Following our Local Matters volunteer activists efforts to clean a WW1 memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we have compiled a simple and helpful guide for anyone who would like to contribute to these efforts themselves in the future.
Unfortunately, our memorials are often forgotten and left to develop that all too familiar tinge of green, but we can come to enjoy the aesthetics of their ruins and moss as a quaint image. However, we must never forget that they were placed for a reason, they were made of stone precisely so that they would last. Controversy can surround some statues and memorials but our heroes of war, no matter what, died for us and for future generations regardless of the rights and wrongs of the wars they fought in. As such many around the UK can fall into ruin or disrepair, largely the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) do a phenomenal job with upkeep but some local memorials in villages and market towns not covered by them can fall prey to the effects of their environments and time.
When going out to clean a memorial one must always consider a few things first.
Search the internet to find out if it is covered by the CWGC, if so it can be better to contact them in regards to cleaning and repairs.
If it is the grave of an individual, again check with the CWGC or the local church as loved ones may still visit or want it left alone. A simple Google search can often show who is responsible for its upkeep.
When it comes to cleaning don’t use chemicals that can be corrosive to the stone. Try your best to identify the type of stone. When in doubt, only ever use simple water.
If it is summer you can leave the water to dry on the stone, in the winter you must not leave water on the stone when it turns to ice it expands and can crack the stone.
Above all be gentle. Take care as you clean not to apply too much pressure to the stone as it can come away easily. These magnificent and meaningful memorials for our fallen heroes are meant to last generations and we clean them to show respect and to keep them standing tall and proud for many generations to come.
What you will need:
Our Local Matters volunteer managed to get all we need from local shops for under £10 in just half an hour of looking.
1. One bucket to store water.
2. A minimum of 4 litres of water (often the church will have a tap you are able to use).
3. A Soft brush.
4. Small spray bottle.
5. Soft-bristled toothbrush.
6. Sponge or Cloth.
Steps to cleaning the memorial:
1. Firstly analyse if there is any damage to the memorial and avoid these areas to prevent damaging it further. Take a photograph before you apply anything to the memorial to ensure its integrity is left as you found it.
2. With your soft sponge or cloth begin to wipe away the general debris all over the memorial. Don’t yet focus on the tiny details, just make sure to generally clean the memorial. If there is a lot of moss do not panic about getting it all. Be gentle and maintain the structure above all else.
3. With the toothbrush begin gently cleaning the lettering on the memorial, being soft with any crumbling edges. The typography can be delicate after years of exposure.
4. While using the toothbrush, spray small amounts of water from your spray bottle to wash away any debris that comes away.
5. Now with your larger brush go back over the lettering for a more general clean over the top.
6. Let areas you have been working on dry so that you can come back to them and observe the difference and any areas that still need cleaning.
7. Do another general wash with the sponge to get rid of debris that may have collected from cleaning out all the small details.
8. Finally when you are happy that the structure is largely cleaned as best you can pour clean water over the memorial to wash away any dislodged dirt and debris.
Once you step away for a refreshment break look over the structure and observe if you are happy that it is improved. Don’t swear over every detail; the act of cleaning and restoring is enough.
Repeat any steps above if you feel you really can do better. It is not about Instagram posts or yourself it is for the memory of your people and the improvement of your community.
This is a simple guide – if you are looking to do anything in greater detail please check https://www.loveliveson.com/how-to-clean-granite-headstones/ for guidance on all stone types, chemicals and appropriate tools. Feel free to contact us on social media or via e-mail for any guidance or help.