How to Clean a Bronze Headstone

Bronze headstones are a popular grave marker material because of their timeless sophistication, lasting durability and distinguished appearance. But over time, when exposed to harsh elements, the effects of weathering can damage the look and quality of your bronze plaque. While dulled and discolored bronze can diminish the overall appearance of your loved one’s headstone, with regular cleaning and maintenance, you can easily restore your bronze grave marker to its original luster.

Cleaning a Bronze Grave Marker

Bronze grave markers contain the finest materials and superior craftsmanship techniques to ensure lasting durability and a beautiful resting place. When subjected to various weather extremes, the bronze’s protective coating diminishes, allowing the newly unprotected bronze materials to be susceptible to minor damage and debris buildup.

The wearing of the bronze’s protective coating is normal over time. In addition to damage from prolonged weather exposure, the following factors can affect the overall appearance and quality of bronze headstones:

  • Elemental Exposure: After the protective coating of your bronze plaque has been worn away, the raw bronze materials are directly in contact with the atmosphere and could begin forming a greenish patina.
  • Material Age: If a bronze marker faces exposure to the outdoors without a properly maintained and refinished coating, you may notice the quality of the materials becomes significantly diminished. While bronze markers in poor condition detract from the overall appearance of your site, professional bronze restoration services can return the plaque to its original flawless condition.
  • Human Error: When bronze grave markers are lying flush with the ground, unintentional damage can happen. In cemeteries, a main cause of plaque damage occurs when the marker is accidentally run over during lawn and landscaping maintenance.

Horizontally mounted bronze markers versus vertical wall markers are more vulnerable to the climate and other harm, causing the coating to wear more quickly. Performing regular bronze cleaning and maintenance is crucial for preventing unattractive debris buildup, oxidation and surface damage.

How to Clean Headstone Plaques

The most effective solution for preserving the quality and appearance of bronze grave markers is to clean the surface and perform simple maintenance tasks at least two times every year. With routine touch-ups, you can reduce the degree of wear over time, preserve the like-new appearance of the bronze and prevent unsightly green oxidation formation.

To clean a bronze headstone, gather two clean cloths, a bottle of distilled water, non-ionic soap (like Simple Green, etc.), a soft-bristled brush, a toothbrush and an applicator brush. When using soap as a cleaning option, use extreme caution as it may remove the protective coating or negatively impact the integrity of your bronze plaque.

With these items, perform the following steps to properly clean and restore your bronze grave marker:

  • Remove Debris: Completely remove any leaves, foliage and other dirt and debris covering the bronze grave marker.
  • Scrub Grave Marker: Dampen the grave marker with water and gently scrub the surface of the bronze plaque with the soft-bristled brush, using the toothbrush to easily reach small spaces and crevices.
  • Wash Bronze: With soap and water, thoroughly scrub the bronze marker to completely remove caked-on stains, grease and other buildup.
  • Rinse and Dry Headstone: Using clean water, rinse the headstone and completely dry the surface with a clean cloth.
  • Apply Fresh Protective Coating: After the bronze marker is completely dry, ensure the stone is free of lint, pollen and other debris before carefully applying either of these options: spray on clear coat or wax. You can purchase a spray on clear coat at your local hardware store. It is very important that the surface is clear and dry. Start applying a very light coat across the entire marker. Rotate to the side and do it again. Spray lightly two more times from the other directions, this will cover each side of the raised letters etc. This must be done steadily and quickly before pollen, dust etc. can land on the marker. If applying the wax, be careful of letters, photos and other flat relief emblems. If you get wax on these features, use a Q-tip to remove the excess wax from the centers for a smooth and clean appearance.

Regular bronze maintenance is the best way to preserve the condition of your headstone, giving you a beautiful place to memorialize your friends and loved ones for years to come.

Signs of Oxidation on Your Bronze Grave Marker

Bronze is an alloy material, or a mixture of metals such as copper, tin and zinc. When you expose your bronze grave marker to the air, the metals begin to oxidize and develop a patina coating. This coating can be green, blue, red, black or brown, is a sign of normal corrosion and does not harm the bronze underneath.

While a patina coating is harmless to your grave marker, it’s crucial to take note if the color appears to change. If you see light green powdery spots or brown growth that easily flakes on your grave marker, this is a sign of bronze disease. Bronze disease is a harmful form of corrosion that can lead to serious damage. Whether your bronze grave marker is showing signs of oxidation or bronze disease, maintaining its cleanliness will prevent further damage while keeping it looking fresh.

