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Visiting your ancestors gravesite

I would like to point out a few things for those of you who plan on visiting a gravesite which has a very old stone. Your first thought might be "I can't read it, what can I do to clean it up?", or "let's take a rubbing of this stone". STOP right there!

*DO NOT use wire brushes, metal instruments or abrasive pads. This may seem like the most logical thing to use to remove things like moss or fungus, but if you clean with anything that is harder than the stone, you risk scratching the face of the stone and causing more damage in the long run. The same goes for acidic cleaners. DO NOT use bleach! You also don't want to powerwash (using high pressure sprayers etc). It is too much force to apply to an older stone. Here is an example of what using the wrong methods to clean a stone can do.

You may also have heard of using chalk to take a rubbing off a stone. Not good either. This causes a lot of serious problems.

1) First off, when attaching a piece of paper to the stone to get a proper reading you must do this with tape, which leaves a residue behind, and when the initial tape is removed it also takes particals from the stone.

2) The pressure on the stone, especially an old stone, is damaging. You may think that the amount of pressure you put on the stone didn't cause any cracks, but it weakens the stone from the inside and at the base. Some people apply regular street chalk directly onto stones. No matter what the package says, it DOES NOT WASH away with the next rain. Take some of this chalk out to your street and make a picture and see that it will still be there after the next rain. If the chalk is applied to the stone and the sun shines on it for a period of time it stains the stone this color. Please keep in mind that ALL stones have pores and the chalk gets into these pores and DOES NOT come out no matter how much water is used. If you ask why is chalk harmful, it isn't corrosive, well the answer to that is that a substance does not need to be corrosive to cause harm. Substances can be physically damaging and/or the application of such substances can cause damage. Damage can be, initially miniscule, or cumulative. Why take the chance???

There are a lot of other dangerous methods out there so I have some links to some wonderful sites that go over what is safe and unsafe to do to a headstone. Remember, the most important thing is to preserve these stones. We don't want to damage them in any way!

Site 1

Site 2

Site 3-properly cleaning a headstone