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How best to clean a gravestone

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

Gravestones are designed as a tribute to life, a constant reminder of a loved one which is aimed to stand the test of time. While custom-made headstones – typically granite and marble memorials – are known for their natural hardiness, dedicated and regular cleaning will help the stone remain at its best for longer. With this in mind, here’s our complete cleaning guide for a gravestone.

Three Top Tips

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.

Never use bleach

Bleach should absolutely never be used in the cleaning of gravestones; doing so can lead to serious damage of 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 on 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

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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

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.