A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Headstones and Gravestones

Oct 2, 2023 | Maintenance

Are you in need of some help cleaning and maintaining a headstone or gravestone? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you through the process.

From removing moss and mould to renovating and repairing, everything you need to know is here. With this guide, you’ll be able to keep your headstone or gravestone in top condition and pass it on for generations.

So, let’s get started and get your loved ones headstone or gravestone looking its best.

Things to Do Before Cleaning a Headstone

Before beginning the process of cleaning a headstone, it’s important to take a few preliminary steps.

First, be sure you have the necessary permission.

Next, inspect the condition of the headstone and identify its material. This will help you determine the best cleaning methods for the headstone.

Make sure you have permission to clean the headstone

You should always check to make sure you have permission to clean the headstone before beginning the process. If the headstone is honouring a family member or direct ancestor, you likely have the correct permission. If not, it’s best to do some research to find the family of the deceased and ask if they’re comfortable with the cleaning.

Remember that cleaning a headstone is about showing respect and love for those who’ve passed, so make sure you have all the necessary permission before beginning the process.

Inspect the Condition of the Headstone

It’s important to inspect the condition of the headstone before cleaning it. Check that the headstone is still safely erected and doesn’t pose any danger during the process. If it’s been there for a long period of time, make sure that it’s stable in the ground.

Look for any visible cracks, flaking areas, delamination, or a brittle and crumbled appearance on the marble or granite surface. It’s also essential to observe any moss or lichen growth.

If the headstone is loose or leaning, hire specialists to re-erect it. If there are signs of deterioration, consider investing in a headstone cleaning or restoration service.

Identify the headstone material

Once you’ve inspected the condition of the headstone, it’s important to identify what material it’s made from. Most commonly, headstones are made from granite, limestone, sandstone, marble, or slate. Knowing which material is used allows you to choose the appropriate headstone cleaner and cleaning solution.

For example, marble headstones require different cleaning solutions than those used on granite headstones. Therefore, it’s essential to identify the material in order to properly clean and maintain it. If you’re not sure of the material, you may need to consult a memorial specialist.

With the right knowledge and care, you can keep your loved one’s memorial looking beautiful for years to come.

What you need to clean a headstone

Using a brush to clean a headstone

To begin cleaning a headstone, you’ll need to gather the necessary items.

  • A bucket and clean water
  • Gloves suitable for use while cleaning
  • Soft clean rags
  • A wooden or plastic spatula or a non-metal scraper
  • A soft, non-metal brush for gently scrubbing
  • A toothbrush for cleaning grout

These supplies will provide the best way to clean a headstone, whether it’s marble or another material.

How To Clean Marble Headstones

For marble headstones, cleaning should be done with extra care and consideration due to its softer quality. To keep your marble headstone looking pristine, follow these five steps.

  1. Soak the headstone in water for 15 minutes while keeping it wet with additional water.
  2. Use a wooden scraper to gently remove debris from the stone, making sure to be especially careful around engravings.
  3. Next, liberally apply a cleaning product and leave it to soak for 10 minutes.
  4. With a soft brush, gently scrub areas that need extra attention, using a smaller brush for tighter areas.
  5. Finally, thoroughly rinse the marble headstone and dry it with a clean rag.

Cleaning marble headstones is a delicate process, so take the time to do it right and your headstone will stay looking beautiful for years to come.

How To Clean Granite Headstones

Using a brush to clean a granite headstone

Cleaning granite headstones requires a bit of extra care and attention due to their increased durability. To do so, use a plastic scraper, undiluted stone cleaner, soft bristled brush, and a small grout brush or toothbrush.

  1. Start by soaking the headstone in water for several minutes.
  2. Then, scrape away any debris and vegetation with the scraper.
  3. Apply the stone cleaner and leave it to soak for 10 minutes.
  4. Next, use the brush to gently scrub the surface in a circular motion, rinsing often.
  5. Finally, use the grout brush to clean the engravings and other hard-to-reach areas, rinsing away all residue and buffing the headstone dry with a clean cloth.

With a little elbow grease, your loved ones granite headstone will look as good as new.

How to clean Slate, Limestone and Sandstone Headstones

Brushing leaves from a gravestone

These headstones require a bit less force but still need to be treated with care.

Gently use a soft bristle brush to clean the gravestone, taking extra care with the type of stone it’s made of.

