One of the most overlooked areas of stone care is the cemetery. If you have ever visited a cemetery and looked around, what you would see is that many of the headstones are in poor condition. The reason for this is that the cemetery is not responsible for the care of the headstones or memorials. They are only responsible for keeping up the grounds that surround them. This makes the family members responsible for the cleaning and the care of the stone.
The other challenge is that most of the family members are not going to know how to clean the headstone properly and the cemetery staff usually won't be able to help in this area. There is also not a lot of information out there on this subject. Here are a few basic things to consider when cleaning those precious headstones.
First things to know is if you are not comfortable or you are afraid you may ruin the stone, contact a service expert that may be able to assist you in this area. They can ensure the work is done properly and professionally.
The next step is to determine and find out what type of stone you will be working with. Generally, these stones are made up of either granite, marble and occasionally limestone and sandstone. It is important to know which stone it is because certain cleaning chemicals can be very destructive when used on the wrong stone. Acidic cleaners may be fine for granite, but with etch and dissolve marble and limestone. So don't just rush out and buy any stone cleaner.
If you are dealing with marble stone, then it is extremely important that you stay away from acidic chemicals such as vinegar, cleaners containing lemon, masonry cleaners, CLR, or tile cleaners and various mildew removers. Check the product ingredients before using. Remember, stay away from anything acidic. A good marble cleaner and polish will do the trick, as it is safe on all cemetery stone surfaces. Please remember that when you are cleaning this stone, stay away from any harsh abrasives as well as wire brushes and any hard tools or cleaning materials.
Granite, unlike marble, is a much harder stone. It is also highly resistant to acids and will not etch or leave dull spots like marble. Granite is a great choice for headstones because of these reasons. A good granite cleaner should be used to clean this stone.
Limestone is another choice used for headstones and memorials. Limestones are made up of calcite from shells, coral and other sea debris. It is considered sedimentary rock. The coarse grain of some limestones give them excellent durability, but here again they are susceptible to acid attack. Drop a drop of vinegar or place a lemon wedge on such a stone and it will leave a mark etched into the surface where it has dissolved away the stone within a few minutes.
The stone can be found in older headstones and is rarely used today. This stone is coarse and loose in texture. Sandstone is very resistant to acid and is rarely polished, but can be damaged with abrasives or brushes.
Once cleaned, one is ready to seal. Sealing prevents discoloration should a colored liquid be allowed to seep into the stone. In effect, seals are designed to minimize staining. Once cleaned, you may want to periodically seal the surface with a stone sealer.
So here are just a few of the things to stay away from when cleaning your precious stone:
3. Pressure Washing
4. Heat and Torches
5. Miscellaneous Chemical Cleaners
There are many good cleaners and polishes out there that you can use to get the job done properly. Once cleaned, seal.
Remember, if you're not comfortable doing the job, a stone care professional is just a quick phone call away.