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How to Clean a Headstone: The Ultimate Guide

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Heading: Guide for How to Clean a Headstone

This Ultimate Guide on how to clean a headstone will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to keep it looking its best.

Our easy-to-follow instructions cover:

  • How to clean granite headstones
  • How to clean marble headstones
  • How to clean bronze headstones

With bi-annual cleaning, your loved ones’ headstones will continue to be a shining tribute.  Let’s get started…

Heading: How to Clean a Headstone Made From Granite

How to Clean Granite Headstones

Granite is a popular material for gravestones.  It is an excellent type of stone because it is abundant and comes in a variety of colours as well as crystalline textures.

It also weathers slowly compared to other stones like marble and limestone, which means that the engravings on the headstone can be read for hundreds of years.

If a loved one has a granite headstone, this is your complete step-by-step guide on how to clean granite headstones. 

Supplies Needed for Cleaning Granite Headstones

You should take the following supplies with you to the cemetery when you intend to clean the granite headstone of your loved one:

For General Cleaning

  • A clean bucket.
  • Dishwashing liquid (do not use any ammonia, vinegar, or lemon cleaners).  Use a gentle cleaner like Ivory.
  • 4 litres of water (if the cemetery doesn’t have water you can use).
  • Cotton buds (e.g. Q-Tips) for cleaning any inlays and engravings.
  • 2 clean rags or cloths for washing the headstone.
  • 2 clean, fibre-free white cloths for drying and buffing the headstone (e.g. cloth diaper or microfiber cloth).

For Water-Based Stains

  • Baking soda poultice (a mixture containing 1 cup of baking soda, 5 tablespoons (73.9 ml) of liquid dish soap, and enough hydrogen peroxide to give the mixture the consistency of yogurt).
  • Plastic wrap (to keep the poultice in place for 24 hrs).
  • Masking tape (to keep the poultice in place for 24 hrs).
  • 4 litres of water and 2 clean, fibre-free white cloths.  (These items are only needed the following day after you wipe off the baking soda poultice.)

For Mold and Mildew Stains

  • A clean bucket.
  • Hydrogen peroxide.
  • 4 litres of water (if the cemetery doesn’t have water you can use).
  • Protective gloves.
  • Soft bristled brush.
  • 1 clean rag or cloth for cleaning.
  • 1 clean, fibre-free white cloth for drying and buffing the headstone.

For Rust Stains

  • A clean bucket.
  • Dishwashing liquid (do not use any ammonia, vinegar, or lemon cleaners).  Use a gentle cleaner like Ivory.
  • 4 litres of water (if the cemetery doesn’t have water you can use).
  • Iron removal poultice.  (Mix Iron Out, which you can purchase at a hardware store, with flour until you create a mixture that has the consistency of peanut butter.)
  • Protective gloves.
  • Plastic wrap (to keep the poultice in place for 24 hrs).
  • Masking tape (to keep the poultice in place for 24 hrs).
  • Soft bristled brush (needed the next day).
  • 4 litres of water (needed the next day).
  • 1 clean rag or cloth for cleaning (needed the next day).
  • 1 clean, fibre-free white cloth for drying and buffing the headstone (needed the next day).

Steps for Cleaning Granite Headstones

You should clean a granite headstone as needed.  How often it needs to be cleaned will depend on weather conditions and whether there are trees overhead.

The steps for general cleaning are as follows:

STEP 1:  Remove Excess Debris

Before you begin to actually clean the granite headstone, remove excess debris on or around the headstone.

STEP 2:  Wash the Granite Headstone with Soapy Water

Squirt a few drops of dishwashing liquid into a bucket filled with 2 litres of water (i.e. half the water you brought).

Do not use any ammonia, vinegar, or lemon cleaners, as their acidic formulas will eat away at the granite’s surface!  Soak a clean rag or cloth in the soapy water, allowing the cleaning fluid to permeate it.

Wring the rag or cloth a few times to remove excess water.  Then wipe the granite headstone thoroughly.

