How to softwash headstones & gravestones

March 01, 2016 5 Comments

How to softwash gravestones and headstones

Soft washing headstones in cemeteriesRecently a customer raised some concerns about the noise of using a pressure washer or petrol driven pump to clean headstones and gravestones in cemeteries.

As Leo spent several years working as a gravedigger back in the '70s we thought we'd shed some light on this lucrative softwash market.

Back in the day Leo used a pick, shovel, and fork to dig graves. And he moved the earth around the cemetery with a hand cart. The only disturbance to tranquility came from petrol driven lawnmowers during the summer. But today graves are mostly dug by noisy machines and earth is transported around by motorised dump trucks.

Cemeteries have become less peaceful.

Methods of softwashing in cemeteries

The noise of a petrol driven softwash pump, especially considering the short period of time it would be used, should not be an issue. Of course if you can get your van close enough to the headstone your electric pump will do the job just fine, and this would be the preferable choice.

It could be possible to attach a hosepipe to the cemetery's standpipe. That would work if there was a tap close enough. And if no-one else wanted to use the tap.

But cemeteries, even quite large ones, often have no more than a couple of taps. And this means many headstones will be too far away for a hosepipe to reach. Therefore the best option is to take your own water supply with you in your van.

Alternatively you could use a backpack sprayer, although we've found they can tend to leak and so it would be essential to wear chemical-proof protective clothing.

If you are going to use a pressure washer to renovate a headstone – and with the softwashing innovations of Benz Lightning Cleanze and Bio Cleanze there's rarely a need now – we strongly suggest using low pressure, a fan jet, and holding the nozzle at least 12 inches away from the surface. These precautions will help reduce the weathering effect on the stone that is a downside of pressure washing.

Use the pressure washer in the same way to rinse Lightning Cleanze off after gently brushing it into the surface and leaving for 30-60 minutes.

Quick tips:

  • With your customer's prior permission test a small, out of the way, area of any material you are unsure of before treating the entire surface. If there is any doubt, obtain your customer's agreement that they are happy with the result and get their permission to continue.
  • Damage to lettering, etc – see paragraph below.
  • Remove any flowers from the working area.
  • Protect growing plants from spray drift, on the grave you are working on and any adjacent graves.
  • Ensure the rinse water does not enter flower beds.
  • Click here to learn more about protecting your customer's plants

If you are concerned about possible damage to lettering, etc on a specific gravestone it would be wise to contact the stonemason responsible and ask for their opinion. If that is not possible ask any qualified and competent stonemason for their professional advice. It's highly unlikely there would be a problem but materials are changing all the time.


The Benz "Clean & Maintain" softwash system

Lightning Cleanze at 5:1 will do an excellent job of cleaning most stonework (although as with any softwashing job, always treat a small, inconspicuous test patch on the rear of the headstone first).

Then, to give the headstone long-lasting residual protection against re-colonisation finish off with a treatment of Bio Cleanze at 50:1 (40:1 in winter). *

Click here to learn more about the principle of creating repeat business through the Benz "Clean & Maintain" softwash system.

Quick tip: If you use a steam cleaner we strongly suggest finishing the job with a treatment of Bio Cleanze *.

This is because, although the high temperature of the steam will certainly kill most organisms, and the initial cleaning effect can be excellent, the surface will re-colonise again almost immediately.

Steam cleaning, pressure washing, or even Lightning Cleanze alone cannot offer long-term residual protection against re-colonisation – hence the reason we supply the strongest ddac-based biocide on the market - Benz Bio Cleanze *


* Some headstones now have a glossy, non-porous finish. For these, post-treating with Benz Bio Cleanze would be of relatively little value as it will be unable to soak into the surface and offer residual protection against re-colonisation. Most of the time, Lightning Cleanze applied at 10:1 dilution will be an adequate softwash treatment for these headstones.

Quick tip: Offer your service by leaving a laminated calling card at graves that are still being cared for (usually they will have flowers or tended plants). Many people will want to have the headstone of their loved one made more presentable and pleasant to look at. Obviously, use sensitive language on your card to respect the feelings of the relatives whose loved ones lay in the grave.

We hope this information is useful.


Ben, Leo
 & Fiona

PS: We have been informed that some church officials may object to the use of cleaning chemicals within their grounds. So it would be wise to check that the church authorities will allow soft washing. Remember to assure them of the ecologically sound credentials of Benz softwash cleaning products.

Click Here to explore the full range of Benz popular softwash cleaning products

Benz Softwash Bio Cleanze DDAC biocide & Benz Softwash Lightning Cleanze SH sodium hypochlorite biocide

5 Responses


February 22, 2018

Hi Mark – That’s a “how long is a piece of string” question. Depends on the nature and depth of the infestation and what your customer wants to achieve. Benz Blackwash would probably be 5:1 (4:1 if infestation extreme) and Biocidal Wash between 20-50:1.

If you give me more information I can be more specific.

Mark Radford
Mark Radford

February 21, 2018

Hi there whats the best solution rate for sandstone


March 04, 2016

PS: As with all soft wash contracts where you are not 100% sure about the best mix of chemical to use and its effect on a material, always treat a small, inconspicuous test patch first. And get your customer’s agreement that it is satisfactory and gives you the go-ahead, preferably in writing (just have a short pre-printed form you can present to them on site), to clean the the entire surface.


March 04, 2016

Possibly, depending on the type of stone and type/degree of colonisation. But from what I’ve seen, most of the time a first treatment with Blackwash would be the way to go unless colonisation is very light. Rinse thoroughly, then, assuming the surface has some porosity, finish with a spray of Biocidal Wash at 40/50:1 to provide residual protection and further ongoing cleaning.

Definitely use a soft brush on all soft stone. Aggressive brushing with a hard brush can damage the softer stones. We’ve found that brushes sold for cleaning cars can have the necessary qualities.


March 03, 2016

Would a good spray and soft brush with just biocidal wash do a good enough job?

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