Once the funeral service and wake are over, one way of paying your respects to a deceased loved one and to cope with their loss is to maintain a clean and beautiful grave that honours their memory. Cleaning the headstone and surrounding area is also a fantastic excuse to pay more regular visits and gives you the opportunity to find a little peace and remember them privately. Here we take a look at the best ways to maintain a grave and what practices you should avoid.


General grave maintenance

When performing general grave maintenance, it’s important to consider the materials you’ll be working with and how you can clean without causing damage. Many cleaning chemicals, such as household soaps and detergents, will be too harsh too be used regularly, while pressure washers can cause damage.

If you do spot damage – such as flaking, cracks or any instability – when you inspect the headstone, stop working and contact a stone restoration specialist before resuming.


What tools do I need?

Any tool you use on the headstone needs to be gentle on the rock. This means that you should consider using some of the following items:

  • Soft bristle brush.
  • Toothbrush.
  • Distilled water (this is softer than tap water, and so will protect the surface of the rock from damage).
  • Wooden scraper (to remove moss and lichen).
  • Buckets.
  • Sponges.
  • Paper towels.
  • Flannel cloth.


How to clean different materials

While your first step should always be to gently wipe down the headstone with some distilled water – as it creates a kind of barrier between the stone and cleaning fluid – the type of cleaning fluid you use will depend on the type of stone you’re maintaining.

Below, we’ve listed the best solutions for a variety of rock types.

Granite – Mix a cup of non-ionic soap into a bucket of distilled water. As one of the harder stones, you can be more vigorous and use a non-metallic scouring pad to remove calcium deposits, but be careful of any painted lettering.

Bronze – Mix a small amount of water with non-ionic soap. Apply with a soft bristle brush, and then rinse the plaque with distilled water. Wait for the surface to dry and then apply paste wax, buffing in circular motions with a flannel cloth to bring out the shine.

Marble – Mix a cup of ammonium hydroxide into a bucket of distilled water. This stone is firmer than limestone and sandstone, but you should still avoid using a pressure washer.

Limestone and Sandstone – These two are the softest stones, and so for best results, mix a cup of non-ionic detergent into a bucket of distilled water.

Once you’ve wiped down the headstone with one of these solutions, you need to remove all unwanted growth or dirt with one of the soft cleaning tools. However, this aren’t your only option. If you prefer a more natural solution, try putting a couple of snails on the headstone. After a few hours, the snails will have eaten all the moss, mould and fungus, and the headstone should be clean.


Other maintenance

Often the headstone is just one component of the grave and you’ll want to do a little more maintenance in other areas. This can include removing weeds, leaves or other plants, cleaning up the grave’s borders or decorating the headstone with flowers.

These are all fairly simple tasks and all you’ll need to complete the task are basic gardening tools, such as hand shears, refuse bags and maybe a gardening mat. It’s common for the authorities in charge of the burial site to remove flowers once they’ve died or begun to discolour, so it’s always a good idea to bring some if you want to maintain some colour at the gravesite.

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