How to clean a gravestone

Posted On: July 8th 2019

How to clean a gravestone

Many people like to keep the headstones of their loved ones properly maintained. There are several ways they practice this. Activities like bringing flowers, stones, and photos on a regular basis help friends and families keep the gravesite attractive and their loved one’s memory alive. In addition to these, people also find it helpful to clean the actual monument of their loved one’s grave.

Cleaning a cemetery monument may seem like a simple idea. However, there are several factors to consider before paying a visit to the cemetery to do some routine maintenance.

Can a Headstone be Cleaned?

Sometimes a gravestone will show signs of deterioration. Over time monuments can chip and flake. If your loved one’s headstone shows these signs, do not do any brushing or scraping when you clean it.

Trusting the Pros

Cemetery monuments are more delicate than they may appear to be. The polish of the headstone is removed upon design and lettering. These areas are very vulnerable, and also the major personalization of your monument. Normal granite cleaners are not safe for this delicate characteristic of the headstone.

How to clean a gravestone

The team at St. Charles Monuments wants to ensure that your headstone maintains its appearance for all time. We proudly offer a professional cleaning service in order to keep your monument looking its best.

How To Clean A Gravestone

The first rule of cleaning cemetery monuments is to be gentle. To start, spray down the gravestone with clean water. Then use a soft scrub brush. Never use wire or metal brushes of any kind, as they may scratch damage or stain the stone. Apply water and gently scrub away any biological growth from the stone. Then spray the stone once again, to remove any residue.


St. Charles Monuments takes pride in all of the gravestones that we supply in the event of your losing a loved one. Remember that it is a worthy investment to use our professional cleaning service to ensure the longevity of your monument’s beauty. Please don’t hesitate to call us regarding any further questions you have about gravestone maintenance.

How Do You Clean Granite Grave Markers?

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Granite grave markers are exposed to the outdoor elements on a daily basis, so it would stand to reason that the granite will need to be cleaned from time to time. Cleaning the granite grave marker on a regular basis will keep it looking like new; preventing bacterial growth and discoloration. Spray the granite grave marker down with clean water. An ordinary spray bottle works fine, but you may be doing a lot of spraying. A pump sprayer may be a better idea—it can hold more water and will be less stressful on your hands. Squeeze a small amount of dish detergent onto a soft scrub brush. Granite requires the use of a ‘non-ionic’ detergent for cleaning. Dish detergent fits the bill since it is neutral, does not react with hard water and does not produce a lot of foam. Use the scrub brush and detergent to clean the grave marker, paying careful attention to all of the nooks and crannies that encompass the lettering. Scrape any debris that may have accumulated on the granite grave marker w

People often ask me about cleaning gravestones. My usual answer is “Don’t do it unless absolutely necessary!”.

I love old weathered gravestones.

The weathering process is part of their charm and beauty. However there are times when a stone might need cleaning. Here I share some tips on cleaning a gravestone

1.Ask yourself if it really needs cleaning

Whenever you clean a headstone, no matter how gently, you will remove a small amount of the stone. If you clean a stone in an old graveyard might it look out of place? Sometimes cleaning a stone can cause more harm than good, so if in doubt I always advise you to leave it, as there is always a risk of damage to the stone. If a stone is in the shade beneath a tree for example, removing the lichen will only result in its reappearance again in a few months time, and to maintain a clean stone you would have to clean the stone more than once a year, which in itself will damage the stone.

Never attempt to clean a gravestone which is flaking, chipped or has loose stone on it.

2.Always use the gentlest method possible first

This means good old fashioned water and a soft brush or even kitchen roll.

3.Never use a wire or abrasive bristle brush

Always start with the softest brush possible, and if this does not work, try a slightly harder brush. Take many different sized brushes so that you can get into small spaces. Make sure that any metal or hard surfaces on a brush are covered.

4.Use lots of water and a soft plastic scraper, rinsing all the time, and using clean water each time

A hose pipe is the best way to keep the stone wet, but otherwise this is easiest if you use a pump instead of a bucket. It is essential to use plenty of clean water and to keep the brush wet at all times. I like using kitchen roll as it is very soft and soaks up lots of water. Remember to keep rinsing and scraping the water away after brushing each time and never leave the stone to dry without thoroughly rinsing.

