Proper Supplies for Cemetery Monument Cleaning

How to Clean Cemetery Monuments

Having the right cleaning supplies will ensure that your gravestone or marker is cleaned safely and effectively. Remember, improper cleaning can accelerate deterioration and damage the stone.

Plenty of water: For a standard-sized headstone, bring at least 5 gallons of water (more for larger markers). Also, use a sponge that is free of dye to avoid staining the stone.

1. Water

Obviously the most important item to bring to any cemetery cleaning is plenty of water. This will help keep the stone wet and reduce damage to the surface by too much cleaning material.

Start by wetting the stone, dumping water over it and carefully using your sponge(s) or scraping tools to remove as much dirt/build-up as possible. Continue this process until you feel the stone is as clean as possible.

Then, spray a light coating of D/2 biological cleaner over the marker or monument. The Ready-to-Use formula works gently over time to wash away stains such as moss, lichen and algae without harsh chemicals or excessive agitation. This allows the wind and rain to wash the organic growth away as it naturally breaks down.

2. Sponge

A sponge is a must for getting rid of large debris that the brush and scraping tools can’t reach. A natural sponge, like the kind you might buy in a grocery store, works best. Avoid using sponges with dyed bristles, as the color can bleed into stone and stain it.

Always wet the monument before cleaning it, as this prevents the stone from becoming too dry and brittle. It’s also important to consider the reason you are cleaning a monument. Many people clean their loved ones’ gravestones to make the inscriptions more legible. However, if the stone is in poor condition and shows signs of deterioration (like cracking, flaking and eroding), it may require restoration more than cleaning to preserve it for future generations.

3. Brushes

The best brushes to bring are toothbrushes and larger scrub-type brushes with soft bristles made of natural fibers or nylon. Avoid using brushes with dyes, which may transfer to the stone and stain it.

It’s also a good idea to have wood or plastic scraping tools of varying sizes available to remove organic growth, such as moss, algae and lichen. Popsicle sticks, wood or nylon kitchen spatulas, bamboo “kabob” skewers and plastic toothed scrapers for cleaning cast-iron griddles are all useful for this purpose.

Finally, a trash bag or two will prove helpful for hauling away dirt, leaves, twigs and other debris. Also, a pair of old towels will come in handy for drying the marker and your hands.

4. Detergent

Once you have removed as much dirt and build-up from the stone as possible using your sponge and brushes, a thorough rinse of the monument should be performed. Ensure that the entire surface of the marker is cleansed, paying special attention to areas where growth such as moss or lichen is present, and inside carved lettering or crevices.

Once the stone is completely wet, squirt some DAWN detergent onto the gravestone; be sure to cover the front and back of the monument as well as any side surfaces. Use your brushes (again, if needed) to loosen and scrub away the debris that has been loosened. A little bit of patience is often required as it may take quite a while to remove very dirty or stubborn deposits from a memorial.

5. Dish Soap

You likely won’t have access to a hose while at the cemetery, so it is best to bring your own water supply. You should carry at least 5 gallons of water for cleaning a standard sized headstone, and more if you are cleaning a companion or family plot.

You also should bring a sponge free of dye, as it could accidentally stain the headstone, and scraping tools made of plastic or wood. You should also have a trash bag, for hauling away debris such as dead leaves, branches, and old flower memorials. Finally, some rags and rubber gloves should be brought along for washing hands, wiping brushes, and washing/rinsing the stone. These supplies are essential for the proper cleaning of your loved one’s grave marker.

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