You may have to repeat this process a few times, depending on how dirty the granite headstone is.

STEP 3:  Wash the Granite Headstone with Clean Water

To prevent a soapy build-up on the granite headstone over the course of several cleaning sessions, you must wash it with clean water after you have removed the scum.

After you have emptied the bucket of the soapy water, pour 2 litres of clean water into it (i.e. the remainder of the water you brought with you).

Wash the granite headstone several times with another clean rag or cloth.  Do not re-use the cloth that you used with the soapy water.

STEP 4:  Dry the Granite Headstone

When you finish washing the granite headstone, use a clean white cloth to dry the headstone immediately.

Most cleaners will leave streaks if the granite headstone is not dried immediately.

Make sure to use a cloth that has no excess fibres that could become loose and be left behind on the granite headstone (e.g. a clean cloth diaper or a clean micro-fibre cloth).

STEP 5:  Clean Any Inlays and Engravings

Your loved one’s granite headstone may have inlays, etchings and engraved lettering.

Use clean cotton buds (e.g. Q-Tips) to clean the nook and grannies.  After you have dipped the cotton bud in the soapy water, gently scrape away any build up of dirt in the narrow spaces.

You may need several clean cotton buds to completely clean all the inlays, etchings and engravings.

STEP 6:  Ensure You Have Removed All Debris

Due to the nature of granite tombstones, some debris and stains may not be apparent to the naked eye.

However, if you run a clean hand over the granite surface you may be able to detect stubborn debris that may have been missed.

STEP 7:  Buff the Granite Headstone

Use a new and dry white cloth to buff the granite headstone.

This will ensure that there aren’t any streaks, as well as enhance the granite headstone’s finish and shine.

Do not use the same cloth that you used in step 3, as it may be damp and leave streaks on the granite headstone.

Steps for Removing Tough Stains on Granite Headstones

You may encounter stains that won’t do away after a rub or two with soapy water.

The supplies and techniques you need to use when attempting to get rid of tough stains will depend on the type of stain.

The three most common types of stains on granite tombstones are water-based stains, mold and mildew stains, and rust stains.

Note, however, that you cannot remove a “stain” that is actually damage to the granite.  If the surface of the granite has corroded, you will need a professional to repair or remove the damaged area.

Water-Based Stains

With granite tombstones, water-based stains are common because of their exposure to rain and lawn-watering systems.

You can get rid of these stains by making and applying a baking soda poultice.

Baking soda, which is also called sodium bicarbonate, is often used in home-made cleaners.  “Poultice” is a fancy word for a soft, moist mixture.

To get rid of water-based stains, follow these simple steps:

STEP 1:  Make a Baking Soda Poultice

Mix 1 cup of baking soda, 5 tablespoons (73.9 ml) of liquid dish soap, and enough hydrogen peroxide to give the mixture the consistency of yogurt.

STEP 2:  Apply the Poultice to the Stain

Coat the stains on the granite headstone with the poultice.  Cover the poultice with plastic wrap and tape the edges down with masking tape.

Let the mixture stand for at least a day before wiping it off.

STEP 3:  Wash and Buff the Granite Headstone

Once you have wiped off the poultice, wash the areas where the poultice was applied thoroughly with clean water.

Once you are confident that there isn’t any residue, use a new and dry white cloth to buff the granite and remove any streaks.

STEP 4:  Repeat Steps 1 to 3 If Necessary  

If the stain remains, (e.g. hard-water strains), you may need to repeat the steps above several times.

Each time you do so will result in removing more of the stain.

Mold and Mildew Stains

Although granite gravestones are hard and durable, they are prone to getting mold and mildew stains.

Mold and mildew are both types of fungi that flourish in moist and warm conditions.  Mold can be black, green, red or blue in colour.  Mold is usually thicker than mildew, which typically looks like gray or white powder.

Mold and mildew can cause a granite headstone to become dull and dirty.  You should make sure it is frequently cleaned to keep mold and mildew at bay:

STEP 1:  Make a Hydrogen Peroxide Mixture

First, create a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water in a 1:2 ratio in a bucket.