5.Brush in gentle circular pattern, working methodically so you don’t miss any of it

Always clean the whole surface of the stone once you have begun. It is best to start at the bottom of the stone and to work up so that any dirty water does not then mark the part of the stone you have already cleaned.

6.Do not be tempted to scrub hard or expect a pristine stone: gentle is key!

7.Never use household cleaners

There are many cleaning products out there which probably achieve a quick and effective clean, but at the expense of damage to the stone, and these should always be avoided. Always avoid any cleaners containing bleach or acid as well as all household cleaners! These may destroy the composition of the stone, altering the surface which in turn can lead to faster weathering in future making the lettering less readable.

8. If still not clean enough try a mild biological cleaning solution called D2.

I would never recommend using anything stronger than water. However if you are determined to do so I would try D2, which is widely reported to be quite safe and it kills the lichen beneath the surface of the stone so it will continue to improve in appearance after you have cleaned it. For more information on D2 see their website. It is always a good idea to test a small area of stone and wait several days before tackling the whole stone. Remember to use plenty of water and to wet the stone down first.

9. You should not clean a headstone more than once a year

Even the gentlest clean will remove a small amount of the stone’s surface.

How to clean a gravestone

Memorial Day is quickly approaching and as families and friends prepare, they reach out to us with many questions about how to properly clean tombstones and monuments.

Here we will walk you through the step-by-step gentle process on how to safely and effectively clean a variety of types of headstones, memorials, and grave markers with Wet & Forget Outdoor.

Why do headstones look dirty?

How to clean a gravestone

The reason is most likely algae, lichen, moss, mold, or mildew growth and stains. These growths develop on the surface, making headstones and memorials look dark and dirty.

The majority of monuments sit outside and are constantly subjected to moist, humid conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions promote unsightly growths to take hold and grow. This is especially true in the southern U.S. where high humidity is common.

How can I remove these growths?

How to clean a gravestone

The good news is Wet & Forget removes those blackish-brown stains from headstones, memorials, and grave markers with no scrubbing or harsh chemicals. And restores headstones to their original bright and easy-to-read finish.

Although Wet & Forget can be applied to headstones any time of year, early spring is a perfect time to brighten and clean in preparation for Memorial Day. Here’s the how-to:

Simply spray the surface with Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use , making sure all headstone surfaces are fully saturated with product. You are done!

Wet & Forget Outdoor cleans the headstones and monuments over time with the wind and the rain. No scrubbing required!

Note: If you’re cleaning multiple headstones or a headstone with very heavy growth, we recommend using the Wet & Forget Concentrate in a garden pump sprayer for quicker application. The 1-Gallon Concentrate makes 6 gallons when mixed 5:1 with water.

Watch the video below to see how to easily apply Wet & Forget to headstones-

A note about removing lichen: Lichen is one of the more challenging growths to clean from memorial stones. To remove lichen, saturate the surface with Wet & Forget. Wait 15 minutes and spray the surface again.

This second spray will work the product into the second layer of the lichen. The dead lichen will begin to clear within a few months.

Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use makes small-scale outdoor cleaning a breeze! The product consists of a pre-mixed formula plus a high-capacity sprayer. Just spray it on and leave it.

How to clean a gravestone

Some preservationists state that when using a product on a gravestone it must be rinsed after applying. If you want to rinse off the surface, we recommend doing so 4 hours after the application.

The NCPTT has found that quaternary ammonium compounds are recommended for headstone cleaning. Wet & Forget is a quaternary ammonium compound, which makes it safe for all types of headstones.

Did you know Wet & Forget has been used to clean Revolutionary War gravestones? Click here to learn more.

See the results:

How to clean a gravestone

Light green growths usually disappear from the surface within one to two weeks after application. Stubborn blackish-brown growth typically begins to clear one to two months after applying Wet & Forget.

How to clean a gravestone

How to clean a gravestone

Wet & Forget Outdoor Cleaner is non-caustic, non-acidic, and free of phosphates and bleach so it is safe for use on memorials including surfaces such as:

  • Granite
  • Sandstone
  • Limestone
  • Fieldstone
  • Slate
  • Marble
  • Concrete
  • Wood

Headstone cleaning is quick and easy with Wet & Forget . Learn more about applying Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use:

How to attach the spray nozzle:

  • Remove the sticker placed over the flip cap and then remove the flip cap.
  • Locate the coiled hose inside the sprayer and fully extend the hose. It will stretch to approximately 36 inches.
  • Firmly insert the hose tip into the cap.
  • You’re ready to spray!

