Gravestone caring and maintenance can help a great deal in keeping it in good condition for a long time. Thus, you may clean it from time to time, but it is advised not to wash a headstone or gravestone too often because stones are porous.
Furthermore, when washing the stone, do not use household cleaners like borax, Ivory soap, etc. as they contain chemicals that can prove to be harmful for the stone. However, you may use a solution of an ounce of non-ionic detergent mixed in a gallon of water.
Tips for Caring for Your Gravestone
- It is best to clean a tombstone from bottom up instead of going from top to bottom. When you wash a monument starting from the top, the acids released from molds and lichens while cleaning run down and linger on different areas of the stone until you reach them, thereby increasing the chances of developing stains.
However, when you start cleaning from the bottom, the acids and pigments are removed immediately and do not spread.
- Avoid cleaning gravestones with power washers as they encourage water retention in the stone. In addition, do not use wire brushes, metal brushes, and harsh abrasives.
Instead, prefer to use a soft-bristled toothbrush or plastic nylon brush to remove loose dirt, fungi, and lichen spots.
Plus, if you need to wash the stone, you may use natural clean water, bottled spring water, or distilled water and then pat it dry with a soft cloth.
Watch this video explaining how to clean and restore gravestones.
- Choose a cleaning method depending on the type of material you are dealing with. For instance, when cleaning a cast iron gravestone, do not attempt to remove the rust present on the stone, or else it is likely to spoil the inscription or symbol on the monument.
Similarly, do not try to remove the build-up of ionized metal in the welds of a white bronze tombstone as it gives a sturdier hold.
- When bronze markers weather, they tend to become darker. This is a natural process, and it does not harm the marker. Thus, you just need wash it with water, let it dry completely, and then give it a high polish finish with the help of liquid wax.
You can remove the greenish coating on bronze with a paste of two tablespoons of baking soda and a little lemon juice. Plus, you can get special cleaning kits from monument supply companies.
- Generally, people believe gravestone rubbing makes it more appealing and increases its life. But, it is a controversial issue as this practice tends to cause permanent damage to the stone as it encourages abrasion.
Here is an article explaining the do’s and don’ts associated with gravestone rubbing. You can also read this to get a step by step procedure for this process of rubbing. Furthermore, it is suggested that the inscriptions on tombstones should not be painted.
- If you are not sure as to how to clean your gravestone, it is better to get the job done by a professional instead of trying yourself and increasing the chances of causing damage to the stone. In fact, it is advised to get a gravestone cleaned by an experienced conservator.
- Make sure you assess the condition of the stone and then make arrangements for its cleaning and maintenance accordingly. Avoid cleaning headstones that are delicate and brittle.
You can visit The Association For Gravestone Studies website to find out how to clean and care for your gravestone. Moreover, read this to get information on cemetery conservation and tombstone care.