Cleaning Tips For 4 Of The Most Common Headstone Materials

Headstones are an important tradition that help families and friends commemorate their loved ones once they have passed away. While commonly thought of as a burial ritual, many families also choose to install headstones following their loved one's cremation. However, these headstones typically require significant upkeep in order to keep your loved one's grave in good condition. As such, below are four of the most common headstone materials and some advice on how to maintain them:


Granite is one of the most common materials used across the USA when constructing headstones. The material is extremely durable, meaning it can withstand the elements without suffering any extensive damage. While granite's durability can stop structural damage from occurring, it's important that proper care is taken to preserve the material's exterior.

Thankfully, granite's toughness means that it can withstand vigorous cleaning. Common blemishes such as moss are easily removed with thorough scrubbing. However, calcium deposits are common on granite headstones, which can decrease the life of the material and cause the discoloration of the stone itself.

To clean these deposits, consider mixing a small amount of non-ionic soap with a large bucket of water. Typically, a cup of soap will do; however, you can add more if the stains are extensive. When cleaning, use a scouring pad to remove the marks. Be careful when cleaning, however, as too much force could cause any painted inscriptions to fade away on the surface.


Another common material used for headstones is limestone, which is often chosen for its esthetic qualities. While not as tough as granite, limestone can still take a lot of force without suffering any noticeable damage. The most common problem with limestone, however, is natural flaking around the corners. If the headstone looks like it has started to crumble around the edges, be particularly careful when cleaning the area to avoid exacerbating the problem.

When cleaning limestone, use the same mixture of water and non-ionic soap. However, rather than using a scouring pad, use a tough bristled paintbrush to apply the solution to the headstone. These are much softer than scours and won't cause the material to crumble under excessive force.


Marble falls somewhere between granite and limestone in terms of its durability. The material is much firmer than limestone; however, it doesn't have the same durability as granite. This makes it a great choice for headstones due to its esthetic qualities, but care must be taken to ensure the material remains in good condition. 

Rather than using the mixture described above, you should use ammonium hydroxide in place of soap. Ammonium hydroxide is a common chemical used in standard household cleaners due to its ability to remove blemishes from a wide variety of materials. When applying the solution, use a soft-bristled brush in place of a scouring pad. Remember to rinse the marble headstone with a low-powered pressure washer or a similar device.


One of the major disadvantages of using bronze for a headstone is that it will naturally discolor over a period of time. This discoloration typically makes the lettering difficult to read. Many people see this as the natural charm of bronze, giving it a real "old age" feel. However, if you're looking to keep the headstone in prime condition, you're going to have to practice a regular cleaning schedule.

Bronze headstones will require a rigorous clean and polish around two times per year. This will allow the material to keep its natural shine without damaging the compound. For bronze, you should use a water and non-ionic soap mixture, applied with a flannel cloth or soft-bristled brush. Additionally, you should wax the bronze following cleaning to give the material a natural finish. 

If you don't want to deal with maintaining a headstone, or if you travel a lot, and want to keep your deceased love one close, then you may want to consider cremation services over a traditional burial.