The Counters Blog

How To Clean A Gravestone



If you notice it becoming dirty, you will want to take steps to make it clean and beautiful again. Conservationists caution against an aggressive cleaning program. If the stone has been dirtied by mud or other materials, then it is okay to clean it. If you notice the gravestone has become dirty, you will want to take time to carefully clean it.


Headstone & Memorial Cleaning Demonstration | Duration 6 Minutes 2 Seconds

Non-ionic soaps do not contain the harsh salts that can damage grave stones. You can purchase gallons of distilled water to take with you if you are unsure if there will be running water near by. After you have removed the first layer of dirt or grime, you can use your brushes. It is best to start at the bottom of the stone and work your way up. Since it is exposed to nature’s elements, this is completely normal. Using a clean sponge, gently scrub the affected area with the ammonia mixture.

Some people have effectively used snails to clean their stones. Snails consume many of the materials that grow on gravestones. You can likely find several snails on surrounding graves. If you have any concerns about the state of the gravestone, it is a good idea to talk to an expert. Check the regulations about size and type of marker before you make a purchase. Although it might seem natural to want to frequently clean the stone, resist the urge. You can also leave small mementos at the burial site. Stone is porous and will absorb like a sponge, and there are ingredients in most soaps/detergents that will cause damage to the stone. The most gentle way to clean is to spray it on and allow mother nature to do the rest, since the more you agitate the stone, the more wear you cause on the stone and fine edges of the engraving. It may look great for the short term, but it may also cause damage and accelerate the wear and tear on the stone and engraving.





Wet And Forget Outdoor Headstone Cleaner | Duration 1 Minutes 24 Seconds

Stone is porous and will absorb the bleach/salt, and it will crystalize and cause more damage than the moss and lichen on the stone already. They would probably love to guide you in the steps to clean the rust off properly while doing minimal or no damage to the stone. Never use commercial household detergents, they can be harsh on the stone.

The stone is porous and the salt crystals will damage the stone. Next, mix your soap with water and dampen a sponge with the solution. If there’s any natural growth on the stone, like lichen, mix 1 part ammonia with 4 parts water and use a sponge to scrub the affected area. To learn how to choose the right type of stone for a grave, keep reading. One of the most important parts of maintaining a grave is making sure that the gravestone is clean. Make sure to use the right cleaning products for the type of stone you are washing. The first thing you should do is to ask yourself whether or not the stone actually needs cleaning.

Every cleaning has the potential to damage the stone, even if you are exceedingly gentle. If the stone doesn’t need to be cleaned, you can find other ways to honor their memory. Just be aware that once you begin cleaning a stone, you will find that you need to do so on a regular basis.

Time and weather can cause a gravestone to look less than pristine. Read the label carefully to ensure that it says “non-ionic”. Once you have your cleanser, you are ready to gather the rest of your supplies. If the cemetery has a faucet or hose you can use, take a clean bucket with you to hold the water. You should still take a bucket so that you can easily dip your supplies into the water. Natural are best, as they will be less likely to damage the stone. Choose a few different brushes with a variety of stiffness levels.

When you arrive at the gravestone, take a few minutes to assess the stone. It is better to leave some dirt than to put additional stress on the stone. Once you have checked out the stone, you are ready to start actually cleaning. Once they are wet, gently begin wiping down the surface of the stone. Wet your brushes, then use them to gently scrub each part of the stone.



D2 Biological Solution Cleaner How To Clean Headstones, Gravestones, Tombstones, And Monuments | Duration 3 Minutes 57 Seconds

They come in many different colors, such as grey, green and yellow.

It is important that you know what type of stone you are dealing with. Clean limestone using the same method as the one used to clean marble. When it comes to cleaning gravestones, natural methods might sometimes be best. Use polyethylene to cover the stone, and use pieces of wood to keep it on the ground.

Collect them and place them in the enclosure that you have made. For example, an expert will be able to tell you the approximate age of your stone. Contact the cemetery to ask if they can recommend someone you can speak to. Make sure to ask about the proper cleaning method and frequency for your particular stone. When you have to bury a loved one, there are many choices that you have to make. Take some time to think about the stone that is right for the situation. Markers come in a variety of materials, such as marble, sandstone, and granite. Instead, you should clean the stone approximately 18-24 months. In addition to properly maintaining the gravestone, there are other ways that you can honor your loved one. This is especially nice to do on holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays.