How to clean a gravestone

How to clean a gravestone

Application Tips:

  • Apply Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use to dry outdoor surfaces. For optimal cleaning, check the forecast for the chance of rain occurring within the next 4 to 5 hours. If rain is predicted, wait to apply the product.
  • To minimize product evaporation, apply Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use in cool, dry weather.
  • Be sure to saturate growth and stains thoroughly.
  • Don’t forget to spray the carved lettering and various crevices as well.
  • For best results, do not spray the product on extremely hot days or during the hottest part of the day.
  • Apply Wet & Forget when outdoor temperatures are above freezing, and when outdoor temperatures are predicted to remain above freezing for 5 hours afterward.

Wet & Forget honors and recognizes the many sacrifices military members, veterans, and their families make for our nation. The Wet & Forget team is excited to be currently working with a volunteer group of veterans on a project to clean other veteran’s memorials and gravestones.

Stay tuned for the full story and some great before & after photos.

See how Wet & Forget cleaned up stubborn green and black growth on a monument here.

How to clean a gravestone

Headstones and Monuments can quickly become covered in Algae, Moss, Mildew and Fungus. Since cemeteries are in grassy and often times wooded areas, biological growth on headstones is prevalent. The cost of monuments and headstones is quite significant and keeping them clean used to be a time consuming & costly exercise. Prior to new cleaning technology, headstone, monuments and mausoleums had to be cleaned by scrubbing, grinding and polishing. Not anymore.

Safely clean & remove biological growth from gravestones and monuments with Citra-Shield Cleaning Products. No scrubbing or harsh chemicals needed to bring stone grave markers back to life. These pictures were just sent to us from a customer in Florida who treated this grave marker roughly 3 months ago. As you can see in the picture, this gravestone was covered in Black Algae, which is common in humid climates. Citra-Shield Ready To Use was applied to the gravesite with a garden pump sprayer and allowed to dry on the surface. The rain, sprinklers and morning dew reactivated the Citra-Shield and left this gravestone looking like new. If you are looking for a simple and cost effective way to keep your cemetery stones and landscape surrounds looking fresh, consider using Citra-Shield.

Step 1 – Simply pour Citra-Shield Ready To Use into a garden pump sprayer or hand sprayer.

Step 2- Apply Citra-Shield to headstone, gravestone or monument affected with biological growth (moss, algae, fungus). You may notice that the stones become tea colored, this is an indicator that Citra-Shield is beginning to treat the biological growth.

Step 3- Allow product to dry on the surface. Make sure there is not any rain in the forecast for at least 4 hours after application.

Step 4 – Once dry, Citra-Shield will continued to clean headstones for months to come. The treated surface will become clean and free of biological growth.

Step 5- To keep headstones and monuments clean, re-apply Citra-Shield every 6 months to prevent biological growth from returning.

One of the common questions we see is about how to properly clean a headstone. Cleaning gravestones is not necessarily a tricky business, but there are a few best practices that we would recommend. From the materials needed to a few important tips to remember as you maintain the stone, we put together this all encompassing guide for headstone cleaning to help you through the process.

How to clean a gravestone

Materials you will need

To properly clean a headstone, there are a few essential materials you should have on hand with you:

Plenty of water: Since you more than likely won’t have access to a hose or water source when you’re at the cemetery, you will need to bring your own water supply. We would recommend bringing at least 5 gallons of water with you for a standard sized headstone, and likely more if you are cleaning a companion headstone or a family plot.

Sponges: To help you cover your headstone with water and keep it damp during the cleaning process, a large sponge works well. Be sure to use a sponge that is free of dyes, as the dye could accidentally stain the headstone. Also, avoid sponges that have a rough side, as this could be too harsh to use on the headstone.

Brushes: We would recommend bringing a few different sizes of brushes. Brushes will help you remove dirt and algae from the headstone. For smaller crevices, a toothbrush works well. For larger patches of dirt, a standard scrubbing brush will do just fine. The bristles of any brushes you use should be soft, natural and non-dyed.

