cemetery monument and memorial cleaning

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Your Gravestone Cleaning Kit

What you will need:

...Lots of it. Bring a five gallon bucket and make sure there is a water supply close by. If there isn't, you will need to bring about 20 gallons of water to clean the average sized stone for 2 people (Tablet size - 3 feet wide x 20 inches tall). If there is a water spigot close by, then include a garden hose with a gardener's watering wand. If the water suppy is far away, then maybe bring a little wagon or something to haul buckets of water.

Towels...2 or 3 Clean bathtowels. Preferably white, but remember that they will get dirty. Perhaps even ruined. Don't buy new ones, but be prepared to make them part of your permanent Cleaning Kit

Brushes...Find a couple soft bristle brushes. Avoid brightly colored bristles. In my experience, the best are natural bristle like horse hair, tampico, boar bristle or a combination. I don't like synthetic brushes, but if you have to use one, then a neutral colored wallpaper brush will work. It should be soft enough to flex easily, yet stiff enough to spring back into shape. As the bristles wear down (and they will) the brush will get stiffer. If you find inexpensive ones, buy a bunch. They will come in handy. You should also get a couple soft toothbrushes(new, not used). DO NOT USE A BRUSH THAT HAS BEEN USED TO CLEAN SOMETHING ELSE. Use dedicated brushes, and keep them in a place where uncle Bob won't grab one to clean the barbeque.

Sponge...A big natural sponge. You know, those big brown ones. Colored sponges are no good.

Wooden Spatula...Technically it's not a spatula (sorry to offend all you goumet chefs) but that is what the average person calls it. It's like a wooden spoon, but it has a bladed edge. Olive or bamboo works well.

Paper Towels...Soft, white paper towels. Put the blue flowered ones back in the cupboard. Only use white.

Five, 32 ounce spray bottles...Try to get these in different colors, or with different colored spray heads. You will want to clearly label each bottle so you know its contents.


...Take one of your five, 32 ounce spray bottles and fill it halfway with water. Add a cap full of ammonia, then fill it the rest of the way with water.

Cleaning Agent...Now it gets tricky. There are a lot of ideas on what to use, but remember the main rule here... "First do no harm". Normal detergents can cause problems on stone and are a definite no-no. I'll try to explain this simply. If you've ever had hard water, or known someone who has, you will notice how hard it is to work up a lather when you wash your hands. One of the reasons for this is that hard water contains calcium ions. Calcium ions are also present in the minerals of your memorial. These calcium ions actually render the detergent insoluble, and that's why you can't get it to lather up. The detergent also becomes unstable, and can leave a residue of alkali or acid salts. So, what do you use? The standard cleaning agent in use by true preservationists is a "non-ionic" detergent. To save confusion I will suggest that you go to a good camera shop and get a bottle of Photo Flo. It's used in film processing to prevent water spots and costs about 8 dollars for a 16 ounce bottle. A little goes a long way because it is concentrated. Take a 32 ounce spray bottle and fill it half way with water. Add a teaspoon of Photo Flo and fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. This is your cleaning solution.

Shock...If you have a swimming pool you will know what I mean. It's Chlorine. The proper name is Calcium Hypochlorite. I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT BLEACH. Houshold bleach has a different composition and can harm your stone. Go to a swimming pool supply store and ask for a bag of shock. They will know what you mean. Take another 32 ounce spray bottle and fill it halfway with water. Add a tblespoon of the shock granules. This stuff is strong, as you will be able to tell when you cut open the bag. Don't get it on your clothes, skin or hair, and especially keep it away from your eyes. You will only need to use this on certain occasions, which I will explain when we get into the cleaning section. You will need to be close to a water supply to use this, and you'll need a hose. While you're at the swimming pool supply shop, you will also want to pick up the next item on your list.

Algaecide...Or biocide. It's used to kill algae in swimming pools. This will deliver a knock-out punch to moss, algae, lichen or other organic growth on your stone. It's really good for the black algae that grows on the surface of the "panels" that deep lettering is cut in. This is concentrated. Take another spray bottle and fill it hafway with water. Add a teaspoon of algaecide or biocide to the bottle, agitate it a bit and fill it the rest of the way with water.

Plastic Tarp...To keep from getting cleaning agents on the surrounding stones. Also helpful in keeping your dirt from splashing on the other gravestones during the rinse.

More Water...Fill the last spray bottle with plain tap water or distilled water.

Trash Bags...

Old Clothes...Wear something that you can get a little wet and dirty

Rubber gloves...

Safety Goggles...

Be Sure to keep all of these cleaning supplies away from children, pets and food. Clearly label your bottles and keep them tightly sealed. When using the spray bottles set the tip to spray, not stream.