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"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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How to Clean Gravemarker

Before you begin to clean any gravemarker, you need to get prepared before you leave home!

Items to include:

Prior to beginning to clean a gravemarker, determine the condition of the stone.

If the gravemarker exhibits any of the following conditions, I would not recommend that you clean it:

Remember, your goal is to do no further damage to the gravemarker and if cleaning it will cause any damage, do not attempt to clean the stone.

I personally do not recommend any cleaning solutions be utilized. I only use clean clear water. This is especially important if you are working in a cemetery, which does not have running water available.

Using chemical cleaning solutions on an old gravemarkers is very dangerous because the chemicals can leach into the pores of the stone and no amount of flushing with water will remove the effects of the chemical.

I begin by thoroughly wetting down the gravemarker and then starting at the top, I work my way down to the bottom, keeping the brush strokes in the same direction. Sort of like painting a house, you start at the top and keep your brush strokes in the same direction.

Additionally, NEVER use high-pressure equipment to clean gravemarkers. One horror story I heard about was a man who was actually digging up gravestones from the cemetery, putting them on a trailer and taking them down to the car wash and blasting them with soap and water. While this person was well intended, his actions resulted in the permanent damage of several gravemarkers.

Do not use any abrasives, acids, solvents, household cleaners, liquid soap, wire brushes, or sand blasting or any other equipment to clean a gravemarker.

Do not be disappointed if the gravemarker does not have a like-new appearance, remember, it has stood out in the elements of nature for several, if not hundreds of years.

Do not clean gravemarkers with a brush more than once every 18-months. However, you can rinse the gravemarker with clean clear water to remove bird droppings.

Do not use any chemical weed killer around the base of gravemarkers. Again, the old gravemarkers act as a sort of wick and draw the chemicals into the pores of the stone.

Be careful and do not use electric or gas powered weed-eaters around the gravemarkers. If the stone is especially brittle or fragile, the plastic twine can cut groves into the gravemarker. I suggest using hand-held grass clippers.

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Source for some of the above taken from suggestions made by: John R. Dennis - Dallas Museum of Art Conservation Lab, March 1995

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This webpage was last created on 14 Sept 2000 and was last revised on _____ 2000

Copyright © 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604

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Lynna Kay's Other Websites

"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column by Lynna Kay Shuffield

You can visit my personal genealogy research at My Loose Ends Family Tree Database

San Jacinto County TXGenWeb

Milam County Texas War Dead Project which will document the biographical, genealogy and military history of the 270 men from Milam County who have died in the four-wars (WWI, WWII, Korea & Vietnam)

“Clippings from the Cameron Herald

The Scrapbook of Seaman First Class Guthrie F. Layne, Jr., U.S.N., Compiled Aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) from November 2, 1940 through October 2, 1941.

SS Paul Hamilton Personnel Lost at Sea - 20 Apr 1944 - which will document men lost at sea as result of this Liberty Ship sinking off the coast of Algiers, North Africa


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Links to Lynna Kay's articles published at "Ancestry Daily News"

World War I Burial Case Files and the WWI Document Archive - 25 May 2000

100 Years of Submarine History and the Sailors in Your Family Tree - 1 Jun 2000

A Korean War Story & Wartime Experiences Are Being Collected - 22 Jun 2000