DIY Grave Tending

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August 12, 2022


We know not everyone can afford to hire someone to tend to a loved one’s memorial, so we wanted to help you with a simple DIY guide to grave tending. We have filled this guide with as many key tending tips that we could think of, along with some answers to commonly asked questions for anyone that needs a helping hand! At the moment, Graceful Graves is working with London-based Cemeteries so this is also a way of sharing some of our support to those outside of the City!

Can I give this grave the best care possible?

We often get asked about cleaning gravestones and how best to do it. Our usual answer is “don’t do it, not unless you absolutely have to” because the weathering process is often part of their charm and beauty. However, there are times when you do absolutely have to and this is when your memorial needs a little tending to. This can come in the form of repairing damage or a general clean up of the stone and surrounding area. So, here are some tips on cleaning a gravestone:

Ask yourself if it really needs cleaning?

Whenever you clean a headstone, no matter how gently, you will remove a small amount of the surface stone. If you clean stone in an old graveyard, it might even look out of place. Although, we appreciate that in some ways we all want our loved one’s memorial to stand out. We totally get it! But, it’s important to remember, sometimes, cleaning a headstone can cause more harm than good.

If you are in doubt, we advise you to speak to someone who does this regularly. That’s our Grave Guardians who you can reach via email, phone or through our social platforms. We’d be happy to help!

Always use the most gentle methods

This means good old fashioned water and a soft brush. Even tissue and warm water can be enough to make a difference. It’s low cost and will have the least damaging effect to the stone you are tending. For example, if a stone is in the shade beneath a tree, removing the lichen will only result in its reappearance again in a few months' time. To maintain that clean stone you would need to work on it regularly. This is where the risk of damage can come in, so using a gentle method with a soft tool can help to find that perfect balance between dirty and damaged.

Gentle is key! When grave tending, be as gentle as you can. Before you start, remember that in many occasions self cleaning the stone will not bring it out as new. To truly make it sparkly it will need careful stone blasting, or blast washing. If bringing the headstone to it’s almost new state is what you are after, it doesn’t cost as much as you may think and you can always contact us for a quote!

Never use a wire or abrasive bristle brush

It’s a good idea to always start with a soft brush but if this does not work, you may need to try a slightly firmer brush. We suggest taking a few different brushes with you so you can work on different areas. Also different sizes are handy, so that you can get into small spaces. However, it’s important to make sure that any metal or hard surfaces on a brush are covered because this can cause irreversible damage to gravestones. 

Use LOTS and LOTS of water

Use lots of water when grave tending as well as a soft plastic scraper, rinsing all the time and using clean water each time. A hose pipe is the best way to keep the stone wet, but we know this isn’t always possible to use. In that case, a clean bucket for the job is ideal, with plenty of clean water, to keep the headstone lubricated. Make sure to keep the brush wet at all times!

Circular motions are your friend

Now you have the right tools, what’s the best way to use them? We find brushing in a gentle circular pattern works magic! It’s also good to move across the grave methodically so you don’t miss any of it. Always clean the whole stone once you have begun. It is best to start at the top of the stone and to work down so that any dirty water doesn’t mark the part of the stone you have already cleaned.

Don't use household cleaning products

These products on the market might achieve a quick clean but will damage the stone in the long run. Always avoid any cleaners containing bleach or acids too. These can, and generally do, destroy the composition of the stone. This changes the surface which, in turn, can lead to faster weathering in future. With this, the lettering may also become less readable and will need to be re-gilded.

We hope these tips will come in handy when you’re next tending to a loved one’s resting place. Remember also, if you don’t feel comfortable tackling a particular memorial you can always reach out to us and we can take the task of the grave tending over for you!

Hope this helps!

With love,

GG x