Life's Dirty. Clean Easy.

How To Clean A Headstone with Wet and Forget

By Wet & Forget
cleaning gravestones with Wet & Forget

A headstone honors the legacy of those we’ve lost. And keeping these memorials clean serves as a reminder that they’re still in our hearts. 

With this in mind, our guide on how to clean a headstone will help you understand why they get dirty, how to remove organic growths, and what to avoid to ensure the headstone’s lasting presence. 

What Makes Headstones Dirty? 

Cemeteries typically sit in fields where organic growth is rife. Some of this growth, such as grass or even memorial gardens, are completely fine and help add to the somber beauty of the area. 

Other organic growth, such as algae, lichen, mildew, mold, and moss, can have different effects. They can cause discoloration, trap moisture against the headstone’s surface, and eventually help spawn cracks and other signs of deterioration. 

Identifying which organic growth, in particular, is present at a headstone takes some consideration. If the growth has a tangible structure, it’s likely moss or lichen. 

Moss will feel, well, mossy. Lichen tends to be more crusty, and though they will look green when wet, they’ll embody other colors when dry. 

Algae, moss, and mildew typically feel slimy, fuzzy, or, as is the case with some mildew, powdery. Mildew also gives off a musty smell, and it, like mold, prefers dark areas to more sunlit ones. On the other hand, algae need sunlight to survive. 

Beyond these organic growths, headstones are also vulnerable to dirt and mud. Dirt and mud usually only need to be rinsed off. 

How to Clean a Headstone 

The materials used to construct headstones are often very porous. That means they absorb liquid and create burrowing chambers for organic growth. 

So, when cleaning a headstone, it’s essential to use a product that does so gently. Otherwise, you risk damaging the memorial. 

That’s what makes Wet & Forget Ready-To-Use an ideal tool for removing organic growth discolorations from your loved one’s memorial. It’s bleach-free and non-acidic, making it safe for use on almost all outdoor surfaces — including those commonly used in headstones: 

  • Concrete 
  • Granite 
  • Limestone 
  • Marble 
  • Slate 

The Ready-to-Use formula is designed to clean gently and over time. It will work with the wind and rain to wash away stains. 

After application, green stains should dissipate within a few days or weeks. Black discolorations may take up to a few months to be completely removed. Stubborn or long-lasting stains can take between six to 12 months and may require a second application a month or so after the first. 

Once the stains are gone, the Ready-to-Use formula can keep a headstone clean of organic growth for up to a year or more, depending on humidity, sunshine, and weather. 

Before using Wet & Forget Outdoor, check your weather forecast. You should only apply the spray on days with no immediate rain or wind in the forecast and when temperatures are at least 32 degrees Fahrenheit during application and for five hours after. 

Finally, avoid applying Wet & Forget Outdoor on overly warm and sunny days. Direct sunshine can cause the formula to evaporate before it’s had time to work. 

Gravestone before and after photos

How to Remove Algae, Mold, and Mildew From a Headstone 

You likely won’t need any additional tools beyond Wet & Forget Ready-to-Use, but consider bringing water too.  

You can use the water to protect nearby plants by rinsing them before and after applying Wet & Forget Outdoor. Water can also help you loosen stuck-on mud, which you can then brush away.  

Before using Wet & Forget Outdoor, though, make sure the surface of the headstone is completely dry and that you’ve removed any loose debris such as leaves. 

Once the headstone is dry, you can get to work: 

  1. Open the flip cap on the Wet & Forget Ready-to-Use bottle. 
  2. Remove the sprayer from its slot on the handle. 
  3. Pull the coiled hose inside the sprayer until it’s fully extended — about three feet. 
  4. Firmly press the hose tip into the flip cap opening until you hear it click. 
  5. Rotate the sprayer’s nozzle to your desired spray or stream setting. 
  6. Thoroughly spray the headstone’s surface and pay particular attention to areas where growth is present and inside carved lettering and crevices. 

There’s nothing left for you to do when you’re done — no scrubbing or rinsing is required. The wind and rain will work with the formula to gently clean the tombstone over time. 

Note: If you are treating multiple headstones, consider using the Wet & Forget Concentrate for more coverage.  

How to Remove Moss and Lichen From a Headstone 

Moss and lichen are slightly more complex than simple growth like algae, mold, and mildew. However, this complexity barely adds more work to the cleaning process. 

For moss, spray the growth until it’s soaked to the surface to which it clings. Over the next few days, the moss will start to brown, curl up from the surface. Then the rain and wind will fully remove it from the surface over the next few months.  

For lichen, thoroughly spray the growth until it’s completely saturated. Then wait 15 minutes to allow the outer shell to open. Finally, apply a second spray to soak the lichen again. 

Learning how to clean a headstone is simple with our guide.

Things to Avoid 

Bleach is an excellent cleaning tool in some situations. When it comes to headstones, though, it’s best to avoid using it. 

That’s because bleach has a high pH level of 13. That is, it’s very alkaline. (To compare: Wet & Forget has a pH level of 8.) 

When you use bleach on a headstone, the porous material will absorb it. This allows bleach to work its way beneath the stone’s surface and damage the material both inside and out. 

It can stain the stone and, if used often enough, it can eventually lead to the headstone cracking and falling apart.  

Additionally, if the headstone is already showing damage, such as cracks or spalling, you should wait to clean it until the damage is repaired. Cleaning damaged headstones with any materials could accelerate the stone’s structural issues. 

Where to Find Wet & Forget Outdoor 

Cleaning headstones helps honor the person the marker memorializes, and you can do it quickly and effectively with Wet & Forget Outdoor products. 

Find yours today by shopping online or visiting your nearest retailer.