I began taking a written inventory of the graves in Ridgway in July 2017. Seeing the poor condition of many stones, I took it upon myself to clean them. Since my time and resources were limited, I began with the stones in the worst condition and worked up to those least in need of cleaning.
I used D/2 Biological Solution to clean the stones. This biocide agent is non-toxic and has been proven safe for use on historical grave markers by the National Parks Service, who uses it to clean the stones at Arlington National Cemetery. It works on marble, granite, limestone, concrete, terrra cotta, stucco, and even wood. I highly recommend purchasing it if you are planning to clean a very old gravestone or one with high levels of moss or mold. Otherwise, plain water usually does the trick.
If you choose to clean a gravestone, make sure it is stable and without any stress cracks or loose sections. If it does not belong to you or your immediate family, get permission first!
NEVER in ANY CIRCUMSTANCES should bleach or household cleaning products be used on a gravestone!
Other common “Don’t”s include:
- Using abrasive pads or metal scrapers/brushes
- Pressure washing
- Cleaning a stone in freezing temperatures
- Using cold water on a hot stone
- Cleaning an unstable stone
- Using a dry brush
- Cleaning a stone more than once a year
If done correctly, removing biological growth and grime from a stone can extend its life and reveal beautiful inscriptions.
Here’s what you SHOULD do:
- Be as gentle as possible
- Clean with D/2 Biological Solution and/or distilled water
- Use soft bristled brushes, plastic scrapers, or wood paint stirrers
- Wear gloves and eye protection
- Clean stone from back to front and bottom to top
- Secure a nearby water source or brings LOTS of water with you
- Try to avoid dunking a used brush in a bucket of water
- Keep a record of date of cleaning, materials used, and changes in condition
The number one rule of gravestone cleaning is DO NO HARM.
To clean a stone with D/2 Biological Solution, follow these steps:
- Wet stone with water.
- Spray D/2 on stone and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.
- If needed, re-wet stone with water. Scrub stone with soft brush in circular pattern from bottom to top to remove growth on surface.
- Rinse D/2 and dirt off with water (before it dries and leaves streaks/stains).
- Optional second layer of D/2 (don’t scrub this time!).
- Come back to see the results over the next weeks and months!
This video is an excellent step-by-step guide on how to clean a stone with D/2.
OR, if you prefer not to scrub, you may try the Spray-and-Leave Method:
- Spray D/2 on entire surface of stone.
- Allow D/2 to air dry. It will work with the elements to eliminate biological material over time.
- Reapply if it rains within 12 hours of application.
Both methods are effective, but you will only see instant results with the scrub method.
Keep in Mind:
- If plants are exposed to D/2, rinse them with water.
- Experts recommend reapplying a light spray of D/2 once a year after the initial cleaning.
To clean a stone with distilled water, follow these steps:
- Soak stone completely with distilled water and let it sit for a few minutes. If it dries before you begin scraping, re-wet stone.
- Carefully scrape off the most visible growth.
- Rinse thoroughly with distilled water.
- Scrub stone gently with wet brush in circular motion. Rinse often with distilled water (stone should be wet during the entire cleaning process).
- If not all dirt and grime are gone, consider trying again with D/2 Biological Solution.
NOTE: I do not recommend attempting to reset or repair a broken stone without the help of an expert. Improper resetting or gluing can irreparably damage a stone! Remember: gravestones are historical artifacts!