How to Clean a Cemetery

FAQ Cemeteries

Yes! Permission should be requested in advance of performing any cemetery preservation work. Depending on the location of the cemetery this may include many different situations. Cemeteries that have staff on the sight should be notified in advance of work being performed. If a cemetery is maintained by the town then there will be a contact number available for you to reach. 

Abandoned cemeteries represent a unique situation where there is no one simple answer. It would be wise to contact the local historic society, or funeral directors in the region may have information to help determine if there is any stewardship of the site.

This all depends on the location of the specific cemetery, and the regulations that are applicable. Generally speaking, cleaning and working on your own family or relative's gravestones should always be allowed.

This is one of the most commonly asked questions.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that when a stone is sealed then it would be protected from weathering and the elements of nature. However, monuments, gravestones, and historic masonry must be able to both absorb and expel vapor or else moisture will be trapped within the stone which can lead to deterioration, which will cause more harm than good.

Instead of sealing stone, there are some beneficial treatments that will help protect, preserve, and strengthen stone that do not trap moisture. These include breathable water repellents and consolidation treatments.

Repellents

Consolidation Treatments

Cemetery monuments are very heavy, due to stone weighing at least 150 pounds per cubic foot. Great care should be taken not to harm the monument, and most importantly that no injuries occur to the personnel performing the repairs. 

Because there is so much nuance with this subject matter, it would be wise to consult a professional and/or attend a workshop or training seminar before undertaking a cemetery preservation project.

For more info, check out gravestonepreservation.info and a video produced by Millennial Stone Cleaner on YouTube!

Materials

If you're ready to perform this task, these are the most commonly used materials:

Don't clean gravestones until the danger of frost is past. The temperature shouldn't fall below 32 degrees within 48 hours after cleaning.
There's a natural freeze/thaw cycle and the stones get wet from rain and snow. Water inside the stones will freeze and expand thus causing damage to the stones as it expands. This happens naturally but our mantra is "Do No Harm". We need to leave the stones and the cemetery in better condition than we found them.

How to Clean a Cemetery
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FAQ Cleaning

D/2 is effective on mold, algae, mildew, lichens, and air pollutants.

The most common kind of staining found on gravestones and cemetery monuments is biological activity consisting of all types of growth listed here

D/2 Biological Solution is safe to use on

  • marble
  • granite
  • limestone
  • brownstone
  • travertine
  • masonry - brick and cast stone
  • terra cotta
  • concrete
  • stucco
  • wood
  • aluminum
  • vinyl siding
  • canvas
  • nylon
  • other architectural surfaces including monuments, sculpture and headstones

Typically D/2 is used undiluted for optimal effects, although you can dilute if you wish.

Yes! This means that the D/2 is working. The orange / yellow tint comes from the biological growth dying off, similar to the leaves changing colors during the fall. The color should dissapear over the next few weeks as the solution continues to work. 

Anything that puts out greater than 60 psi is too much force to use on older fragile stones. A garden hose putting out a gentle soaking spray is enough to clean and flush the stone (garden-type sprayers also work well). But a power washer should NEVER be used.

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At the Abandoned Atlas Foundation (AAF) our main goals are preservation and education. Through historical research articles, endangered nominations, call-to-action videos, and public outreach we pool together resources.