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cleaning tombstones

joyceawood17

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#1
Hi everyone, sorry I haven't been here in awhile:( , but I am hoping that you all help me. I been to a cemetery that has 5 generations of my family in it:) , some of the tombstones are so bad that I can not even read them:'( . I need a couple of things one how to read some that are so corroded that they are unreadable also if anyone knows how to clean some that are have alot built up on them:rolleyes: . I have been told that white vinigar is good but I have been trying that and even though it works:rolleyes: , it is a very very slow process. Any good idea's out thereredf) . Joyce
 

gibbo

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#2
Hello
I think it is wonderful what you are doing. As for cleaning them i wouldnt know what you could use it would probably depend what they are made of. If they are cement maybe if you ring a cement company and they might be able to suggest something. Just a thought.

gibbo
 

benny1982

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#4
Hi

Yes that would be the best advice.

I think a tombstone is more likely to be preserved if t is behind a bush as if it is in the open, it is more likely to attract damp and sun, encouraging moss growth and corrosion in bad weather.

Ben
 

Guy

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#5
I know it is not going to be popular, but if you do not know how to clean a headstone the best thing is to not try.
It may sound harsh but many headstones are damaged by cleaning.
If the headstone is marble it can be destroyed by the use of an acid such as vinegar.

If the headstone is covered in some types of lichen, it is illegal to remove or destroy the lichen.

If the headstone has bubbled even touching it can cause the face to disintegrate and drop off.

If you feel you must clean the stone use nothing but clean water and a soft cloth.
Stones form a patina on the surface which protects them and any harsh cleaning removes this allowing the stone to retain moisture and crack in winter frosts.

If stones are covered in ivy cut the stems of the ivy and leave for a few months to die, the suckers will then loosen from the stone and will be easy to remove without damage.
Cheers
Guy
 

joyceawood17

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#6
Sorry Guy :( but to me your answer did not fly, since the stones that I am talking about are my own ancesters and are barely readiable. And as far as if you don't know, don't do it, at some point no one knew:confused: how to do anything, so you then have to learn. Now I know that I need to learn more about what each stone is made of and what types of materials can be used on each one. But I do thank you for ur opinion :) even if I don't agree:rolleyes: Joyce
 

Guy

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#7
Sorry Guy :( but to me your answer did not fly, since the stones that I am talking about are my own ancesters and are barely readiable.
Quite so but although they may be your ancestors you may not own the stones. They may be owned by another descendant or even someone outside the family according to any inheritances.

And as far as if you don't know, don't do it, at some point no one knew:confused: how to do anything, so you then have to learn. Now I know that I need to learn more about what each stone is made of and what types of materials can be used on each one. But I do thank you for ur opinion :) even if I don't agree:rolleyes: Joyce
It is not simply my opinion it is also the opinion of experts in the field and also the law of the land.
Each stone requires evaluating before any such cleaning is do as something that will work safely with on stone will damage another of the same type, but different condition.
Unfortunately it seems there is no point in expanding the answer as you are obviously going to do what you want to do no matter what advice is given or even what the law says.

That is one of the reasons why the tombstones in our churchyards are in such an appalling state.
Cheers
Guy
Oh! I have just noticed you are in the USA so disregard the law part as that is for England and Wales.
Many people in the USA clean headstones with pressure washers, there are even firms that will do it for you.
Guy
 

leefer

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#8
The Law says alot of things but the biggest law to mankind is commonsense...i mean its against the law to commit suicide but try charging someone whos actually done the deed,...cleaning an old headstone of an ancestor or friend even isnt breaking the law if you do it properly(as Joyce was trying to do) and any council or individual who braught action against such a person needs a brain transplant...as i said Joyce in the earlier post go to a Stonemason in your area who specialise in headstones and i will guarantee they will suggest a safe and enviromently friendly way for you to do it....my view is that councils and such are breaking the law by taking our hard earned council tax yet not upkeeping alot of our lovely graveyards and the headstones in them....regards to all Lee.
 

