstones

Learning how to clean headstones is key to preserving your loved ones' final resting places. When you use our Headstone Cleaning Supplies, you're helping to maintain special places for your family members and friends to enjoy your loved one's memory for years to come. For more information on cleaning headstones and how to practice proper upkeep, contact us today. Our team of experts will be happy to assist.