If you have a build up of lichen and moss, you can use a toothpick, tongue depressor, or paint stir sticks to remove the bulk of it. Bleach should never be used on a tombstone or similar stone monument or statue. They love to share their knowledge and help people care for tombstones and monuments and such. I was also advised that marine paint used for boats is a good option, as it is weather-resistant. It worked very well with very little elbow grease needed, just a pail with some water and the magic eraser!

Never use a pressure washer on a tombstone as it will erode the stone and accelerate the wear and tear on the stone while removing the crisp edges of engravings.

Then, gently wipe down the surface of the stone with the sponge, using a brush for the tougher dirt.



How To Clean A Stone Grave Marker | Duration 5 Minutes 47 Seconds

Aim to clean the gravestone once every 18-24 months, or as needed.

NCPTT by ncptt.nps.gov

Soak the stone liberally with water before applying the cleaner with a hand or backpack sprayer or garden hose.

Agitate the surface gently in a circular motion using a soft bristle brush. Remember to rinse after cleaning each area and to thoroughly rinse the stone at the end to make sure that no cleaner is left behind. The second goal was to look at factors that led to the re-growth of microorganisms on the stone. The cleaners needed to be effective in improving the appearance of the headstone and do no harm to the marble. Additionally, they conducted accelerated laboratory tests using fungi to distinguish between the best field performing cleaners. Always keep the stone wet during cleaning and thoroughly rinse afterwards. The first goal was to find effective commercial cleaners that removed soiling and microorganisms which alter the appearance and degrade headstones.

Safe + Easy Headstone Cleaning by landing.wetandforget.com

The combination of the wind and the rain breakdown the growth and rinse your surfaces clean over time. Wet the surface and forget it, there’s no rinsing or scrubbing! Gently cleans headstone stains over time with help from the rain. I could not believe how well this product cleaned the grave markers in our local cemetery. I love this product because it has helped cut my bathroom clean-up time which means less scrubbing for me and more me time. Gallon concentrate makes 6, apply with a garden pump sprayer.



Cemetery Headstone Cleaning Granite Or Bronze | Duration 2 Minutes 14 Seconds

Some of them have been there for many, many years and this product made them look like new. Green algae, black mold, and moss begin to die off on contact. Green stains clean up in 1-2 weeks, black stains and moss clean up within a few months.

Cleaning Gravestones Monuments and Stone Sculptures by gravestonepreservation.info

Clean it too often, and all the inscription and details may be washed away! Most people’s first desire is to “restore” the stone, or to make it look new again. If it looks old, it’s your gut feeling it should be cleaned. It may not be possible to clean the stone as quickly as you had hoped before beginning the project. Be flexible and relax your preconceived notions regarding what the stone will look like once the cleaning operation has been completed. A pump sprayer works best for most gravestone cleaning operations. A sprayer will use much less water then the old bucket and brush method. There are many different types of brushes which work well for cleaning cemetery memorials.

Always begin the cleaning process with the softest brush to see if it will get the job done.

In a purest sense this may be true, and when conserving artifacts in a museum setting, this may be good advice. On the other hand, natural bristle brushes are often softer and more effective for many types of stone cleaning. Do not use old contaminated brushes from previous non gravestone cleaning projects. Grout cleaning brushes are very effective for getting into tight spaces, such as cleaning in and around the inscriptions and carvings.



How To Clean Headstones/Cemetery Markers | Duration 1 Minutes 34 Seconds

Not all plastic scrapers are formed from the same quality and hardness of plastic. Instead of damaging the stone, the plastic wears away fairly quickly. Many conservators make an issue to recommend starting the cleaning operation at the bottom of the stone, working towards the top. Streaking and staining, may result if the dirty water is allowed to evaporate before being rinsed from the stone. Just like any tooth which has roots way beneath the surface, so does most biological growth. The stone will then become cleaner by itself over the next days, weeks and months, even without the need for hand scrubbing which can contribute to erosion on very soft and crumbly stone.