Gentle scrapers/tools: For dirt that is set deep into crevices or is sitting in hard to reach spaces within the headstone, we recommend using gentle tools such as wood picks, plastic scrapers and popsicle sticks – avoid using any tools made of metal.

Towels: To dry the stone at the end, a couple of large towels should do the trick.

How to Clean a Headstone:

Step 1: It’s always best to start by removing as much dirt or build up as you can before you begin any type of scrubbing.

Step 2: Using the brushes and scrapers that you brought, carefully pick away any dirt, grass, debris, leaves, moss or any other build up that you can. Be sure not to scratch the headstone in the process.

Step 3: Once you’ve removed as much dirt/build-up as possible, wet the headstone with a sponge or by dumping water on it gently. Make sure you have a constant supply of clean water; starting at the bottom, gently remove whatever dirt and build-up is on the headstone. Work your way up to the top. The reason to clean from bottom to top is that you do not want the dirty water from the top of the headstone to drip down onto the rest of the headstone, thus impeding your progress. Keep using your supply of clean water to rinse your sponge and remove dirt, until you feel that you have cleaned the headstone as best as you can.

Step 4: Dump clean water over the headstone for a final rinse. Once you rinse the headstone, be sure to check to see if there is any additional dirt that can be removed via brush or scraper.

Step 5: When you’re satisfied with the appearance of your headstone, you can pat it dry with clean towels.

How to clean a gravestone

Other Important Things to Note :

Don’t use soap to clean a headstone. Though tempting, household soaps and cleaning products should be avoided if possible when cleaning a headstone. Despite what some brands may say, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to using cleaning products on headstones – the ingredients in them may corrode the headstone or react poorly with the surface of the headstone. You may be wondering if there are major differences between how to clean a granite headstone versus how to clean a marble headstone, but we would recommend avoiding soap and other cleaning products for both types of headstone. It’s best not to run the risk of damaging such precious materials.

Be mindful of the weather outside. Granite in particular can get very hot if the temperature is exceptionally hot outside. Try to pick a day where the weather is mild outside; while you’re cleaning a headstone, if the water you’re using keeps evaporating too quickly it will make the job much harder for you.

Avoid dry-to-dry cleaning. As you’re cleaning the headstone, be sure to always keep the headstone wet. Using a dry material (such as a cloth or towel) directly against a dry headstone could damage, scratch or be abrasive towards the headstone.

Taking care of your loved one’s headstone is a very meaningful way to stay connected to them and to continue to pay your respects to them after they’ve passed. We hope you’ve found this guide helpful; for more information on how to upkeep your loved one’s headstone, be sure to check out this post as well: “ How to Decorate a Headstone or Memorial. ”

See How Wet And Forget Cleans Headstones

Wet & Forget
In Action

Angel monument cleaned of mold, mildew and algae stains

No rinsing or scrubbing necessary, simply apply and let the rain do the work for you

Moss and lichen once covered this gravestone from 1893

Monument in Elgin Illinois cleaned with Wet & Forget with help from The Girl Scouts

Don’t Fear The Scum!

Wet & Forget Reviews

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Available at your local

Available at your local

Wet & Forget Moss Mold Mildew & Algae Stain Remover

Trusted to clean cemeteries for over 40 years!

  • Safe on historic and delicate headstones and gravestones.
  • 1-step spray and leave — no rinsing or scrubbing.
  • No bleach, no harsh chemicals, no damage to stone.
  • Gently cleans headstone stains with help from Mother Nature.
  • 1 Gallon concentrate makes 6, apply with a garden pump sprayer.

All about grave tending, cleaning gravestones and grave maintenance services when you buy a plot in a cemetery

Last updated: 1 August 2019

How to clean a gravestone

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Many bereaved families choose a burial for their loved one so that they can remember them in a restful place they can regularly visit. If you’re planning one, we have an extensive guide to burials that you would find useful.

Cemeteries and burial grounds may be owned and looked after by a local authority, private company, religious institute or a local trust. Each will have its own regulations to ensure that the graves and grounds are properly maintained, so that the memorial ground is a space which everyone can find peace in and respectfully share.

Who is responsible for a grave?

When someone buys a burial plot, they are paying for the exclusive right for a loved one or family members to be buried there for a given period – usually up to 50 or 100 years. They are a given a Deed of Grant, but do not own the ground that the plot is situated on.

