"Tombstones won’t always look new and they shouldn’t." Before heading out to the cemetery with good intentions, you may want to take a moment to think carefully about your plans to tidy up. An article in the News Examiner - Enterprise, "Don't bleach or scrub that tombstone," provides a number of tips for what NOT to do when cleaning cemetery headstones. Based recommendations from a National Park Service preservation workshop we find many of the methods commonly used to clean tombstones actually destroy the stone.
Having attended the workshop, Shirley Pettingill who oversees maintenance of Ross and Worcester cemeteries in Park Hill, Oklahoma notes, "cleaning a tombstone is a lot different than cleaning a bathroom." Using chemicals on a tombstone will ruin it. "People mean well, but they don’t realize that what they’re doing can be more harmful than helpful,” she said. Even the simple practice of "chalking" or "rubbing" will wear down the headstone.
"I learned so much at that seminar,” said Pettingill, “A lot of us just looked at each other and said, ’Oh! We’ve been so bad!” For more information on "Cleaning a Stone Grave Marker" and other topics, visit the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training web site.