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Tombstone and memorial cleaning

September 14, 2010

A tombstone or a memorial is an item that helps us to remember, to gather and to take the time to focus on a special person or to recall an event. Over time and throughout the seasons a layer of deposits ensuing from hard water, dust, dirt, will begin to build up on tombstones and memorials leaving them with a less polished look. Add to this, lichens, mould and fungus which typically grow on porous stone which will begin to discolour and noticeably change the look of the stone.

Types of stones
Amongst the most frequent types of stone used for tombstones and memorials are sandstone, limestone, marble and granite. Limestone and sandstone, two of the softest stones in this grouping (a hardness factor of 3-4 on the Mohs hardness scale; a scale ranging from 1 to 10 where 10 is the hardest, diamonds) were used as tombstones and memorials primarily due to their easiness to carve. Although marble is also somewhat a soft stone, with a hardness of 4 to 7, its veining pattern gives it a beautiful look; marble’s finer grain makes it ideal for intricate carving details. The hardest within the group, a range of 7 to 9 on the Mohs scale, granite tombstones have the advantage over the other stones in that they can be cleaned more thoroughly.

Cleaning the stone

In order to give a bit of the lost shine and polish back a tombstone or a memorial, the best method, and likely the safest, is good old fashioned elbow grease. Before you pack up your loot to head off to clean a loved one’s tombstone, here are a few tips and dos and don’ts for a successful cleaning.

- Be sure to carefully evaluate the any stone prior to cleaning; make sure that the stone is not flaking and that it is stable enough to withstand a cleaning without causing further deterioration.
- Due to the softness typical of limestone and sandstone, do not clean these stones too frequently as every time you clean them you will remove a layer of the stone.

- Use a non-ionic detergent such as Kodak professional Photo-Flo solution.
- Use an assortment of nylon brushes of varying stiffness (toothbrushes are great for any engraved details) and sponges.
- Use wood or plastic scrapers, Popsicle sticks, toothpicks.

- Do not use wire brushes, metal instruments, abrasive pads or steel wool
- Do not use acid or any type of acidic cleaners
- Do not use household cleaners such as dish soap, detergent or any abrasive cleaners.

Cleaning steps
1. Wet the stone with clean water; keep the stone wet during the cleaning process.
2. Wash the stone using the non-ionic detergent, gently scrubbing with the brush and sponge.
3. Wash all surfaces of the stone; rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Remember that not all stains can be removed so do not expect the stone to appear new after cleaning, but be certain that you will certainly see a difference in the before and after that will certainly bring some lost lustre back to the tombstone or the memorial.

Granite McCutcheon has been manufacturing tombstones and granite memorials for over 15 years. Using the latest in carving and laser engraving technologies; we can personalize monuments and memorials with extreme detail and precision, ensuring that each is unique. Come and visit us, at Granite McCutcheon we have not lost sight of the personal implication and meaning of a proper monument to commemorate a loved one, a family, an organization or an event.