It is natural for headstones to discolour and wear down over time due to weathering. However, a variety of conservation and cleaning methods are available that can significantly increase their lifespan.
It is essential to find out what products are OK to put onto a headstone before you begin as normal cleaners can cause more damage than good. In addition, should the stone not be firmly fixed to the base or peeling on the surface you might damage them beyond repair. For more information on Headstones, visit a site like Headstones from Abbey Memorials
Limestone and sandstone
If you clean limestone or sandstone always check the surface in advance for peeling, crumbling or potential problem areas. If any part of the tombstone looks fragile, it is essential to be careful about overusing any cleaning solution. To clean either sandstone or limestone, fill a bucket with distilled water and add a small cup of non-ionic water. Mix in a solution with a natural feathered brush and gently wipe over the surface. When cleaning the limestone and sandstone never use metal brushes, acidic cleaners or a pressure washer.
Marble is firmer than limestone and sandstone, but not as strong as granite. Whilst it can take a stronger clean, it is still best to avoid a pressure washer. To clean a marble headstone, mix some ammonium hydroxide with a large quantity of distilled water and brush it onto the marble with a natural bristle brush. After getting rid of the mildew or mould, wash the stone with distilled water to get rid of any excess solution.
This headstone material is the toughest of all and can withstand strong cleaning. One issue, however, is that it often accumulates significant calcium deposits, which can significantly lower the lifespan and cause loss of colour. To clean this type of headstone, combine distilled water with non-ionic soap. Brush the surface with a scourer or non-metallic brush, then rinse with a sanitizing solution. It’s ok to pressure wash granite but stay wary of painted letters because they could be taken off the stone.
These plaques and headstones will change colour over time in a natural process, which can make the wording more difficult to read. However, most people see this as part of the appeal. If you want to keep the bronze shiny for as long as possible you will need to clean, polish and wax at least once per year. Start by creating a cleaning solution with one-part water and three-part non-ionic soap. Add the cleaner to a cloth and wipe down, ensuring that any mould or grime is removed. Wash off the solution with water and allow the headstone to completely dry. Apply some bronze wax with a cloth and buff to a shine.
Before you clean a gravestone, you should contact your local responsible authority. Some authorities will not allow self-cleaning and will hire a professional to perform these tasks on your behalf. Additionally, some stains should be left alone, or you risk removing the surface layer. In this situation you may need to hire a professional mason to refinish the headstone.