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Photo: Andrey Sayfutdinov (Shutterstock)

During the Victorian era it was not uncommon Take a leisurely Sunday stroll through your local garden cemetery– maybe stop for a picnic lunch. But mostly (with a few exceptions, primarily in great Cities) people don’t spend much time in cemeteries anymore. With everything else that happens in life, it can be difficult to prioritize a trip to the cemetery where your family members are buried to clean and maintain their tombstone.

But if you’re interested in either cleaning the graves of people you know or volunteering with a local group – here’s what you should know and how to get started.

Why clean tombstones?

Not sure why anyone would spend their free time lightly wiping off words engraved on tombstones of dead strangers? Corresponding Saving Graves Cemetery Preservation Alliance, here is the reason:

If society does not adequately and adequately address this issue through definitive action, be it legislative or otherwise, not only will genealogical and historical resources likely be irreparably damaged, but society will potentially lose a valuable resource in its unstoppable path into the world Annals of mankind document history.

If you want to learn more about the organization, or Find a local group that is looking for volunteers, the Saving Graves website is a great resource.

How to properly clean a tombstone

Removing dirt and debris from the sides of a tombstone is one thing, but cleaning it thoroughly and properly is quite another and takes time and patience. It also includes fairly detailed instructions that differ depending on what the tombstone is made of.

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You can find all the important details in the articles by United Standards cemetery conservators, Saving graves, aftermath, and in several other places. However, here are some important things to keep in mind when cleaning tombstones:

  • First, find out the tombstone material. Most are made from marble, granite, sandstone, and slate, and how you clean it depends on the material.
  • Before removing a stain, first determine what caused it so that you can find the best way to treat it and prevent it from happening again.
  • If the tombstone you want to clean is on now private property, always get permission before accessing it.
  • Understand and avoid methods and products, including: bleach, all non-pH cleaners, wire brushes, and powerwashing.

And when in doubt, first contact a local grave cleaning expert who is familiar with the materials used in the tombstones in the area and their greatest threats from weather, climate change, and other factors.