Long-Term Tips for Maintaining a Grave Monument

Image of a person cleaning a grave marker on Tegeler Monument Company's website

A cemetery staff’s priority is to maintain the grounds, roads, and buildings as a whole in a cemetery. Unfortunately, it’s not practical for the crew to provide the level of attention and care many desire for their deceased loved ones. That’s why many families choose to maintain a grave site and monument on their own. Not only does this help keep the final resting place beautiful and long-lasting, but it also preserves the memories of loved ones. Over time, these sites and monuments deteriorate due to exposure to things like rain, wind, and extreme temperatures. Proper maintenance throughout the years can ensure the monument lasts a long time. Read on for some tips on maintaining a grave monument.

Keep in mind it’s important to check the rules for the cemetery prior to any cleanup or decorating work. They may have protocols in place of things you should or shouldn’t do.

Properly Maintaining a Grave Monument

Headstones should be cleaned every four to six years. Cleaning too often can create excess wear on the headstone that would actually harm it more than help it in the long run.

To clean a headstone:

  1. Remove loose, dead leaves, old flowers, branches, and other debris.
  2. Thoroughly wet the headstone with a natural or “sea” sponge and water. Use natural, clean and/or distilled water. Also, avoid colored sponges to prevent color transfer. Be sure to always keep the surface you’re cleaning wet and change out the water frequently.
  3. Remove dirt with the sponge, starting from the bottom and using a circular motion. Avoid scrubbing or being too rough with the stone.
  4. Rinse the headstone thoroughly with clean water, then give special attention to areas with growth or particularly dirty spots. You can carefully use a wet soft brush, sponges, and/or scraping tool such as:

    1. Popsicle sticks
    1. Wood or nylon spatulas
    1. Bamboo skewers
    1. Toothbrush or other soft-bristled scrub brush
    1. Towels and soft rags

It can also help to have rubber gloves and a plastic trash bag for hauling debris away from your grave monument.

Things you never want to use to clean a headstone include:

  • Wire-bristled brushes
  • Pressure washers
  • Sand blasters
  • Bleach
  • Acidic cleaning agents
  • Household cleaners
  • Sealant

You should also never:

  • Clean headstones you don’t own.
  • Clean a headstone or marker that has damage.

If you’re cleaning a bronze grave marker, follow the same steps above and then dry the surface completely. If there are signs of oxidation, combine baking soda and vinegar into a paste. After rinsing with water, place the paste onto marker and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off with distilled water. You can apply a clear coat or wax once the stone is completely dry and free of debris. You can also use sandpaper to polish raised lettering, borders, and other decorative elements.

How To Properly Maintain a Cemetery Plot

Plan to clean the cemetery plot at least twice per year. Start by removing debris and litter, like leaves and sticks. Then, pull weeds from around the marker and within the grave area. Trim plants and deadhead any planted flowers, and add grass seed to any bare patches. You can even hand-trim the grass right next to the marker, where the lawnmower doesn’t reach. Finally, remove all the collected materials like spent flowers or other items.

How To Properly Maintain Decorations and Memorials

When it comes to decorating a monument, less is more. Think about what weather and time will do to an item. Will it blow away? Is it breakable? Will it create a mess? Will it look poorly as it ages and weathers? Instead, consider fake flowers and limited memorabilia to keep the memorial clean and maintained long-term. Otherwise, plan to visit more frequently to keep the site looking clean and well-cared-for.

Consult a Maryland Grave Monument Company

If you aren’t sure what you need to know about maintaining a grave monument, talk to a monument expert at Tegeler Monument Company about their recommendations. We can help you understand what to use and what to avoid, as well as particular cleaning tips for the monument’s material and style. We have decades of experience helping families memorialize their loved ones with the best quality grave markers and headstones in Maryland, Virginia, D.C. and beyond. Call (410) 944-0300.