Headstones or gravestones tend to deteriorate over a period of time as they are exposed to factors like acid rain, wind, temperature extremes, etc. These conditions lead to damaging effects like discoloration and erosion.
Thus, it is imperative to check and clean a gravestone properly from time to time. Taking proper measures to maintain the monument can help a great deal in maintaining it perfectly for a long time.
Here are some tips and suggestions to protect and maintain a gravestone.
- It is often suggested to use a stone or tile sealer a headstone to preserve it for generations. However, this is not a fool-proof method for protecting the stone as it seals in the moisture and other minerals as well. Moreover, prevents the stone from ‘breathing’.
Thus, you can seal the gravestone with a good consolidator. You can find more information about consolidating a stone here. Besides, read this to understand more about gravestone preservation, conservation, and restoration.
- When cleaning a headstone, avoid using highly acidic and alkaline agents. Steer clear of household cleaners like chlorine bleach, borax, muriatic acid, Formula 409, Fantastik, Spic and Span, and other similar cleaners.
The safest way to clean a headstone is to use natural clean water or distilled water. You can also use a non-ionic detergent or a biocidal cleaner. Besides, you can use ammonium hydroxide for light-colored stones. If there are still deep-set stains in spite of cleaning, it is better not to remove them.
Furthermore, avoid using a protective coating which is impermeable to water vapor as it is likely to stain or damage the stone beyond repair.
- You need not wash a gravestone, headstone, or tombstone more than once a year. In fact, certain headstones should be cleaned once in every ten years. In addition, do not scrub the stone with an abrasive pad or hard metal brush. Preferably, use white and soft-bristled plastic nylon brushes.
Plus, keep in mind that you need to wash the stone from the bottom to the top. While cleaning a headstone with a ceramic picture or a bronze fixture, make sure you mask these elements to protect them before cleaning the stone.
There is a common myth that you can clean a gravestone with a shaving cream. Although applying shaving cream helps clean the stone and highlight the inscriptions quickly, it is harmful for the marker in the long run.
The acidic chemicals present in the formula penetrate deep into the pores and eventually make the stone weak and frail over a period of time. Moreover, as the cream is greasy and sticky, it is difficult to remove it completely with simple washing.
- Rubbing a headstone helps flake away tiny granules of from the surface, but it tends to damage the stone and fades the inscription on it. Thus, some cemeteries do not allow this process.
- Marble tombstones can be protected by building a protective canopy built over the monument.
- If you are to maintain a bronze marker, then do not polish it with chemical cleaner frequently because bronze naturally darkens over time.
Thus, you just need to take minimal care of the headstone by occasionally washing it with water and then polishing it after it dries. You can get details on how to clean a bronze marker and other cemetery markers on this page.
- When thinking about cleaning, painting, and restoring a tombstone, it is suggested that you seek the permission of the cemetery in which the stone is placed. You can also pay a caretaker working in the cemetery for cleaning the headstone. Here are some do’s and don’ts of cemetery cleaning.
- In case the finish of a gravestone has worn off, you may hire a professional for refinishing. You can get further information about preserving a gravestone at The Association For Gravestone Studies website.