Cleaning Gravestones

D/2 is always available for use in Salem God’s Acre. Pump sprayers are located in the bottom corner of the Archives (closest to the parking lot driveway, behind the double metal gate) as well as brushes and water buckets. Supplies are available year round but extra sprayers are available from Palm Sunday to Easter.

For cleaning in other graveyards, we have small spray bottles available to purchase at $20/bottle. Check with the office.

As part of Salem Congregations’ efforts to maintain and protect the gravestones in God’s Acre, we are adopting the national standards for cleaning of gravestones, which is best practice to preserve them for the future. The National Park Service has led the effort to research the best methods of cleaning gravestones which is both effective long term and doesn’t damage the stone.

The recommended cleaner is called “D/2 Biological Solution.” There is more detailed information available on the process at the website as well as at the National Park Service NCPTT website. It only requires spraying on the D/2, then gentle scrubbing with soft plastic or natural bristle brush (don’t use a brush you wouldn’t use on your car!), and then a final rinsing. Once a year after then it just needs a reapplication. For any build-up, a wooden or plastic scraper can be used to loosen. In addition it is very safe to handle, just normal precautions of not getting in your eyes or drinking, a very small number people do have a reaction to the cleaner. It doesn’t harm the grass around the graves. We recommend using a sprayer and long handle brush to apply, which eliminates all direct contact.

These images are a similar product shows how effective this can be without significant scrubbing (images taken by Margaret Norris).

Before cleaning (wet) After 7 weeks After 6 months

We have the D/2 cleaner on hand and anyone wanting to clean a gravestone is welcome to stop by and borrow a small pump sprayer of D/2 to use. It will eliminate the discoloration that forms over an extended period, but does not harm the stone. The only difference is that this method doesn’t immediately clean off all the discoloration but works over several months, leaving stones bright and clean.

Here are the steps in the process:

Wet stone with water

Spray stone with cleaner, let sit 5-10 minutes Scrub with soft brush, then rinse off with water

Since the cleaner needs significant time for best results the first time it is used, we highly recommend doing this well in advance of Easter weekend. Then the gravestone should only need some brushing off and rinsing at Easter the first year. It should still be effective so only need a reapplication at Easter on subsequent years.

Please note that most ‘traditional’ methods damage the surface of the stone, such as most household cleaners (Comet, Ajax, Awesome, etc.), power spraying, acid, etc. by reacting with the stone, or introducing ‘salts’ into the stone which causes it to break apart. We have been noticing many stones are losing their polished finish and showing small chips from these other cleaning methods.

We will provide sprayers with the recommended D/2 cleaner and brushes for anyone coming to clean gravestones in God’s Acre. Just come by the Salem Congregation office during regular office hours. If you want to come on a weekend to clean gravestones in the Graveyard, then let us know and we’ll arrange to leave some for you.