How to Clean a Headstone

Posted on: 27 April 2015

Over time, various kinds of dirt and contamination can build up on a headstone, rendering it unsightly or hard to read. Cleaning a headstone is a simple process, but requires care and patience. 

What You'll Need

The exact supplies you'll need for cleaning a headstone will vary depending on the material. Limestone or sandstone monuments are softer than granite; you'll need to be gentler with them. For most headstones, the basic supplies are the same. You'll need a number of cleaning brushes with a range of different bristles, from soft to stiff. Don't use brushes with metal bristles, which could damage the headstone. You'll also want non-ionic soap, a bucket of water and some clean, soft cloths. Avoid acidic cleaners or metal scrubbing pads. A wooden scraper or lolly stick will also come in handy. 

Getting Started

Before you begin, inspect the headstone for cracks or major damage. A broken surface will require a professional's attention. If the structure is sound, however, it's time to get cleaning. Wet the surface of the headstone to loosen up any dirt or plant growth—a pump sprayer will give you the even coverage of water you need. Next, gently scrape off any moss growth with the wooden scraper. Keep wetting the surface if it dries out. 

Washing the Stone

Once you've removed any large areas of buildup, mix your non-ionic soap with water. Dip your scrubbing brush in the mixture and apply it to the surface of the stone, scrubbing gently but firmly. Start at the bottom of the stone and work upward, moving the brush in circles. Rinse the stone before the soap dries; if it's drying quickly, rinse each section before moving on to the next. If you let the soap dry on the stone, it will leave streaks. Your first pass may not get a section of the stone completely clean; you may need to go back to a particularly heavily-stained area and clean it twice. 

Don't Expect Perfection

Over time, exposure to air and sunlight will weather a stone and change its colour; this is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. Some people try to restore a monument's original colour with bleach—this might sound like a good idea, but the bleach will eventually damage the stone. 

Routine Maintenance

Regular maintenance will keep a headstone clean and easy to read; once you've restored the monument, give it a similar cleaning every year to 18 months. For more information, contact Dobson's Monumental Works Pty Ltd