The family which owns the Deed of Grant is responsible for the grave maintenance, subject to the rules of the authority which owns the cemetery and looks after the grounds. Some cemeteries can have quite strict regulations about things people are permitted to do and what is expected of them. These may vary according to the type of burial plot chosen, or be subject to additional cemetery fees and charges.

Most lawn graves, for instance, allow for just a headstone with a small flower border immediately next to the memorial, so that the surrounding grass can be mown. Many families choose traditional graves, which may allow them to personalise its entire length and breadth, in tribute to their loved one. If a loved one was given a public health burial in a public grave, no identifying marker may be permitted at all.

Grave maintenance, cemetery rules and regulations

It is wise to be aware of your chosen cemetery’s regulations, before arranging for features such as ornamental gravel, grave surrounds, plants and grave decorations to mark your loved one’s life.

Many cemeteries have a focus upon keeping the grounds orderly and tidy. Cemetery owners can reserve the right to remove items from graves for safety or maintenance reasons. They may have rules about the length of time that perishable tributes, such as wreaths and grave flowers, can be left before they are disposed of, for instance.

The given dimensions of every burial plot is very specific, to ensure that personal tributes do not encroach upon another family’s sanctuary, or onto open walkways

Some burial grounds are very strict. They may forbid grave decorations such as lights, wooden crosses, plant pots and plastic ornaments and can even remove them.

When this happens unexpectedly, it can be distressing for the bereaved. Most cemeteries provide details of their rules, which could help an informed choice to avoid upsetting circumstances.

Your funeral director may be able to advise you of your chosen cemetery’s regulations and the cemetery itself should be able to supply the information.

Gravestone cleaning

The type of equipment you use for gravestone cleaning may depend on the type of stone that is is made from. The memorial mason you bought it from should be able to advise about this, as well as on touching up lettering which has begun to fade.

Shiny surfaces can often be wiped over with a flask of warm water and a cloth or soft brush, when cleaning headstones. Some people add a little liquid detergent to the water. Be gentle and avoid using harsh scourers or brushes when gravestone cleaning. This will scratch the stone’s surface and can attract mosses or algae.

Headstone cleaner sprays are commercially available and claim to help prevent the growth of algae and moss. Many experts do not recommend the use of household products containing bleach or acid for cleaning gravestones however, as these can damage stone and make it vulnerable to erosion. If you are using more than soapy water for gravestone cleaning, it may be wise to first check with the cemetery that there are no regulations or conservation laws prohibiting your chosen headstone cleaner’s use.

Some people decide against cleaning gravestones at all and regard yellow lichens and gradual weathering as part of the story they have to tell.

Gravestone maintenance

It is the family’s responsibility to maintain their loved one’s gravestone and arrange for repairs. This should be done by an approved memorial mason and the cemetery may have restricted times when works may be carried out.

Most cemeteries reserve the right to conduct safety checks on private gravestones and monuments every few years, to ensure that they are stable.

Families will be notified by the cemetery owner of any safety issues regarding grave maintenance, but stones and tablets may be laid flat by cemetery staff, if they are deemed to be a toppling hazard.

Grave flowers and plants

Cemeteries can have different rules when it comes to planting bulbs, shrubs or flowers for graves. Where this is allowed, families are responsible for tending them and ensuring they do not become overgrown. Cut grave flowers should be disposed of when they die, or are generally removed by maintenance staff after a period of weeks.

The cemetery owner can also reserve the right to cut back plants it deems have become neglected. Trees are usually not permitted on graves, because the roots and branches could disturb nearby burials as they grow.

Some authorities place stickers or notices on graves to alert people to grave tending issues, which may involve the removal of personal tributes or grave decorations placed beyond the grave’s perimeter. This can be upsetting, so to prevent this, most request that Deed of Grant holders keep their contact details up to date, so they can be reached in person.

Grave maintenance services

Specialist grave tending companies located around the UK offer gravestone maintenance and other services for when you don’t live nearby. These can offer peace of mind to people who cannot visit their loved one’s grave as often as they would like.

Grave maintenance services include gravestone cleaning, the replacement of gravel chippings, delivering fresh grave flowers, weeding and tending living plants, as well as ensuring that a loved one’s grave is regularly cared for and tidy. They can also take and send photographs of the spruced-up grave, to provide reassurance and comfort.