How to soft wash headstones & gravestones

February 10, 2023 7 Comments

How to soft wash headstones & gravestones

Soft washing headstones in cemeteriesA customer asked about the noise of using a pressure washer or petrol driven soft washing 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 soft washing 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 far less peaceful places.

Methods of soft washing in cemeteries

Given the other machinery now used in cemeteries, the sound of a petrol driven softwash pump, especially considering the short period of time it would be used, will not be an issue in the majority of cases.

Of course if you can get your van sufficiently close 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 that many headstones will be too far away from a tap for a hosepipe to reach. Therefore the best option is to take your own water supply with you in your van.

The easiest way to apply the soft wash solution is to use a backpack sprayer, electric or manual. On very old headstones, treat with Bio Cleanze and watch them clean slowly and gently over a long period of time. 

For faster cleaning on headstones that do not have lead detailing you can use Lighting Cleanze.

If you are going to use a pressure washer to renovate a headstone – and with the latest soft washing innovations 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 "rapid weathering" effect on the stone that is a downside of pressure washing.

Use the pressure washer in the same way to rinse Lightning Cleanze 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's 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 and the intervening grass.
  • 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's 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 biocide at 5:1 will do an excellent job of cleaning most stonework (although as with any soft washing job, always treat a small, inconspicuous test patch on the rear of the headstone first).

Then, to give headstones made from porous materials a long-lasting residual protection against re-colonisation, finish off with a treatment of Bio Cleanze biocide at 50:1 (40:1 in winter). *

Click here to learn about creating repeat business through the Benz "Clean & Maintain" softwash systems.

Quick tip:
If you use a steam cleaner we strongly suggest finishing the job with a treatment of 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 begin re-colonising again almost immediately. 

Steam cleaning, pressure washing and 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 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 helpful and sincerely wish you great success in your soft washing business,

Benz Team

Click here to get more practical soft washing how-to tips

How to find answers to most soft washing questions: Simply enter a relevant "keyword" or short phrase – e.g. keyword for the above link = "how to" – into our in-site Search Engine (magnifying glass icon on the main menu).

Click here to download our Product Documentation Pack (includes Application & Dilution guides, SDS, PDS, RAMS, PPE & Mask info, COSSH, sample Contract and more)

Order Benz Softwash chemicals & equipment online or by phone:

GB (England, Scotland, Wales)

Phone: 0800 70 74 222 


Ireland and other countries

Phone: 00353 214 622 978


Lines open Monday - Friday, 9am – 5pm

Please note: The above numbers are for orders only (click here for tech support)

PS: Click here to set up your "Clean & Maintain" programme
. After completing an initial soft wash treatment, put your customer on a "Clean & Maintain" ongoing maintenance programme. Your customers will enjoy a permanently clean property and you will enjoy a steady stream of repeat business.

This is clearly a win-win arrangement for you and your customers.

Click here to explore the extensive range of Benz softwash cleaning chemicals & equipment

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

7 Responses

Taylor Abrams
Taylor Abrams

March 01, 2023

When you informed us that power washing services include gentle washing technologies with low pressure that are suitable for cleaning burial sites, I thought it was extremely interesting. We were considering erecting a custom headstone monument on my grandpa’s grave for his birthday since his passing last month. I’ll be sure to remember this going forward when I search for a funeral home to get in touch with that provides high-quality burial markers.

Elina Brooks
Elina Brooks

January 02, 2023

I found it quite informative when you told us that power washing services have soft washing innovations with low pressure that is well-suited for cleaning grave sites. My grandpa passed away last month, and we were thinking of placing a grave monument on his birthday. I’ll be sure to take note of this from now on while I look for a funeral home to contact that offers quality grave monuments.


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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