Be sure to stir it for 5 minutes.  Be also sure to wear protective gloves when making and using the mixture.

STEP 2:  Brush the Mold or Mildew Off  

Next, use a soft bristled brush to scrape the mold or mildew from the granite surface.

Once the mold or mildew is scraped from the granite headstone, use clean water to rinse the mold or mildew away.

The mold should be thrown into the dustbin as soon as possible.

STEP 3:  Do a Patch Test on the Granite Headstone

Test the hydrogen peroxide mixture on a small patch at the back of the granite headstone, at the bottom.  You want to make sure your solution does not discolour the granite before proceeding.

Test the solution where any potential discolouration is least visible.

STEP 4:  Soak a Clean Cloth in the Mixture

After the mold or mildew is removed from the surface of the granite headstone, soak a clean cloth in the mixture.

If the stained area is small, you can use a small cloth.  If the stain covers a large area, a large cloth should be used.

To saturate the mold or mildew, pour a small amount of the hydrogen peroxide water onto the stained area.

Next, place the cloth soaked with the mixture on the molded area.  The cloth should remain on the stained area for around 25 minutes in order to be most effective.

STEP 5:  Wash the Granite Headstone with Clean Water

After 25 minutes, remove the cloth and rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and wipe it down with a clean cloth.

To ensure that the mold or mildew spores are not attached to the bristles, the brush must be washed thoroughly.

After washing the brush, soak it in the hydrogen peroxide water for 30 minutes.

The cloth must also be washed thoroughly in hot water to kill any spores.

STEP 6:  Buff the Granite Headstone 

Use a new and dry white cloth to buff the granite.  This will ensure that there aren’t any streaks, as well as enhance the granite’s finish and shine.

Rust Stains

Your loved one’s granite headstone may develop rust stains over time.  They usually cannot be removed by scrubbing the granite only.

You must apply a cleaner like Iron Out that can access the granite’s pores, which is where the stain resides.

These are the steps for removing unsightly rust stains:

STEP 1:  Wash the Stained Area with Soapy Water

Pour liquid dish soap into a bucket and add water.

After you have thoroughly washed the area on the granite headstone that has the rust stain, rinse it clean several times.

STEP 2:  Make a Poultice

Mix a commercial rust remover (like Iron Out) with flour until you create a poultice.  It should have the consistency of peanut butter.

The bigger the surface area of the rust stain, the more poultice you will need.

Check the instructions on the packaging for whether you need to wear protective gloves when working with the product.

STEP 3: Cover the Rust Stain with the Poultice

Apply the poultice liberally on the rust stain.

The poultice should also be applied approximately 0.25 inches beyond the edges of the stain.  Make the layer of poultice approximately 0.25 inches thick.

If you make it thicker, it wouldn’t be more effective, but it will take longer to dry properly.

STEP 4:  Cover the Poultice with Plastic Wrap

Your poultice needs time to work and needs to be kept in place while it is drying.  Therefore, cover the poultice with plastic wrap and tape the edges down with masking tape.

STEP 5:  Let the Poultice Work its Magic

Leave the poultice to sit for 24 hours.  Afterwards, gently lift an edge of the plastic wrap and check if the poultice has fully dried.

If it has not, leave it to sit under the plastic wrap for another 12 hours and check it again.

STEP 6:  Remove the Poultice and Wash the Granite Headstone 

Scrape the dried poultice off the granite headstone with a soft bristled brush or your hand.  Then rinse the area clean with water several times.

STEP 7:  Buff the Granite Headstone

Use a new and dry white cloth to buff the granite headstone.  This will ensure that there aren’t any streaks, as well as enhance the granite’s finish and shine.

STEP 8:  Repeat Steps 1 to 7 If Necessary 

If the rust stain remains, you may need to repeat the steps above several times.

Each time you do so will result in removing more of the rust stain and have the granite headstone looking its best.