Just a once in a gallon or two of water to make a cleaning solution. A word to the wise, don’t expect miracles to occur while cleaning with a non ionic detergent, you have to be patient as results are often less then spectacular. This employs the concept a capillary action to wick away staining safely. This is a very safe technique when properly employed, and may be performed on very delicate surfaces. Entire books have been published on cleaning stone and masonry.

Its strength may be varied based on the amount of crystals added. Also it may kill grass or plantings in the area around the stone being cleaned. Additionally plain old fashioned cleanser may be doing the best job of all. Do not use cleanser on polished granite as it may scratch the finished surface of the stone. Every time a historic stone is cleaned, some of the stones surface is removed in the process.

Before any cleaning may begin, it must be determined what the objective of the proposed cleaning project is. But, upon further consideration it may not be desirable to have a new looking stone in an old graveyard. So what is the driving force behind the desire to clean gravestones?

Another reason may be to bring back the beauty of an otherwise discolored stone or statue. The type of stone can determine what technique should be used to clean it. Regardless of what kind of stone you are cleaning, the first rule is always to be as gentle as possible. Long term biological growth such as lichens and molds may have been attached to the stone for decades and are highly variable in how fast they can be removed. Always begin with clean water, a soft scrub brush, and plastic scrapers . Additionally the bucket method always returns the polluted water, still on the brush back into the clean water thus contaminating it. It is best to always have a wide range of brushes on hand, including multiple sizes, with various stiffness, of the bristles.

Gravestones in an outdoor environment do not seem to be effected by this extremely minor, possible residual effect, which natural bristles pose. Car wash type brushes work well for the softer end of the spectrum.

Typical scrub brushes are more aggressive and vary in size and exact stiffness of the bristles. Always remember to rinse often as the cleaning progresses to monitor for flaking or scaling to the stone. Certain types of growth can be removed quickly and effectively with only the use of plastic. Always scrub in a random orbit motion, to avoid streaking or erosion to the surface of the stone. This serves to avoid staining the stone from runoff as the cleaning advances upward. But, most importantly be sure to completely rinse off the stone before it dries.

These type of cleaning products are known as biological cleaners. One major issue with most cleaning products is that they will only clean whats on the the surface of the stone.

Within a few minutes it will go to work eating away at the biological activity. It comes in a small plastic bottle, but you do not need to use much at one time. Another highly effective cleaning method is to poultice the stone. A poultice is simply a clay type substance whish is placed on a pre moistened stone. Once the stone is uncovered, it is rinsed clean of the poultice and hopefully the staining attempting to be removed. It is most common in a dry crystal form and is mixed with water to form a solution. Comet or common dry cleanser without the extra cleaning crystals works wonders when cleaning unpolished modern granite monuments.

See The Easy Steps In How To Clean A Marble Headstone by howtocleanmarble.org

This ranges from moisture and salt to hydrocarbons and sulfur dioxide pollution all working against the calcite structure of the marble — any exterior marble can be affected. This is the opposite of an all-to-common assumption that extreme measures, given the contaminants, should be used on exterior marble cleaning. As these grains are lost over time, the surface of the marble headstone may take on a sugary-looking appearance. This is why gentle cleaning, for any exterior marble installation makes all the difference in preserving this natural stone. Let the area dry after cleaning to determine its effectiveness. Soft bristle brushes with natural or synthetic bristles should be used. Be sure to locate the cemetery’s water source or bring sufficient water (at least a bucket) since it takes a lot of water to properly clean a marble headstone. An undiluted cleaning agent may leave a residue in the marble’s pores. Use a circular motion with a soft bristled brush starting from the bottom of a headstone moving to the top.

Choose a mild, non-abrasive cleaner, minus the harsh chemicals noted above and be sure the manufacturer’s recommendations for water to cleaner dilution ratio are met.

Because marble is a crystalline, metamorphosed limestone, composed primarily of calcite and dolomite, it is more susceptible to erosion and decomposition due to exposure. These soiling agents are not exclusive to cemetery headstones and can affect all exterior marble installations. Local production facilities or industrial plants can create added pollutants leaving a crust-like residue resulting in a gray, rough stone surface. These organisms can leave a “biofilm” on the stone that includes sugars and proteins more difficult to remove through standard cleaning processes.

