Before you run out and attempt to freshen up a loved ones grave or show some attention to a resting place that has apparently not received any TLC in years, it’s very important to learn how to safely clean graves.
THE PURPOSE OF CLEANING GRAVES
The main purpose of cleaning graves is to remove things like the soiling from air pollutants, lichen, dirt, bird droppings, salts, and sap.
Believe it or not, your grave cleaning intentions should not be to make the memorial marker appear like it’s brand new.
Cleaning a grave improperly (or even unnecessarily) can actually accelerate the deterioration of memorials created from marble and granite.
TIPS ABOUT CLEANING BRONZE GRAVES
Grave markers that are made out of bronze were typically not sealed with any type of protectant until after the year 1970.
Today, it’s a common and expected practice. However, keep in mind that bronze markers will have a blue-green patina look to them over time that will never be removed by cleaning.
WHEN YOU SHOULD CLEAN GRAVES
You should only clean graves when temperatures are above 40°F, and it’s very frowned upon to clean a grave without permission from the cemetery its located in and/or the family of the decedent.
ONLY USE SOFT BRISTLE BRUSHES
When you’re cleaning a grave, you should only use soft, natural, or nylon bristle brushes to scrub them. Never use any type of plastic or metal bristle brushes on a grave – no matter what the memorial is made out of.
WATER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Most graves can be tidied up very well with just clean water alone.
You can put fresh water into buckets, spray bottles, hand pumps, or backpack sprayers and use any one of them to rinse graves.
(Never use a power washer on a grave!)
CLEAN STUBBORN STAINS OFF OF GRAVES
Like I just mentioned, most graves can be cleaned with water only – but you’re naturally going to encounter stubborn stains that will clean up a lot easier by using water mixed with a gentle cleaning detergent. Some ideal detergents to use would be Orvus WA Paste or Ivory Liquid dish soap.
CLEAN BIOLOGICAL GROWTH OFF OF GRAVES
If the grave you’re attempting to clean has biological growth (like algae, mildew, moss, or lichens), it may be necessary to use water mixed with a product that’s made for cleaning those types of unwanted growths.
Some popular and reliable products to clean biological growth are Wet & Forget or D/2 Biological Solution.
READ CLEANING PRODUCTS INSTRUCTIONS
It’s important to read the manufacturer instructions of any cleaning product, and make sure you understand them very well before you decide to use it during your grave cleaning efforts.
RINSE WELL BEFORE AND AFTER CLEANING
It can’t be stressed enough that water is your best friend when cleaning graves, and you can never have enough of it on hand. Use it generously, making sure the stone is rinsed well before and after cleaning.
HOW TO AGITATE THE GRAVE
While you’re agitating (aka scrubbing) the grave that you’re cleaning with a soft bristled brush, make sure you continue to keep it wet with fresh water and/or the cleaning product you’ve chosen to use. It’s best to agitate in a circular motion – working your way from the bottom of the grave to the top of it.
RINSE, RINSE, RINSE!
Always rinse the grave entirely after you’re finished cleaning it, and ensure that you’ve washed away any type of cleaning product used.
NEVER USE BLEACH TO CLEAN A GRAVE
Never use bleach or any cleaning product that contains it to clean a grave.
REMEMBER YOUR GOAL
Remember that your goal is not to make graves look like they’re totally brand, spanking new!
JUST TO BE CLEAR…
All of the tips and information I’ve provided above about how to safely clean graves were inspired by the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) article about Cleaning Government-Furnished Headstones and Markers.
ENJOY LEARNING MORE ABOUT GRAVE CLEANING :
Grave Cleaning Supplies
View some popular grave cleaning supplies (that I personally use), and stock up on what you need to clean graves appropriately.
Grave Cleaning Resources
View some articles, apps, and other informative resources that have tremendously helped me become better during my grave cleaning ventures.