How to Clean Any Gravestone With Natural, Eco-Friendly Methods

Different gravestone materials require unique cleaning materials.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Apr. 17 2024, Published 5:06 p.m. ET

A person wipes a headstone with a white cloth beside a pot of flowers.
Source: iStock

One way to honor a lost family member or friend is to maintain their headstone. While some cemeteries perform this service for you, you may feel moved to gently clean their gravestone in between professional cleanings.

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Luckily, there are many ways to preserve your loved ones' memories and keep their gravestone clean. Below, we've identified a few natural methods (as well as a few more intense methods) for cleaning all different types of headstones, including marble, granite, and bronze.

A black marble headstone with two white roses on top.
Source: iStock
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How to clean a marble headstone:

To give a marble headstone a light cleaning, Co-op Funeralcare recommends simply using a lint-free cloth and water to wipe the headstone down. Then, you can use a dry cloth (something soft) to give it a final wipe down. It's that simple.

If a marble headstone needs a more intense cleaning, Aftermath Services says that marble headstones can be cleaned with an ounce of common household ammonia mixed with a gallon of water.

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If you're dealing with a marble headstone that has been taken over by a biological growth, YouTuber Millennial Stone Cleaner recommends a few chemical cleaners, such as the D/2 Biological Solution (which is specifically designed for cleaning headstones), to remove the moss and restore the beauty of the marble stone.

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A person wipes the top of a granite headstone with a white cloth.
Source: iStock

How to clean a granite headstone:

Granite gravestones can be cleaned with common household supplies — all you'll need is water, a sponge, and a toothbrush.

As Patten Monument Company advises, once you've removed debris like twigs, dead leaves, and flowers, you should pour 5 gallons of water onto the granite and use a natural sponge (without any dyes) to gently scrub the surface. Then, use a toothbrush to reach the more difficult spots on the headstone, like inside engraved lettering.

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Olivewood Cemetery recommends adding 3 or 4 ounces of gentle dish soap mixed with 1 quart of water when cleaning a granite memorial. The group also recommends using a natural fiber brush, rather than a plastic one.

Bronze memorial plaque for Samuel Adams on a rock, next to an American flag.
Source: Getty Images
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How to clean a bronze headstone:

If the surface of a bronze headstone appears a bit greenish, it's a sign that oxidation has occurred, per Erie Landmark Company.

According to Trigard Memorials, to clean a bronze headstone, you should first spray a bronze marker with a mixture of gentle dish soap and water before wiping the debris with a soft, lint-free cleaning cloth. As you gently scrub the remaining dirt away, ensure the marker is sufficiently rinsed and dried before adding an optional coat of natural bronze wax to preserve the luster.

In common cases, the above cleaning methods for all three types of headstones should be sufficient. But for an unstable or brittle headstone, you should leave things to the professionals, as you could accidentally cause it to become unearthed or irreparably damaged.

And if the headstone you are tending to is at a cemetery, feel free to consult with the staff about any concerns.

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