Headstone with roses and cross

How to clean headstones

If you’ve chosen a headstone as a lasting memorial to the person who has died, you might be wondering how to keep it clean and tidy.

Together with masonry experts, we’ve written a guide of everything you need to know to clean and maintain headstones safely and effectively.

How to clean headstones

If the headstone has a small amount of surface dirt on it, you should wash it down using water and a lint free cloth. Once you’ve washed the headstone, use a soft dry cloth to polish away any streaks left by the water.

Any letters on the headstone should be lightly cleaned with a soft cloth and clean water only. Hard to reach areas, such as around any engraved details on the stone, can be cleaned using a cotton bud and clean water.

What not to use to clean a headstone

Household cleaning products like bleach, or other products that are sometimes suggested, like vinegar, baby oil or shaving foam, should never be used to clean headstones. Some headstones can be soft and porous, which means they absorb moisture. This makes them prone to staining when exposed to cleaning products, as they can soak up the colour.

You can use a very weak mixture of washing up liquid and water, but anything stronger than this could leave a stain. If you do use soapy water, be sure to rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards and polish with a dry soft cloth to avoid leaving streaky marks.

Cleaning a granite headstone

Most granites are hard stones, which makes them very easy to look after. Granite headstones, especially those with a polished finish, can be wiped clean very easily with a damp, lint free cloth. Always make sure to rinse the stone off before cleaning it, to avoid scratching the memorial.

Cleaning a marble headstone

Marble headstones should only be cleaned using water and a lint free cloth. Like all natural stone, marble is porous. This means it has tiny holes, or pores, that air or moisture can pass through. Because of this, marble headstones are more prone to staining than granite and so it’s important to keep them free of dirt or anything else that could stain them, like flower petals or rust from florist wire. We recommend cleaning a marble headstone at least twice a year to keep them in the best condition.

If you'd like to get a marble headstone professionally cleaned, we’d recommend doing this every 5 to 6 years. Please contact your local funeral director if you’d like us to arrange this for you.

How to preserve and maintain the look of a headstone

We’ve talked about the best ways to clean headstones to keep them in the best condition, but there are other things that can cause staining. Organic material such as leaves, petals, flower pollen and grass cuttings should be removed from the headstone as soon as possible, as their colour can be absorbed by the stone. Keep an eye on anything on or near the headstone that can rust, such as containers and florist wire, as these items can also stain the headstone.

Which headstones need the least cleaning and maintenance?

Polished granite headstones are the easiest to clean and maintain as their shiny finish makes them easy to wipe clean. Simply wash down using a damp lint free cloth. Care should still be taken around the lettering as over-cleaning could lead to the paint/gild being removed.

For any help with choosing a headstone or more advice on cleaning, please contact your local funeral director.

0800 088 4883 (24 hour service)