How to clean bronze cemetery markers

Updated March 23, 2017

Bronze grave markers are a beautiful memorial remembrance of a loved one who has passed away. Manufacturers seal the bronze during the construction process with a protective coating that often deteriorates after years of exposure to wind, rain and natural elements. Once the sealant wears off, markers begin to develop a natural greyish-green patina that mars the once-fine finish and causes them to look dull and unattractive. Although this patina actually protects markers from further deterioration, often family members desire to clean bronze markers to restore them to their original finish.

Remove any leaves or debris lying on top of horizontal markers before cleaning.

Clean dirt and grime with water and a nylon brush on large flat areas of the marker. Get in between lettering and decorations with a toothbrush to remove embedded grime.

Rinse marker with water and dry with a soft terrycloth towel.

Dampen a soft cloth with mineral oil and apply to the surface of the marker.

Scrub the marker with a nylon brush, followed up with a clean cloth to remove discolouration as you work across the marker. You may need to apply several applications of the mineral oil as you work.

Remove residual oil with a clean cloth, taking special care around the lettering.

Finish with a light application of WD-40 or car wax to put a sheen on the marker and protect it from the elements. Periodic re-application of a protectant with a soft cloth is recommended to keep the marker looking bright.


New markers should only be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth to remove top soil and grime. You can use steel wool around polished lettering after it has aged, but be careful not to touch the rest of the marker with it, as it may scratch it.


Applying chemicals or oils to new grave markers will accelerate the breakdown of the protective coating placed on the marker when manufactured. Be careful when cleaning bronze around limestone, as it is easily scratched.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft cloths
  • Nylon brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Terrycloth towels
  • Mineral oil
  • WD-40 or car wax
  • Steel wool
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About the Author

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.