How to clean a gravestone

Old cemeteries with stone grave markers can be beautiful places. The ornate marble and granite gravestones look like carved sculptures. These works of art have survived many years exposed to all types of weather. Many appear stained and dirty; some have algae or lichen growth.

Cleaning a gravestone is a delicate, time consuming process. By using gentleness and patience, a gravestone can be cleaned.

Practice cleaning before going to the cemetery. Use a rock or old marble or granite tile.

Evaluate the gravestone at the cemetery. Take a "before" picture of the gravestone. Test clean a small area of the stone in an inconspicuous place. If the test area does not respond well to cleaning, do not continue. If there is any doubt the gravestone can be cleaned, do not attempt to without contacting knowledgeable experts, such as the Association for Gravestone Studies.

Pre-wet the stone with water, covering it completely. Use clear water in a spray bottle or a garden hose with a gentle spray. Pre-wetting prevents the cleaning solution from penetrating into the stone. Keep the stone wet at all times during the cleaning process.

Brush gently with a soft brush. Start at the bottom of the stones and work toward the top. Working in this direction will prevent streaks. Be especially careful when brushing around inscriptions.

Wet the stone with a non-ionic pH neutral cleaning solution. This type of cleaner is found at photographic supply or conservator supply houses. It is safe to use on marble, limestone and other porous stone material. Mix 1 ounce of cleaner into 5 gallons of water. Gently brush again with soft brush. Rinse often to prevent the cleaning solution from drying on the stone.

Clean crevices and carving details with a soft toothbrush. Rub gently.

Rinse the entire gravestone with clear water. Make sure all solution is rinsed off.