Tips for Cleaning Older Headstones

Tips for Cleaning Older Headstones

May 6, 2021

If you’ve recently paid a visit to the cemetery to visit a loved one, you likely have noticed at least several gravestones that are seriously in need of some cleaning or repairs. Over time, some markers may even become worn past the point of being legible.

Regular cleaning can help you keep these markers in good condition for longer periods of time. The groundskeepers at a cemetery will typically be tasked with maintaining the cemetery as a whole, but not necessarily with caring for the headstones themselves. In most cases, the loved ones of the deceased will have to take on the responsibility for cleaning them, and will therefore need to know how to clean old headstones in Phillipsburg, NJ.

If you wish to clean a family member’s headstone, you can go right ahead and get started. But if you’re interested in cleaning a headstone that does not belong to a direct family member, you may need to check local regulations.

Before you head out, collect the materials you’ll need: some distilled water, a spray bottle or garden sprayer (never used with chemicals), a natural bristle or nylon brush, a firm toothbrush, sponges and some popsicle sticks to remove stubborn lichens.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow when you arrive:

  • Check the condition: Before you begin cleaning, you should inspect the headstone to determine its condition. Look for stability issues, or the presence of any fractures or breaking. Does it sound hollow when you tap on it? Is there anything else to suggest it’s in fragile condition? If the condition is okay, you can proceed, but if not, you should speak to the cemetery staff.
  • Rinse: Start by thoroughly rinsing and saturating the headstone with water with the spray bottle or pump sprayer.
  • Clean: Start by cleaning the stone at the bottom and then work your way upward to prevent streaking from occurring. Frequently rinse the area you’re cleaning with water. Start by using the softest brushes you have, and move on to stiffer brushes (natural bristle) if needed. Never, ever use a wire or metal brush. With the brush, use circular motions to prevent streaking from occurring.
  • Scrape: If there’s moss or lichens growing on the headstone, you can gently scrape them away with plastic or wooden scrapers or sticks. Usually it will come off with ease, but you might occasionally need to put in a bit of elbow grease.
  • Soaps: In general, you should try to avoid using soaps, though there are some non-ionic soaps that might work. Typically the best rule is to not use any type of cleaning solution unless you absolutely cannot get it clean with water alone.
  • Rinse when done: When you’ve repeated the cleaning process on all sides of the marker, be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Improper cleaning can cause even more damage than just letting the headstone sit dirty, so make sure you follow the appropriate steps when you reach the cemetery.

For more information about how to clean old gravestones in Phillipsburg, NJ, contact us at Phillipsburg Memorial Company.

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