Avoid directly scraping the debris as it’s very easy to accidentally scratch the surface and cause visible damage. Also, be aware that slate is prone to flaking. Use a minimal amount of pressure while scrubbing the headstone all over, including the inside.

What to avoid when cleaning a headstone

It’s important to know what to avoid when cleaning a headstone in order to prevent any damage to the structure.

Never use metal scrapers, brushes with metal bristles, bleach, ammonia, or any other harsh detergents on the stone material. Additionally, never use a power washer, drill brushes, or other power tools, or anything abrasive.

Additionally, acidic cleaning products should never be used.

Other issues

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of other issues related to headstones and gravestones.

Public burial sites are inspected regularly for issues and instability, and local councils must inspect memorials every five years for safety.

Contact details should be kept up to date for communication on repairs, and a National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) -accredited supplier like Haven Memorials should be used for proper construction and installation.

Memorial insurance can also cover accidental damage, subsidence, theft, or vandalism.

When cleaning gravestones, stay aware of the type of material and use the appropriate cleaning product. Natural stone should be treated differently than marble, and moss should be removed regularly to prevent marks and damage.


You can help protect a headstone or gravestone from accidental damage, subsidence, theft, or vandalism with the right memorial insurance.

Depending on the type of stone, marble headstones and granite headstones may require different types of coverage.

Insurance policies typically cover the cost of repairs as well as cleaning and maintaining the headstone or gravestone. Most policies also offer coverage for damage caused by vandals, animals, and the elements.

When shopping for memorial insurance, be sure to ask about the coverage limits and any exclusions that may apply. It’s also important to research the reputation of the company to ensure they have a history of delivering on its promises and honouring claims.

With the right insurance, you can rest assured that your loved one’s headstone or gravestone will be appropriately cared for and preserved for generations to come.

Get in touch with our team to enquire about insurance for your loved ones memorial.

Removing mosses and mould

Removing mosses and mould from headstones and gravestones is essential for preserving their condition and keeping the memorial intact. Moss, lichen, and other growths can cause damage to the stone and its engravings, so regular maintenance is important. Here are some tips to help keep headstones and gravestones clean:

  • Wet the moss with water
  • Gently use a plastic scraper to remove the moss
  • Regularly remove moss to prevent marks and damage to the stone

Address mould promptly to prevent further deterioration. 

Renovating and repairs

You should seek professional advice on repairs for your headstone or gravestone, particularly if it’s made from granite, marble, or limesto

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove stains from a headstone?

Removing stains from a headstone can be a difficult task. To tackle the issue, start by cleaning the surface of the headstone with a soft bristled brush and warm water. For more stubborn stains, use a headstone cleaning spray (available from any of our shops) and allow it to soak for a few minutes before washing it off. 

Once you’ve removed stains from your headstone, you’ll want to clean it without damaging the surface. The best way to do this is to understand the headstone materials and use specific cleaning processes above accordingly.

What is the best thing to clean a headstone with?

Below is a comprehensive list of the best supplies for cleaning headstones:

  • A bucket and clean water
  • Gloves suitable for use while cleaning
  • Soft clean rags
  • A wooden or plastic spatula or a non-metal scraper
  • A soft, non-metal brush for gently scrubbing
  • A toothbrush for cleaning grout

Remember to be respectful and careful when cleaning headstones and gravestones.

Can you clean a headstone with just water?

While it’s possible to clean a headstone with just water, it isn’t the most efficient way to do so as it may not be able to remove all of the dirt and debris. Cleaning a headstone with just water can be a good option if the cemetery doesn’t allow any other way to clean the surface of the stone.

However, if the headstone has a stubborn stain, then using a combination of water and a mild headstone cleaning agent is the best way to remove it. Water alone isn’t always enough to get rid of the stain, and using a cleaning agent may be necessary to ensure that the surface of the headstone is clean and protected.

How Often Should I Clean a Headstone?

For optimal care of your loved one’s headstone, clean it every six months. Cleaning can help preserve the stone and honour the memory of your loved one. You can do this yourself or contact us to carry this out for you every 6 months.


To keep your headstone or gravestone in top condition for years to come, it’s important to understand the best methods and safety precautions when cleaning and maintaining it. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll have all the information you need to do the job right.

From removing moss and mould to renovating and repairs, you can rest assured that your headstone or gravestone will remain in pristine condition and be passed on for generations.

Get in Touch


Haven Memorials     

Grove Farm
The Street
Crookham Village
GU51 5RX