Sealing Granite Headstones to Prevent Future Stains

If you are considering applying a seal to your loved one’s granite headstone to prevent stains from seeping into the porous stone, you must first consult a professional.

Some types of granite do not require sealants and when they are applied, they become damaged and look as though the area is stained (for example, black granite).

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Supplies Needed For Sealing Granite Headstones

If you have received professional advice that you can safely proceed with sealing the granite headstone in question, you will need to assemble the following supplies:

  • A clean bucket.
  • Dishwashing liquid (do not use any ammonia, vinegar, or lemon cleaners).  Use a gentle cleaner like Ivory.
  • 4 litres of water (if the cemetery doesn’t have water you can use).
  • Cotton buds (e.g. Q-Tips) for cleaning any inlays and engravings.
  • 2 clean rags or cloths for washing the headstone.
  • 2 clean, fibre-free white cloths for drying and buffing the headstone (e.g. cloth diaper or microfiber cloth).
  • Commercial granite sealant (based on professional’s recommendation).
  • 1 clean, fibre-free white cloth for wiping away any excess sealant.

Steps for Sealing Granite Headstones

These are the steps for sealing a granite headstone:

STEP 1:  Consult a Professional 

Before you attempt to seal granite gravestones, consult a professional to see it is appropriate to do so on the type of granite the headstone is made from.

A good place to start is to consult the business that sold the headstone.

STEP 2: Clean the Granite Headstone Thoroughly

See steps 1 to 7 outlined above under the heading: “Steps for Maintaining Granite Headstones.”

STEP 3:  Let the Granite Headstone Dry Completely

Before you seal the granite headstone, give the granite a good 10 to 15 minutes to make sure all moisture has evaporated from the cleaning process before moving on to the next step.

STEP 4:  Spray the Sealant Evenly Over the Entire Surface of the Granite Headstone

Make sure the sealant covers the entire area of the granite headstone.  In order to ensure complete coverage, it’s best to use a sealant that has been transferred to a spray bottle.

STEP 5: Wait 15 Minutes

After you have sprayed the granite with the sealant, resist the urge to wipe the sealant into the granite.  Wait 15 minutes for the sealant to entirely penetrate the granite headstone.

For best results, let the sealant do its “own thing” and soak deep into the granite.  (Wiping the sealant with a cloth or paper towel prematurely absorbs the sealant into the cloth, not into the granite headstone.)

STEP 6: Wipe Away Any Excess Sealant After 15 Minutes

Once the sealant has soaked deeply into the granite headstone, wipe off excess sealant.

If you see a haze effect on the surface of the granite, don’t worry—it cleans off and isn’t permanent.

Your granite headstone is now expertly sealed and water will bead on the granite’s surface.  When water no longer beads up on the surface of the granite headstone, it’s time to reseal.

How to Clean a Headstone Made From Marble

How to Clean Marble Headstones

Marble tombstones aren’t as popular today as granite or bronze gravestones because marble is highly vulnerable to stains and damage.

Nevertheless, for some families marble is still the stone of choice because of its natural beauty.

If a loved one has a marble headstone, this is your complete step-by-step guide on how to clean marble headstones. 

Supplies Needed for Cleaning Marble Headstones

You should take the following supplies with you to the cemetery when you intend to clean marble headstones:

For General Cleaning

  • 3 dry, soft cloths
  • Non-ionic soap (such as Ivory)
  • Warm water
  • Natural stone or marble cleaner (optional)
  • Wooden Scraper (or spatula)
  • Natural bristle brush
  • Marble polish (optional)

For Moss and Mildew Stains

  • Bowl or bucket
  • Neutral, non-abrasive made from ammonia OR hydrogen peroxide OR acetone and water.
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape
  • Rubber gloves

For Rust Stains

  • Bowl or bucket
  • Neutral, non-abrasive made from ammonia OR hydrogen peroxide OR acetone and water.
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape
  • Rubber gloves

Steps for Cleaning Marble Headstones

Here is how to do a general clean in 8 simple steps:

STEP 1:  Determine the Condition of the Marble Headstone

First, check the condition of the marble headstone that you want to clean.