Guy

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#10
The Law says alot of things but the biggest law to mankind is commonsense...i mean its against the law to commit suicide but try charging someone whos actually done the deed,...cleaning an old headstone of an ancestor or friend even isnt breaking the law if you do it properly(as Joyce was trying to do) and any council or individual who braught action against such a person needs a brain transplant...as i said Joyce in the earlier post go to a Stonemason in your area who specialise in headstones and i will guarantee they will suggest a safe and enviromently friendly way for you to do it....my view is that councils and such are breaking the law by taking our hard earned council tax yet not upkeeping alot of our lovely graveyards and the headstones in them....regards to all Lee.
In the UK, it is not illegal to commit suicide.
Helping someone to commit suicide is, but the act itself is not.
This is actually one of the very few cases where it is possible to break the law by helping someone carry out an act that is not illegal.

In most cases graveyards are nothing to do with the council, cemeteries are often council owned but not graveyards.

As for breaking the law in the UK the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lists many species of lichen which it is an offence to disturb.
Whilst in the USA the Endangered Species Act serves the same purpose.

As I wrote in my first post if you do not know how to clean a headstone the best thing is to not try.
Cheers
Guy
 

JMR

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#11
This is a tough one. I agree Leefer, the authorities are letting us all down in the way they have neglected our Graveyard heritage and that is why people are taking matters into their own hands. Ghyll Church in Barnoldswick was a place I wandered in often as a kid and it had gravestones from the Norman times dating back to the 1100s, in the 1960s. I was mesmerised with the inscriptions. People dying at 20 years old with inscriptions such "He had a good life" (my goodness if how good could your life have been if you died at 20?). It was my first real feel of the tough history and day to day struggle of those long gone before. I learnt far more about English history in that chruch yard than in school.

I took my children to see it in 1997 during a visit home (in torrential rain which Australian kids never experience) having laboriously explained to them at 6 and 8, who Norman was!!! And not one stone was left standing! I began to think I dreamt it all, until I saw a very neglected part of the churchyard with waist length grass and went to have a look. There broken into pieces and dumped in long grass, I saw many old headstones, I could still cry when I think about all that history just totally neglected and trashed!

I also think that we shouldn't be quick to discount Guy's expertise in this either! It would be good to think that, given the large swell of family history researchers around today all wanting to make a difference in this area that we could learn from people like Guy and contribute to the upkeep of our heritages, whether in England the USA or Australia, in keeping with the best research on how to do so and not cause harm!

Cheers,
Jill
 

leefer

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#12
I can understand your points Guy...but i am afraid there are many laws that in my,maybe not yours opinion should be used with common sense....and alot of my council tax DOES go towards such upkeep,i live in a small village called Stratton that has been swallowed up by the Town of Swindon and pay extra as many others doo.
I like the different Lichens of our country but cleaning the odd headstone wont make a big difference..in fact hundreds of old buildings are pulled down or cleaned every day that have alot more moss and lichens that are lost forever...anyway Guy lets leave it at that!!!
As for Joyce.........hope you get to see those engravings one day...regards to you all..Lee.
 

joyceawood17

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#14
I want to thank everyone for their opinions and suggestions:) , I know that I am going to do what I feel is right which means I will be checking with some tombstone manufactures for suggestions(thank u for this suggestion). If they can't help then I will be going with the website that Gippo posted which looks good.

As much as I would love to just say leave it alone, as suggested this is something I can not do (this church cemetery can not afford to preserve the stones and there are broken ones, along with everything else). I can't afford to pay to have them restored like I would if I could, but if I don't try something soon then they will be lost forever anyway, some you can't read and others bearly and I had to dig some out of the dirt just to read them, This church has 5 generations of my family in it and I will not do anything to hurt what was a great find. But by just leaving what I don't know alone, I will be letting nature disstroy what I want to preserve.

I am sorry :'( if I may have sounded harsh to Guy's opinion which I would leave to the experts if I could. Sorry Guy that I can not take you advise.

But it was all of your expertise that brought me to ask this question here to begin with, because I know that you all care about these things as much as I do. So thank you again. Joyce
 

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