Cleaning a Gravestone

How to clean a headstone

Posted by AK Lander | On May 11, 2015 10:13

From how best to clean a marble gravestone to ones that are made from black granite, find out how to keep your loved one’s memorial in top condition.

Gravestones are designed as a tribute to life, a constant reminder of a loved one which is aimed to stand the test of time. Although custom-made headstones are known for their natural hardiness., dedicated and regular cleaning will help the stone remain at its best for longer. If you’re searching for the best tips for how to clean a marble headstone or memorials in general, then read on to discover the best things you can do. here’s our complete cleaning guide for a headstone.

Start from the bottom up

If you are cleaning a memorial headstone we would recommend starting from the bottom and working up towards the top. This is because if you start cleaning a monument from the top, the acids released from the moulds you are scrubbing off can run down the façade of the stone and can lead to extra stubborn stains.

Should the stone need washing, always use natural clean water before patting it dry with a soft cloth to minimise water retention.

Do not use a pressure washer

While a pressure washer will almost certainly make the task of cleaning your headstone significantly easier, it isn’t at all recommended because it can lead to added water retention in the stone and therefore make it weaker over time. We would also not recommend using cleaning products with strong bristles, such as wire brushes or metal brushes, as this may scratch the stone and reduce its natural resistance to moisture.

We spoke to the team at Skyline Softwash, who offer a safe alternative to pressure washing. They told us: "Gravestones come in many different shapes, from beautiful, engraved marble to fantastic sculpted stone. Over time they can get covered in funk! Gravestones are not really dirty, they are in fact infested with micro orgasms. Fungus, mould, mildew and over time can decay the stone. To keep the funk at bay use SoftWash treatment the safe alternative to pressure washing. SoftWash kills the root of the funk and last 4-6 times longer than pressure washing."

Never use bleach

Bleach should absolutely never be used in the cleaning of gravestones; doing so can lead to serious damage to the stone, which can never be undone. This is because the bleach dissolves the outer layer of the stone as soon as it comes into contact with it, particularly in marble where it leaves a distinctly glossy surface after it has washed away – making the area look considerably out of place compared to the rest of the stone.

Top Tips for Granite

Bird perched on a gravestone

If you’re dealing with a granite stone, it’s always best to start with an initial check of the headstone for any significant damage; if you find any cracking, delamination or any other weak areas, you won’t want to add any further stress on the area so be sure to approach with caution.

What should I use to clean a granite headstone?

Using around 30 grams of non-ionic cleaner mixed with 5 gallons of clean water, soak a sponge and carefully scrub the desired area. As we mentioned before, work from bottom to top to avoid streaking and rinse the area often to remove any running water.

Alternatively, you can make a poultice using a glycerine mixture and porcelain clay, which can then be applied to the surface before being sealed using a plastic wrap, also taping down the areas to keep an area moist. After leaving for a few hours, remove the wrap and scrape away the mixture with a non-metallic scrubber – such as a wooden spatula.

How to clean a black granite headstone


Many people opt for a black granite material for their loved one’s headstone, as it can look sophisticated and respectful. Black granite is highly durable, however, it can collect dirt and pollen, so it’s best to clean it every so often.

What should I use to clean a black granite headstone?

Fill one spray bottle with water and a second bottle with two parts water and a few drops of pH-neutral washing up liquid. Spray the second bottle directly onto the headstone and scrub any engravings with a small brush and wipe away any of the dirt with a cloth. Afterwards, spray the plain water all over the headstone and wipe with a new cleaning cloth. There will be water streaks, but these will dry, leaving you with clean and polished granite.

Top Tips for Marble

Cleaning a marble stone is completely different compared to granite; a greater level of care needs to be applied as it’s a softer stone in comparison.

Start with the initial inspection, and if there are cracks or damage do not attempt to clean; cleaning weak marble can result in damaging the stone even more. If there are no cracks, you can crack on with cleaning the stone as planned.

What should I use to clean a marble headstone?

Firstly, soak the stone with water to take off any algae or moss that is growing on the stone, then use a soft wooden spatula to remove growth which is particularly stubborn. Now combine just a tablespoon of non-ionic soap with one gallon of water, and lightly scrub the mixture onto the stone using a soft-bristled brush. Keep the stone wet at all times with clean water during the cleaning process.

Arrange a Memorial Maintenance Service

Graveyard sunset

If you are reluctant to try the cleaning for yourself for fear of damaging the stone or because some of the methods are quite tricky, why not check out the gravestone maintenance service we provide here at AK Lander? As well as cleaning a memorial to a professional standard on a regular basis without sacrificing its appearance, we can also take care of the re-gliding of lettering and even the restoration of damaged stones; contact us today and see how we can help you.