Because marble is a network of interlocking grains of carbonate materials these grains can become loosened through aggressive cleaning. As the surface roughens, it provides more opportunity for soiling agents to stick to it. These chemicals will create a reaction causing the marble headstone to degrade. Always test a cleaner on a dry section of marble before using it on the entire headstone. If you are using a cleaner to remove biological stains like mold and mildew, it may take a couple of weeks for it to completely disappear.

Vegetable brushes and soft bristled pet brushes work well for gentle scrubbing. Wetting the marble first wil l provide better cleaner spread on the surface and make rinsing easier. The circular motion creates an agitating effect that loosens any surface soil and that in the marble’s pores. Lastly, rinse, rinse and rinse again to make sure no residue is left behind.

Cleaning Marble Grave Monuments. Genealogy History Family History American South. by tngenweb.org

Marble stones only have an expected span of 50 years as it is.

First rap on the stone to make sure it is really solid and not ready to crack – you can tell. This helps defeat the streaking and has been certified by curators as safe. Professional curators often recommend removing the stone for professional cleaning. If you have paint or graffiti it is best to call a professional, some will work on site but there will be lasting damage that may or may not be visible at the time.

They have a field guide for cleaning, but it is not comprehensive. Never put toothpaste or shaving cream on markers as they have oils that remain forever, even if you rinse it right off. There is white bronze (zinc) which looks like a marble stone and can be easily damaged with improper cleaning. And if you do clean a marker, never clean it again – all you are doing is basically sanding off the outer layer and that outer layer is protecting the integrity of the stone. The weakest spots are usually in the middle of the inscription of the name. Soak the stone thoroughly through and through, then start at the bottom and work your way up.

Keep water running on the stone the whole time and you can’t wet it or rinse it too much. Do not expect you will end up with a sparkling white legible stone. They place the stone in soaking water baths for months or even years before touching it. There is a field guide for recording a cemetery that would be good for a novice. I also find that using plain water to soak the stone can help with some stones in certain circumstances. There are some stones – usually light gray granite with no darkening in the engravements – that defy getting a photo where you can read the entire inscription but you might be able to spotlight portions using angles and mirrors.

Planning A Cemetery Visit? Dos and Don’ts To Read Before You Go by familyhistorydaily.com

You might earn some good karma by helping out a stranger, and maybe one day you’ll discover someone returning the favor for you!

If you’ve come prepared, there are some simple things you can do safely to take care of the marker. Clear away any debris, tree limbs, or leaves that obscure the site. Take care not to remove what might be historic vegetation, but do remove weeds. If the stone surface has a crumbly, sugary texture or is cracked or split—don’t touch it. If you’re lucky enough to be dealing with granite headstones, all you may need to do is polish it up a bit with a towel.

These might be obscuring the inscription, and some experts say they can damage the stone too. You may use your fingers to pinch it out, or try a brush as well. If you’re using an ammonia mix, be sure to rinse thoroughly with plain distilled water when finished.

Your goal is to make it legible without causing any harm. Some cemetery photographers have used flour to bring out the inscription, but that’s also frowned upon by preservation experts. You could even try aluminum foil, or reflective car window sun shields to bounce the light. Don’t forget to check all sides of the marker for more text. And the picture may help you or your family find the location again too. Some day in the future, the cemetery may be lost, or the grave marker gone. You can adjust the size of this area so that it’s a wide band only on the bottom, if you want. You’ll have a digital record with a more readable inscription, details to help you and others find the grave in the future, and a permanent record of who took the photograph and when. My grandmother recently passed away, and her tombstone is in a very large area. When the roots dry up or root they will drop out of the stone leaving a hole.

Some families really don’t like it when non-relatives decide to trudge into a family burial ground and put whatever type of memorial stone said non relative desires. You will be amazed at how the writing pops out., even when it looks like there is hardly any writing left. Do you have a packing list for your cemetery jaunts?

Always gain permission from those who manage the cemetery before any cleaning effort. Remove scrub vegetation; trim away vines with garden shears if applicable. If you’re sure the stone is in good structural shape, decide if it needs cleaning. Some of these monument surfaces may have attracted lichen, fungus, moss, etc. If you want to try to remove the growth without causing more damage, use a tongue depressor, craft stick, or rubber scraper or spatula to gently scrape it away. A small paint brush or toothbrush may be helpful to work the narrow crevices around the lettering. Cleaning more often than once every year or two is too aggressive.

Even if you attempt to rinse any of these agents off, some will remain and can cause the stone to deteriorate at a faster rate.

There are safer ways to capture what’s engraved on the grave marker. Here are some steps you can take when shooting the picture to make the inscription more readable. You’ll also receive our free weekly newsletter so that you can stay up-to-date on our newest articles. Use a tripod or something else to brace the camera to keep it motionless. A lightweight full-length mirror, like the kind you hang on a closet door, works best, but you can experiment to see what’s practical for you to take and works well. Zoom in on the inscription, but also take a picture of the entire tombstone. If the tombstone is very stable, and the lettering just isn’t pronounced enough, you can try spreading the foil across the surface and pressing it into the engraving indentation and shooting that. It’s nice to see the setting where your ancestor was laid to rest. But you’ll still have a precise record of where your relative was buried.

Your computer probably came with a free tool already installed. If it is there already, but with no picture, you can add a photo to the record. This can take time; some contributors manages thousands of records. Now—what’s the next cemetery on your genealogy to-do list?

I will be sure to mark our geographic location the next time we visit her grave!

An orange hunting hat would have been a really good idea, instead of my brown coat!

It is highly irresponsible of you to be advocating that people do this.

FAQ by monumentlettering.com

I own a small monument company do you service the industry on a wholesale basis?

How long does it take to have my family monument lettering completed? With a state of the art drafting system, we can expedite the process. Do you remove the stone to add a name or date to it?

In most cases our skilled engravers complete the inscription in the cemetery without moving the monument or disturbing the grave.

Rest assured you will be allowed to match the existing lettering that is already on your monument. Cemetery charges help offset the cemetery overhead because the application is carefully reviewed by a staff member of the respected cemetery. Unfortunately we cannot do it or we will not promise on anything we cannot deliver. We can duplicate any carving that has been created in any monument shop but it takes time. Time has proven that granite is the most durable material for monuments. The company must be knowledgeable, professional and willing to take the time to listen to your needs. We believe that only you know when the time is right.

It is in your best interest to visit your full service monument dealer before making your decision. After all, what could be more important when you’re choosing a memorial?

Does your company engrave any other material besides granite?

Why does the cemetery charge me to add a name to a stone? Cemetery work schedules, weather and ground conditions may be a deciding factor for completion. An average monument can weigh almost 2000 pounds; some stones can even weigh well over a ton. Can arrangements be made over the phone or must we come to your showroom?

When a family visits our showroom, having many monuments of all shapes, colors and sizes is very helpful in making a decision. These differ from cemetery to cemetery, as well as within different sections of a cemetery. Unfortunately cemeteries now have strict rules and regulations’ regarding what type of lettering is allowed on monuments.

Sometimes it is a simple restoration, or it may be more economical to replace the monument. Price depends upon the amount of lettering and the cemetery charges for the permit. Hand carved lettering or hand drawn lettering will have additional charges this is priced specific to the job, if any additional charges will apply we will let you know. Even after the job is completed a cemetery official double checks the final product protecting you from any mistakes that might have been made. We just received a letter in reference that the application to the cemetery is rejected what do we do?

Are all monuments and other stone products the same, regardless of where they are purchased? Granite and other stone material come out of the earth in varying quality grades. Anyone who calls you just a few days after the funeral or urges you to make a hasty decision does not have your best interests in mind. We often encourage families to postpone this decision when we find they are still grieving, so that the memorial you choose is one that you will cherish forever. Our business is only monuments; therefore we are the experts who can best assist you with this very important choice you have to make.

Like other major purchases, the purchase of a monument should be a family decision. We spend time with each family explaining the product and going over the options.

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