How to Clean Monuments

THE PROPER WAY TO CLEAN A HEADSTONE

Read the 'Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning Graves' here

Abridged from an article by D. Smith-Bearden, International Association of Cemetery Preservationists, Inc

It is recommended that clean clear natural spring water be used for cleaning. Do NOT use harsh chemicals, high pressure hoses or equipment, or abrasive tools of any kind.

Cleaning Procedures
  • Do not clean marble, sandstone, or slate stones too frequently; once every ten years is sufficient.
  • Use soft-bristled brushes with natural or plastic bristles. Never use a wire brush or any metal object for cleaning.
  • Remove loose dry materials with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Do not use cleaning solutions unless absolutely necessary and then use a lot of water quickly to remove the cleaning solutions.
  • If cleaning solutions are necessary to use they should always be:
    • Biodegradable.
    • Non-ionic, non-corrosive and non-flammable.
    • Colourless and odourless.
    • Hard water tolerant.
    • Non-staining.
    • Never use cleaning agents that are abrasive in any way.
    • Household ammonia can be used to clean headstones and monuments if it is absolutely necessary. The ratio is one cup of ammonia to four litres of water.
  • After using each individual cleaning agent, rinse it away thoroughly with lots of natural clear water. NEVER allow cleaning solutions to dry or stand on a headstone or monument, this will only damage the stone and defeat your purpose.
  • Do not attempt to remove deep-set stains which remain after cleaning.

HOW TO CLEAN MARBLE HEADSTONES

STEP 1: Determine the condition of the marble headstone


Since marble is vulnerable to wear and tear, marble headstones that have cracks and signs of aging should be left as is because cleaning can weaken the marble further and result in more serious damage.

STEP 2: Saturate the marble headstone with clean water

Soak the entire marble headstone surface with clean water to saturate any growth - such as moss or lichen - that may be visible on the surface.

STEP 3: Gently Scrape Off Any Growth

Use a wooden scraper or an old wooden spatula to gently scrape the surface of the marble headstone to remove any growth that has accumulated.

STEP 4: Make Soapy Water

Mix a marble cleaning product - or 1 tablespoon of non-ionic soap - with 4 litres of water.

STEP 5: Remove Excess Debris

Dip a natural bristle brush into the soap and water mixture and brush along the surface of the marble headstone to scrub away any excess debris.

You want to keep the marble wet throughout the cleaning process by continually wiping the marble headstone with a cloth and clean water.

STEP 6: Rinse and Wipe the Marble Headstone

Once all of the debris has been removed by the soapy water mixture, rinse the entire surface of the marble headstone thoroughly with clean water and a clean cloth.