Cleaning the Stone
Cleaning a cemetery stone is a controversial topic. The first rule of conservation and preservation is to cause no damage. Unfortunately, by using household cleaners, chalk and shaving cream to enhance the lettering you may injure the surface in ways that are not readily apparent. Caution should be used before you destroy what you set out to preserve.
Over the centuries several different types of stones have been used to create gravestones. Some of the stones are quite porous and fragile, while others are resistant to damage. Be careful when attempting to improve the readability of the inscription. Types of stone:
- Prior to the Nineteenth century: Sandstone or slate
- Nineteenth Century: Marble and gray granite
- Late nineteenth century to the present: Polished granite or marble
- A soft brush or natural sponge and water will help you remove surface soil. Gentle brushing should remove surface dirt and bird droppings. Power washing should not be used; water should flow over the stone or be delicately sprayed onto the surface. Never use hard objects or stiff brushes to clean the stone. Removing lichens with sharp objects may inadvertently destroy the surface.
- Not all cemeteries are regularly maintained. By trimming tall weeds around the base of the stone and cutting the grass you may discover epitaphs hidden under the overgrowth.