How to Clean Headstones

Please do NOT attempt to clean headstones unless you have thoroughly researched this subject or – preferably – are under supervision. Incorrect cleaning can harm the stone.
It is important to remember that the graves and monuments are part of a heritage-listed cemetery and should be treated with great care and respect, especially very old headstones. The golden rule when cleaning headstones is ‘Do No Harm’, either to the grave or yourself. Be gentle with the monuments, do not lean on them, and do not dislodge any components.

Our mission is primarily to WASH monuments. We do not aim to restore them to pristine condition. Many have stubborn staining that has been baked on over many years, and while we do what we can to clean grime from a monument, we leave deeply-stained stone ‘as is’ after washing. After all, aged monuments are part of the heritage character of the cemetery.

how to clean headstones

See here for which equipment to use.

Our Method

The first step is to check that the headstone is safe to clean.

  • Is it stable? Do not clean any monument that is not stable, in case it falls over.
  • Do NOT clean sandstone! This is a soft stone and you can damage the surface by brushing it. Only clean marble or granite stones.
  • Avoid cracked stone.
  • Try not to stand on grave tops, which may be unstable.
  1. Give all the headstone a quick but gentle brushing over with a soft brush to remove loose matter.
  2. Thoroughly saturate the stone with water only. Do NOT use pressurised water.
  3. Carefully and gently scrub with a soft brush.
  4. Rinse the grime off with water.
  5. This should have removed most of the surface grime from a stone, but repeat the process for any localised persistent stains. Spraying these spots with water from a squirty bottle might help. Using a weak solution of non-ionic soap at this stage is optional.
  6. Rinse very thoroughly with water.
  7. We also like to rake and sweep the grave top and surrounds afterwards, to complete the job.

BE PATIENT. Not all headstones will clean to the same standard. If the stone is still stained, at least it is cleaner than it was and you have done enough good work already.

Please DO NOT: 

  • Use chemical cleaners as there are no long-term studies to show that they are safe for monument materials. Better safe than sorry.
  • Use equipment such as high-pressure gernies or other sand-blasting or high-pressure water-blasting equipment because they can easily damage monument surfaces.
  • Use hard wire brushes, steel wool or other harsh abrasives as these can also damage monument surfaces. Scratches in the surfaces will encourage the growth of moss or lichen.
  • Brush sandstone monuments, which are easily damaged.
  • Touch leaning headstones as there is a risk that they could fall over if touched.
  • Stand on unstable grave tops, which can collapse.
  • Interfere with plants purposely placed or planted on graves.
Thank you. Please contact us with any queries on this subject.