Since marble is vulnerable to wear and tear, marble headstones that have cracks and signs of aging should be left as is because cleaning can weaken the marble further and result in more serious damage.

If the marble headstone is in good condition, proceed to the next step.

STEP 2:  Saturate the Marble Headstone With Clean Water

Soak the entire marble headstone surface with clean water to saturate any growth—such as moss or lichen—that may be visible on the surface.

STEP 3:  Gently Scrape Off Any Growth

Use a wooden scraper or an old wooden spatula to gently scrape the surface of the marble headstone to remove any growth that has accumulated.

STEP 4:  Make Soapy Water

Mix a marble cleaning product—or 1 tablespoon of non-ionic soap, such as Ivory—with 1 gallon of water.

STEP 5:  Remove Excess Debris

Dip a natural bristle brush into the soap and water mixture and brush along the surface of the marble headstone to scrub away any excess debris.

You want to keep the marble wet throughout the cleaning process by continually wiping the marble headstone with a cloth and clean water.

STEP 6:  Rinse and Wipe the Marble Headstone

Once all of the debris has been removed by the soapy water mixture, rinse the entire surface of the marble headstone thoroughly with clean water and a clean cloth.

STEP 7:  Repeat Steps 1 to 7 on an Intermittent Basis

Repeat this process every 18 months.

If you feel that the marble headstone requires more frequent cleaning, only use clean water to remove dirt and debris.  Once again, marble is a very delicate stone and too much cleaning and excessive use of chemicals can damage it.

STEP 8:  Apply a Marble Polish to the Headstone

To restore the marble’s shine, apply a marble polish to the surface of the headstone, following the directions included on the product’s packaging.

Steps for Removing Tough Stains on Marble Headstones

Rust from metal flower fixtures on the gravemarker, and moss or lichen are common stains found on marble headstones.

Marble is a very porous stone and therefore, removing stains can be extremely challenging, as they are deeply absorbed into the headstone.  The longer a stain sits on marble, the more it will be absorbed by the headstone.

With gravestones, you are not likely going to be there at the very moment a stain starts to form.  However, as soon as you notice a stain, it is best to take action right away.

Removing stains from marble headstones requires the use of some type of poultice.  It is important to note that different types of stains—rust, grease, moss or lichen stains—require a different type of poultice.

You can order marble poultice cleaners or create your own poultice.

Mold and Mildew Stains

Stains on marble gravestones caused by fungus, moss, lichen or mildew, can be removed by following these 4 simple steps:

Step 1:  Make or Buy a Cleaning Solution

Mix a half cup of ammonia, or bleach, or hydrogen peroxide in a gallon of water. Do not mix ammonia and bleach together as it will create a toxic and lethal gas.

You can also purchase online cleaning solutions made specifically for marble surfaces.

Step 2:  Wash the Stain with the Cleaning Solution

Using rubber gloves, soak a clean cloth or sponge with the liquid and rub it into the stain on the marble headstone.

Step 3:  Wash and Dry the Marble Headstone

After applying the cleaning solution, wash the headstone thoroughly with clean water and a clean cloth.

Once the headstone is clean, buff the marble dry with a dry and clean cloth.

Step 4:  Make and Apply a Poultice

If steps 1 to 3 fail to remove the mold and mildew stains on the marble headstone, make a poultice with cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide and ammonia.

Put a handful of cotton balls in a bowl.  Add in a few drops of ammonia and then add enough hydrogen peroxide to saturate the cotton balls.

It is best to first test the poultice on a small piece of the marble headstone that is not in direct sight to make sure the poultice does not lift the colour of the marble or leave a darker stain.

If the test proves successful, apply the cotton balls (i.e. the poultice) to the stain and let them rest for 48 hours.  Cover the area with a piece of plastic wrap and secure it in place with tape, but leave a few ends loose so that there is some air flow.

This process might need to be repeated 2 or 3 times.

