Headstones are designed to last for centuries, especially ones made with granite. Granite is a very durable stone, and monument makers help it last even longer by coating the surface with a protective finish—but these marvels still require some upkeep. You need to clean granite tombstones once a year to prevent damage from the harsh elements.
Here are some tips on how to clean granite monuments.
You don’t need household cleaners
Contrary to what many people think, all-purpose cleaners aren’t designed for all purposes. Household cleaning solutions contain harsh chemicals that will corrode the protective finish on granite headstones. Loved ones should also avoid bleach because it can stain the granite. Even organic and biodegradable products can cause irreversible damage.
Most of the time, granite headstones only need a good rinse. A hose or bucket of water can easily wash away dirt, leaves and bird droppings that collect on the headstone. Cemeteries usually have a faucet where you can attach a hose or fill your bucket with clean water.
You may come across stubborn organic growths that don’t wash away with water alone. Moss and lichen cling to granite and slowly deteriorate the polished coating. You need to clean granite tombstones before the organic growth completely takes over. Instead of reaching for a household cleaner, there are special cleaning solutions designed for granite monuments.
Choose your tools wisely
Loved ones will need some sort of brush to clean granite monuments. Avoid abrasive brushes with wire or stiff bristles because these materials can scratch the granite’s protective finish. A few scratches here and there pave the way for future damage and accelerate deterioration.
You need to clean granite tombstones with soft nylon or boar bristles. Toothbrushes are a good option because they have soft bristles and reach into small crevices. Sponges work well, but don’t use ones covered in an abrasive scrubbing material.
You don’t just have to pick the right brush—you have to use it the right way, too. Avoid harsh scrubbing motions because this can wear down the polish. Opt for circular motions that gently lift away dirt. If this approach doesn’t work, don’t clean that part of the headstone. You won’t be able to remove moss that’s been caked on for years, even if you scrub really hard.
Dirt, bird droppings and leaf litter can get wedged into cracks and inscriptions. Clean these areas with scraping tools that will remove debris without damaging the polished granite. Good scraping tools to use include Popsicle sticks, spatulas or anything else with a rounded, wooden edge.
Rinse the headstone as you work
Granite headstones are much easier to clean when they’re wet. Water loosens debris and helps you scrub it away without scratching the protective finish. Avoid power washers because they can blast off loose chunks of granite or knock over the headstone. Keep the granite surface wet with a hose, bucket or water or spray bottle.
Family members should always check with a professional before attempting to clean a headstone. This is the only way to ensure you’re using the correct equipment and don’t accidentally damage the protective finish. For additional tips on how to clean granite monuments, contact the headstone makers at Steedley Monument Works.