What Cleans Headstones? A Guide to the Best Headstone Cleaning Supplies

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on October 31, 2023

Beyond preserving the legacy and history they represent, maintaining a headstone’s appearance is a profound act of love and respect.  

Below, we delve into the importance of keeping your loved one’s headstone clean. Plus, we share the essential dos and don'ts of headstone cleaning while outlining the best tools you can use to ensure these monuments stay pristine for generations to come. 

Why Cleaning Headstones Is Important 

Headstones serve as symbols of remembrance for our loved ones. However, the significance of maintaining their appearance goes beyond mere aesthetics—it's a reflection of the respect and love we hold for those we’ve lost. 

Over time, headstones can accumulate dirt, grime and environmental stains, which can obscure the inscriptions and design details. Without regular cleaning, the damage can become irreversible. 

By maintaining a headstone's cleanliness and structural integrity, you can extend its longevity, reducing the need for more extensive and potentially costly restoration work in the future. A well-maintained headstone signifies that the memories and legacy of the individual are still cherished.  

>>> Related Resource: 5 Signs It's Time to Restore Your Memorial or Monument 

Headstone Cleaning Best Practices 

Following the right practices ensures that the headstone cleaning process is effective and safe for the materials used in creating your loved one’s headstone (e.g. granite, bronze).  

Choose the Right Time and Weather Conditions

Selecting the ideal time and weather conditions is crucial for the success of your cleaning efforts. The best time to clean a headstone is mid-summer when it is hot and there is the least amount of rain, dew and frost. If your headstone is in a Northeast Ohio cemetery, you’ll want to plan your cleaning sessions from June through September to avoid drastic weather changes. 

Gather Necessary Headstone Cleaning Supplies

Headstone cleaning supplies typically include soft bristle brushes to avoid scratching the headstone's surface, a bucket of clean water for rinsing, pH-neutral soap or a specialized headstone cleaner, and soft cloths or sponges for gentle cleaning. Here are some affordable tool options you can choose from: 

Headstone Cleaning Techniques

Start by removing loose debris and dirt with a soft brush or a plastic scraper to avoid surface scratches. Be gentle but thorough in this step, as debris can accumulate and accelerate wear over time. 

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Next, wet the headstone with clean water and begin to apply the cleaning product using a soft cloth or sponge. Gently scrub the headstone with circular motions to avoid streaks or damage. Remember to be patient and repeat the process if necessary. Finally, rinse the headstone with clean water to remove any residue. 

Steps to Avoid When Cleaning a Headstone 

While knowing what to do when cleaning a headstone is crucial, it's equally important to be aware of what not to do. Avoiding these common mistakes is essential for the safety and preservation of headstones. 

DON’T Use Harsh Chemicals

When cleaning headstones, it's imperative to steer clear of harsh chemicals that can cause damage including: 

  • Bleach. It can discolor and weaken the structure of the headstone.
  • Ammonia. It can have a corrosive effect on certain materials.
  • Acidic Cleaners. These can erode the surface and deteriorate inscriptions. 

DON’T Scrub Too Aggressively

One of the most common mistakes is scrubbing headstones too aggressively. Overly vigorous scrubbing can lead to scratches on the headstone's surface, especially if abrasive cleaning tools are used. The custom engravings and inscriptions you had put on the memorial can be damaged if excessive force is applied. Even more, headstones that are detailed with paint can easily erode under forceful scrubbing. 

DON’T Use Inappropriate Tools

Using the wrong tools during the cleaning process can cause unintended harm to headstones. Avoid using metal brushes as they can scratch and damage the surface of the headstone. And although most headstones are made of durable granite, a high-pressure power washer should not be used. Using a power washer can erode delicate details and dislodge structural components of your headstone.

DON’T Neglect Protective Measures

Neglecting protective measures not only risks damaging the headstone but can also harm the surrounding environment. Avoid splashing cleaning products or residues on grass, plants or other vegetation surrounding the headstone as some chemicals can be harmful to plants. 

Recommended Headstone Cleaning Supplies 

Different cleaning products have specific advantages based on the type of headstone material and the nature of the stains or contaminants.  

  1. pH-Neutral Soap: The advantage of using pH-neutral soap, like Dawn lies in its versatility and mildness. It's safe for a broad spectrum of headstone materials, ensuring that no harm comes to the surface. This soap effectively removes general dirt and grime, making it a reliable choice for routine cleaning without causing any structural or aesthetic damage.

  2. Specialized Headstone Cleaner: Specialized headstone cleaners are advantageous because they are formulated to address specific problems like stubborn stains. These cleaners are designed to remove contaminants effectively while preserving the integrity of the headstone's material. 
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  3. Biological Cleaners: Biological cleaners are particularly helpful when dealing with organic growth like moss, algae and lichen. Their eco-friendly nature relies on natural enzymes to break down and remove contaminants. These cleaners are non-toxic, making them safe for the environment and the surrounding vegetation.  

Tips for Maintaining Clean Headstones 

Cleaning a headstone is not a one-time endeavor. Proper regular maintenance is crucial for prolonging the cleanliness and the overall condition of the headstone. Here are some valuable tips for maintaining clean headstones: 

  1. Establish a cleaning schedule. Consistent cleaning prevents the buildup of dirt and contaminants, making the process more manageable. Establish a cleaning schedule that suits your needs, whether it's quarterly, semi-annually or annually.  

  2. Remove debris promptly. Don't let leaves, twigs or other debris accumulate on the headstone. Regularly remove loose debris as it can promote the growth of organic matter and obscure inscriptions. 

  3. Inspect for structural issues. As part of your maintenance routine, inspect the headstone for any structural issues, such as cracks or loose parts. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent further damage.

  4. Respect cemetery regulations. Always adhere to the rules and regulations of the cemetery where the headstone is located. Some cemeteries have specific guidelines for headstone maintenance, so it's essential to comply with these guidelines. 

  5. Consider professional help. If you're unsure about the cleaning process, or if the headstone requires more extensive restoration, consider seeking professional assistance from cemetery restoration experts, like Milano Stone & Restoration.
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Take the First Step To Restore Your Community’s Cemetery 

If you notice the cemetery where your loved one is laid to rest is in need of professional cemetery restoration services, contact Milano Stone & Restoration. Our team of restoration specialists has years of experience in restoring individual headstones and full cemeteries to the serene, peaceful resting place they once were. 

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Topics: Memorialization

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