Rust Stains

Cleaning rust stains on marble tombstones can be accomplished in 5 simple steps:

Step 1:  Make a Poultice

Create a poultice by adding a few drops of ammonia to a few drops of hydrogen peroxide onto cotton balls.

Don’t forget to first test the poultice on a small piece of the marble headstone that is not in direct sight to make sure the poultice does not lift the colour of the marble or leave a darker stain.

Step 2:  Apply the Poultice to the Marble Headstone

Wear rubber gloves and apply the wet cotton balls to the rust stains on the marble headstone.  The cotton balls should be saturated so that they stick to the marble headstone easily.

Cover the area with a piece of plastic wrap and secure it in place with tape.  Leave a few ends loose so that there is some air flow.

Step 3:  Leave the Poultice on the Marble Headstone for 48 Hrs

Allow the poultice to sit for at least 48 hours.  Be patient with it and let the poultice do its work.

Step 4:  Wash and Dry the Marble Headstone

After the poultice is completely dry, remove the cotton balls and wash the marble headstone thoroughly with a clean cloth and warm, clean water.

Buff dry with a clean, soft, dry cloth.

Step 5:  Repeat Steps 1 to 4 if Necessary

You may need to repeat this process 2 or 3 times to fully remove the stain.

If you do not see significant result after three attempts, do not use this poultice for a fourth time, as this can begin to damage the marble headstone.

In this event, consult a professional marble cleaner and ask for their expert opinion on what, if anything, can be done. 

How to Clean a Headstone Made From Bronze

How to Clean Bronze Headstones

Bronze headstones are a popular choice, particularly at mausoleums and some lawn cemeteries.

Bronze grave markers that lie horizontally—instead of vertically on a wall—are more exposed and affected by weathering.  Therefore, the positioning of the bronze grave marker effects how frequently it needs to be cleaned.

Most bronze grave markers consist of multiple materials, including a bronze plaque, which is mounted on a granite or marble base (that also needs to be cleaned).

Furthermore, while a protective coating is always applied to a bronze marker, it does wear away over time.

The best thing that you can do to maintain a bronze grave marker is to clean it regularly.

Since the protective coating that is initially put on the grave marker wears over time, frequent touch ups and cleaning of the bronze can help prevent oxidation—that greenish grey build-up—from forming on the grave marker.

It is recommended to clean a bronze grave marker at least 2 times a year in order to maintain the marker and avoid oxidation which is much more difficult to clean.

If a loved one has a bronze headstone, this is your complete step-by-step guide on how to clean bronze headstones. 

Supplies Needed For Cleaning Bronze Headstones

You should take the following supplies with you to the cemetery when you intend to clean bronze grave markers or to restore them to their former glory.

For General Cleaning

  • 2 soft, dry cloths
  • Water (distilled is preferable)
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Non-ionic soap (such as Ivory)
  • Paste wax and applicator brush (ask your hardware store for advice on the best kind of wax to use) 

For Restoration

  • Ivory dish soap or other non-ionic soap (read the label)
  • Water (distilled is preferable)
  • A bucket
  • Scrubbing brush
  • 3 clean, soft cloths
  • Paste wax and applicator brush (ask your hardware store for advice on the best kind of wax to use)
  • Sandpaper (220 grit)
  • Sanding block
  • Towels for drying
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape
  • Leather dye (in brown or black)
  • Small paint brush
  • Clear spray lacquer

Steps For Cleaning Bronze Headstones

Here are the 5 steps for cleaning bronze grave markers:

Step 1:  Remove Debris

First, sweep away any leaves or other debris surrounding or covering the bronze headstone.

Step 2:  Gently Scrub the Bronze Grave Marker

Next, wet the bronze gravemarker with clean water and scrub gently using a soft bristle brush.  For the harder to reach areas—for example, around the lettering—use a wet toothbrush to get into the nooks and crannies.

Rinse the brushes frequently while you clean in order to ensure that you completely remove the debris.

Do not use any abrasive materials during cleaning—such as sandpaper or steel wool—as this can scratch the surface of the bronze headstone.

