Cleaning Headstones on Memorial Day: Tools & Supplies to Bring

Decorating graves is a long-standing Memorial Day tradition in our family. With a family history that goes back nearly 130 years in the area, decorating the graves of our deceased relatives can take almost the entire day. Memorial Day is a time of family reunions, and a chance to honor family members who are no longer with us. How our family does this is by bringing handmade bouquets to the various grave sites and spending a few minutes on some light maintenance of the headstones and surrounding area. While most cemetery grounds are cared for by either the city’s parks department or the the grounds keeper, the headstones themselves are rarely touched.

To clean up the headstones and adjacent grave site, these tools and supplies may be helpful:

Scrub brush, dish washing soap, and bucket
Headstones are often used as perches by birds and can get pretty nasty looking in a hurry. We bring along a bucket, some liquid dish washing soap, and a stiff scrub brush to scrub down the marker. The water for washing and rinsing can come from the water taps that are located all throughout the cemetery grounds.

Hand trimmers
In our cemeteries, the groundskeepers don’t use a weed whacker to trim overgrown grass. Part of our family tradition means bringing a grass shears from home to trim the grass around the markers.

Weed digger
Many groundskeepers avoid the use of herbicides on the grounds, resulting in undesirable noxious weeds growing around the grave sites. Our local cemeteries are filled with Russian Thistle, and we usually include a weed digger in our bucket of tools to lift those thistles out of the ground around the grave site.

Bronze polish, rags, and an old toothbrush
For shining up bronze markers, a container of bronze polish and some old rags can be used to make those markers look as good as new. The toothbrush can be used to polish up those hard-to-reach details.

Miscellaneous tools
Some headstones have containers inside the marker that can be lifted out and used for floral decorations. These containers can be hard to pry out and often take either a pair of pliers or a flat screwdriver to manipulate out of the marker. Without these tool on hand, you may find yourself unable to access these built in vases. Other tools you may find useful are pruners (for trimming down the bouquets), a garbage sack (for collecting weeds and prunings) and a bucket or watering can for transporting water from the faucets to the grave site.

Many years ago, decorating graves included taking the time to clean up the site as well. This charming old fashioned tradition is still a sweet and meaningful way to remember your loved ones on Memorial Day.

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