05 June 2012

Tombstone Tuesday... Can you clean off the droppings?

After visiting the Columbus, Ohio cemeteries, I've been bit by the bug to photograph cemeteries. However, I have a HUGE question. Okay, perhaps it's not that large.

Do you clean off the bird droppings? If so, will you share tips on how?

Seriously, this isn't a crazy question. But, I took gardening tools to dig out stones and remove weeds and debris. I can't thank the person enough who gave me those tips.

Wilhelmina Gerlacher (1858-1916)
Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio
I almost missed Wilhelmina Gerlacher's grave stone because it was buried under a host of plants. Thankfully I had some gardening shears to scale the plants back.

However, I came across NUMEROUS stones with bird droppings on them. Having attempted to prepare myself for taking grave stone photographs, I was very worried about using anything except water to highlight the letters or a soft brush to wipe away grass. However, bird droppings might need a combination of things and I was hesitant to do anything to harm the stones.

Foster H Latham (1904-1994)
Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio
For many stones I was able to remove the droppings using Paint Shop Pro. However, that's A LOT of time fixing photos for publishing purposes. Shouldn't I be able to remove the stones before I snap the picture?

So, I'm asking a serious, novice question... what do you do about bird droppings?

Thanks in advance for the advice.

3 comments:

  1. I've been corresponding with a researcher/caretaker for the Multnomah Park Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. He was sending pictures of relatives graves, when someone came in over Memorial Day weekend and cleaned the stones with some sort of cleaning solution. Now the marble is eroding and the names are disappearing! He is pretty heartbroken. He called some granite experts, but they said there wasn't anything to do. He said they only use water for cleaning . . . so it sounds like you're doing the safe thing . . .

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  2. Diggeo... thanks for the support and making me not feel weird. Yeah. I would hate to use a chemical of any kind. I suppose my question would be, do they use water and a cloth, water and a brush, or water in a squirt bottle only? If a cloth or brush, what kind should I use and which kind to avoid. Thanks again for the comment.

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  3. Hi! Enjoyed reading your blog about cleaning bird droppings off of gravestones. Whenever I visit a cemetery I try to carry the following supplies: plastic scrappers (you can get in hardware stores --- like plastic putty knifes) Rubbermaid type bristle brushes (no metal bristles!), rags, water in used (but rinsed out) milk bottles. For bird droppings, I'd wet down and dry first with a rag if the droppings aren't too thick. If they are, you can try gently scraping with your plastic scraper, and a lot of rinsing and then wait. See if that helps remove them without doing any harm to the stone.

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