Headstones are the last memorials of your loved ones that we want to preserve forever. Over the years, exposure to elements can cause headstones to deteriorate. Fallen leaves, foliage growth, bird droppings, tree sap and many other things can affect the condition of the headstone. Here are some tips to clean a headstone without damaging it. Periodic cleaning can prevent dirt, grime and decay and keep the headstone looking new and untarnished.
Things to avoid when you clean a headstone
Before you begin to clean the headstone, there are some precautions you need to take to ensure that you don’t inadvertently damage it.
- Do not try to clean a headstone that does not seem secure and stable, and is visibly damaged. If you see any signs of damage such as cracking, flaking, crumbling or peeling, avoid cleaning it. Also, if the headstone has weathered to the extent that you cannot read the inscription carefully, don’t try to clean it.
- Do not clean the headstone when it is too cold or hot outside. If the surface is too hot, cold water can cause stress cracks on the stone. At freezing temperatures, water can get into the cracks and freeze. When water freezes, it expands and may crack the stone.
- Do not use harsh household cleaners, wire brushes, metal tools or pressure washers to clean the headstone.
Materials you will need to properly clean a headstone
- Water-make sure you have sufficient water so ensure proper cleaning
- Sponge- a soft, natural one will deliver the best results.
- Scraping tools-gentle ones to scrape off algae, moss and other organic deposits. A wooden spatula or plastic scraper would work just fine
- A gentle cleanser such as Clorox or you can make your own.
- Gentler brushes-not steel wool or brushes with metal bristles
- Towels-to wipe and dry off the headstone
- Garbage bags to take away all the trash
Cleaning the headstone
- Start by removing all the debris such as dead leaves, twigs and old flowers.
- Next, soak the headstone with sufficient water for a few minutes. Gently scrub the surface with a soft sponge in a circular motion. When doing so, start at the bottom and gently go upwards. On a flat headstone, work from side to side.
- Once fully saturated, the moss and lichens on the stone will loosen and you can easily remove them with a wooden spatula or plastic scraper. Remove all the large particles carefully, while ensuring that you don’t rub them back onto the surface.
- Rinse thoroughly often so that the dirt keeps getting washed off and the surface remains wet. Keep soaking your sponge in water. Any dry-to-dry surface contact can cause irreparable damage to the surface.
- You can then clean your headstone with a soft brush scrubbing away all the dust and grime. Use a very soft hand when doing this.
- After it has all been wiped and scrubbed clean, rinse it thoroughly with water leaving no residue behind.
- If the moss and algae still hasn’t come off completely, you can consider using a non-toxic and gentle cleanser. Do this with utmost precaution because some cleansers can be harsh and may damage the surface. Do a patch test before you decide to use the cleanser on the entire headstone.
- Thoroughly rinse the headstone with water and wipe the surface dry with a soft towel.
It is not always easy to clean the headstone on your own, and in some cases, it is not advisable as well. So, it is best to leave it to the professionals. If your loved one’s headstone is looking worn or damaged, it is best to call a professional monument cleaning service to restore the headstone to its original glory.