Uncovering History

I've taken on a new hobby. Just what I need, another hobby to take me away from writing. But it's okay! I don't write much in the summertime anyway, and this hobby, alongside with my gardening, which by the way I've been slacking on this year, can only be done when it's nice outside and not freezing. What is it you say? Take a look!







The inscription on the bottom reads:
Jennie, it's my sorrow's pride
This last dim duty to fulfill
Though all the world forget beside
Friends will you remember still

And one more...

In progress...
Since last fall I had begun cleaning headstones, starting with a few that the historical society I'm currently a board member of have chosen to put on a list as part of a cemetery tour/walk of some notables of our town. The walk is scheduled for our town's sesquicentennial in 2019, so that is giving us time to clean up some of those stones. Aside from those, we've also cleaned some veteran's stones for this year's Memorial Day and other random stones of interest, like the Jennie DeBolt stone (who is, btw, the namesake of one of my female main characters in Lake One) and the Hardy stone. I'm still working on Hardy and should have it cleaned up as best as I can get it this weekend and I'll continue on to the stones we have for the tour.

Initially, it was cleaning the stones for the tour that got me into the hobby in the first place. There's a lot of satisfaction seeing these old pieces of history come to new life after decades of moss, lichens, and algae are cleaned off. My interest grew even more upon the discovery of a Florida man on Facebook who calls himself The Good Cemeterian, and seeing his results made me want to attempt the same. His page has a section which describes his process and what he uses to achieve the level of cleanliness of the stones he restores, and the key ingredient is the cleaner he uses: D/2 Biological Solution. The stuff isn't cheap, but it works great and it continues to clean or keep the stones clean long after the initial cleaning. The Good Cemeterian states some stones are easier to clean than others; some come clean only after the initial cleaning, others take months and several treatments of D/2 to get his results, and even sometimes not all of the staining comes out. I've noticed this on the stones I've been cleaning. The Jennie DeBolt stone so far has had two treatments and still shows some staining, but it continues to whiten.

So this is the process that I use, very similar to what he does:

  • Wet the stone with water
  • Using a safe for nonstick cookware scraper, carefully remove thick areas of moss and lichen
  • Rinse with water, apply evenly the D/2
  • Let it sit for 15 minutes (you'll see discoloration)
  • Scrub with nylon brushes (anything else may scratch and cause damage to the stone)
  • Rinse, repeat spraying with water or D/2 and scrub until satisfied with results
  • Rinse, let stone dry until slightly damp, apply final dose of D/2
For large stones, like Mr. Hardy above, start from the bottom of the stone and work your way up to prevent unwanted staining. Preferably, clean the entire stone and not just where the inscription is. Moss and lichens do damage to a stone over time with their roots and removing it all from the stone prolongs the life of the stone. NEVER use bleach. It can do more harm than good, and never use a power washer or metal brush or steel wool, because come on. Some headstones may be so delicate that scrubbing at all is not recommended, and D/2 can also work with the wet and forget method. Dampen the stone with water, spray the D/2 evenly (starting from the bottom on up) and leave it alone for a month or more. If the results aren't satisfactory, repeat the process.

I won't recommend another product in place of D/2 because I don't want to be responsible for any damage done upon my recommendation, and I'm not knowledgeable enough anyway on what other cleaners work just as well. I know this stuff works and is used by not only Mr. Good Cemeterian himself but the government for their monuments and by preservationists. So if it's good for all of them, I know it's good for the headstones here.

And when the Hardy stone is complete, I'm sure I'll be back to give an update with pictures to follow.


I'm going to amend on a couple of points above. I had said that one should never use a power washer. I learned that using a power washer is safe, ONLY on granite headstones that are in good condition, and using a PSI of 600 or less. Don't use a strong stream because it can lead to uneven cleaning. Still, be careful even on granite. I recommend only those that are seasoned with using a power washer (I'm not) to use one on headstones. Another thing, I discovered another easier to come by and cheaper cleaner to use on headstones called Orvus WA Paste. I've never used it, but it's a soap that contains no damaging salts that's safe for use on headstones. I do not recommend using dish soap because it contains said damaging salts.

And now for a picture of the Hardy stone all cleaned up!

Picture taken 7-2-2017
It cleaned up quite nicely! It still has stains in areas, especially on the north side of the stone, and I'll hit those with more D/2 eventually. This stone now stands as a beacon in our cemetery.

The more I clean, the more I learn different and better techniques to cleaning headstones. Eventually I would like to be able to learn how to properly straighten and repair stones and not just clean them. But for now, I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing.