This article was meant to post on Tuesday but I was caught up in other activities. Last week before Winter actually set in I took a ride to the cemetery of the Lisha Kill Reformed Church in Colonie. I was looking for a distant cousin's gravestone to snap a photo of it. This cemetery is tiny and of course I will have to go back in the Spring to locate it because I could not find it.
However, the cemetery is very old with many older style grave markers, many of them are extremely difficult to read. As I was passing through I noticed the heavy moss growth that was growing on a particular stone. I stopped and used my finger to gently scrape the moss off. I stopped what I was doing to snap a photo of the offending moss and then proceeded to remove the rest of the moss and then take another photo. All for a future blog post. This one.
This was done because I read in various posts on other sites how some people think that a gravestone should not be cleaned ever and if you do clean a stone you are removing history and patina from the stone. Well I never heard of a gravestone having a patina such as perhaps a copper weather vane for example.
Over the years gravestones accumulate dirt, moss, lichens, and the effects of acid rain. I clean gravestones however I do not simply clean them just to clean them. My cleaning process is done so that further repairs can be made to a stone. For example if you were going to re-silicon the tile around your bathtub you would make sure that everything was clean because if you did not your work would quickly fail because your silicon would not "stick." Same with a gravestone. The stone and its base must be clean before any kind of lime based mortar can be used to seal the bottom of the stone to the base and to secure it and to keep water from migrating under the stone. I will also clean a stone if the inscription is completely unreadable. My processes for cleaning gravestones are all approved by various restoration associations, foremost being the Association for Gravestone Studies.
Back to the moss. The photos will show the moss growing inside the fizzer cracks that have appeared on the sides of the stone. Believe it or not the moss growth growing inside of the cracks and do damage to the stone just like water entering the stone and then freezing and further separating and damaging the stone.
Since it took me about 5 seconds to scrape the moss off and nothing further done to the stone. The moss will be back again next year as if I never did anything. The approved chemical for cleaning gravestones is D2 Biological Solution. D2 sprayed on the remnants of the moss and left on the stone for 10 to 15 minutes and then gently scrubbed clean with a soft bristle brush and clean water would kill all of the biological growth on the stone including moss and all lichens.
But then what remains is the fizzer cracks. They should be infilled with a lime based mortar of the appropriate color to keep anything else from entering the cracks especially water.