Removing Oxidation From Your Bronze Grave Marker

While patina coatings are not harmful to your grave marker, they can still detract from its appearance. This simple cleaning solution for cleaning bronze grave markers uses ingredients you may already have on hand.

  • Rinse your marker: Using warm distilled water, rinse off your stone before gently cleaning it with a toothbrush.
  • Make a paste: After removing any excess dirt, make a paste by combining baking soda with vinegar.
  • Place the paste onto marker: Rub this paste onto the grave marker and let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Rinse the paste off the stone: When the correct amount of time has passed, rinse the paste off the marker with distilled water. While rinsing, be careful not to spread the paste beyond the marker as it can kill plants and prevent them from regrowing.

If your bronze grave marker is out of warranty and you can visibly see patina or brown or white spots on shiny bronze areas, you may use soap such as ivory dish soap to remove oxidation. However, when exploring soap as a cleaning option, use caution as it may remove some of the protective coating or impact the stone’s integrity if left sitting for an extended period.

To clean with soap, spray the marker with a mild soap and water mixture and wipe away signs of oxidation with a soft cloth. Carefully rinse the stone to remove all soap residue.

Restoring Bronze Grave Markers

If you suspect the protective coating of your bronze grave marker has already worn away, and signs of significant damage are appearing, you can perform minor restoration tasks to attempt to preserve the appearance of the plaque. While removing debris during routine cleaning, scrub the bronze surface with a stainless steel brush to completely remove layered debris, then use sandpaper to polish raised lettering, borders and other decorative elements. Clean the bronze with soap and water, then let dry. Once the bronze has completely dried, apply a new coating to protect the bronze against elemental exposure.

To completely restore bronze headstones to their pristine condition, trust a professional bronze restoration company to perform effective and lasting restoration services. With years of experience and access to industrial tools and finishes, professional restoration experts can achieve superior, long-term results.

Trust Erie Landmark Company to Restore Bronze Headstones

At Erie Landmark Company, a division of Paul W. Zimmerman Foundries, we have over 80 years of experience crafting the finest bronze headstones and performing comprehensive, detailed bronze restoration services. We take the care and patience to carefully refinish and restore bronze plaques and markers, returning the bronze to its immaculate condition and timeless elegance. During the bronze refinishing and restoration process, our team works closely with customers to ensure your exact specifications are being met and exceeded.

Restore a Headstone Today

The Erie Landmark Company Restoration Difference

When you trust Erie Landmark Company for your bronze grave marker cleaning and restoration, you’re assured unparalleled attention to detail, precision and craftsmanship. We understand the importance of keeping your bronze plaque pristine and want to provide you with a gorgeous grave marker to properly remember those you’ve loved most. That’s why we’ve perfected the bronze refinishing and restoration process. With every project, we carefully follow specific steps to ensure exceptional results and lasting luster:

  • Assess: Carefully inspecting your bronze headstone, our team notes any surface damage and determines a specific solution for properly cleaning, repairing and refinishing the materials.
  • Prepare: To ensure we understand your needs, we follow up with customers after the initial bronze plaque assessment, providing a detailed restoration plan and a transparent project quote.
  • Clean: For a deep clean, we begin the refinishing process by sandblasting the bronze plaque to thoroughly remove dirt and debris buildup.
  • Repair: Using the highest-quality tools and equipment, we reference detailed photos and accounts of the plaque’s damage and repair all trouble spots.
  • Refinish: After repairing the bronze, we’ll refinish the surface with a fresh background color of your choice, highlight the raised text and decorative elements and apply a protective coating. For added assurance, our protective coating applications are backed by a five-year warranty under normal wear and tear.

Contact Us Today to Request Bronze Headstone Restoration Services

For assistance restoring your bronze grave marker, rely on the dedicated, helpful and experienced professionals at Erie Landmark Company. We have the expertise necessary to properly restore your bronze plaques and headstones and are consistently dedicated to giving our customers a beautiful, unique place to visit loved family members and friends for many years. We have the most professional and reliable bronze restoration services available and work closely with customers to find solutions that best accommodate your needs and budget.

Request a free bronze restoration quote today by filling out our form, or call 800-874-7848 to speak to a team member.

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