Step 3:  Wash the Bronze Headstone

Using non-ionic soap—such as Ivory—create a simple soap and water mixture and repeat the scrubbing process in the previous step.

This will help get rid of any stubborn stains or grease.

Step 4:  Rinse and Dry the Bronze Headstone

Rinse the bronze gravemarker thoroughly with clean water and then dry it completely with a dry, clean cloth.

Repeat the process for any stubborn stains that might need additional attention.

Then allow the bronze headstone to air dry.

Step 5:  Add a Protective Coating to the Bronze Grave Marker

Once the bronze headstone is completely dry, add a thin layer of quality paste wax to provide another layer of protection.

Allow the wax to dry and then buff the surface with a clean, dry cloth.

Check the bronze gravemarker frequently for wear.  Repeat this step when the first signs of wear appear.

Steps For Restoring Bronze Headstones

If bronze grave markers are not regularly cleaned—ideally twice a year—oxidation of the bronze surface will cause a greenish-grey build-up to form.

The process to remove this build-up is more laborious than simply cleaning the bronze grave marker regularly to maintain its shine.

In severe cases of build-up, you will need to consult a bronze restoration expert.  It may also be less costly to completely replace the bronze grave marker than to pay for restoration.

Here are 9 steps to restore your bronze grave marker to its former glory.  We suggest that you test a small area of the bronze headstone and—if you are happy with the results—continue cleaning the rest of the bronze surface.

One final note—you should not expect the bronze headstone to look exactly as it did before oxidation occurred.

Step 1:  Check the Weather Forecast

First, choose a warm, dry day to do this process.  Moisture will completely counteract the results of this restoration process.

Step 2:  Gently Scrub the Bronze Headstone

Next, use a stainless steel brush to brush away dirt and debris on the surface of the bronze headstone.

Use a wet toothbrush to get into the hard-to-reach places—for example,in and around the lettering.

Step 3:  Sand the Lettering

Take sandpaper and fasten it tightly to a sanding block.

Following the lines on the bronze headstone, sand raised lettering (and raised images) using a back-and-forth motion.  Continue sanding until the lettering becomes brighter.

Step 4:  Sand the Rest of the Bronze Surface

Fold another piece of sandpaper and sand the hard-to reach-spaces, as well as the dented and chipped areas of the bronze surface.

Step 5:  Wash the Bronze Headstone

Mix non-ionic dish soap—such as Ivory—with water.  Apply the soapy water to the surface of the bronze gravemarker.

First, scrub the wet surface with a toothbrush to loosen any residue from the sanding and brushing process.

Next, wash the bronze gravestone’s surface with a wet cloth and the soapy water.

Finally, rinse the entire bronze surface with clean water.  Use distilled water if possible to make sure that the bronze headstone is free from chemicals.

Step 6:  Completely Dry the Bronze Headstone

Dry the entire surface of the bronze gravemarker thoroughly with a clean, soft, dry cloth.

Then let it air-dry completely in order to get rid of any excess moisture.

Step 7:  Paint the Background Around the Lettering

If you darken the background around the lettering on the bronze grave marker, the contrast will help visitors to the cemetery read the lettering.

You can darken the background around the lettering by using black or brown leather dye and a small paint brush.  You may need to apply several coats—ensure that you allow a coat to dry before applying another one.

Take your time while painting.  You don’t want to get any of the dye on the lettering.

Once you have finished painting the background around the lettering, sand the top of the lettering again in order to remove any dye that strayed onto the lettering.

Step 8:  Remove Dust From Sanding

Use a clean paintbrush to sweep away any dust that may have accumulated in the crevices as a result of the sanding.

Step 9:  Apply a Protective Coat of Lacquer

Spray a coating of lacquer over the surface of the bronze headstone to provide a layer of protection.

Cover the bronze grave marker with plastic wrap fastened with tape.  Leave a few open pockets to create an air vent while the lacquer dries.

Let Us Know How You Did

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We would love to know how you did, or if you have other helpful tips on headstone care, in the comments section below.