Keeping a monument looking beautiful can almost be a full-time job. Of course, it's something that's an important part of remembering a loved one, but still sometimes a difficult task that you'd probably spend less time worrying about if you could.
The worst culprits in terms of making a gravestone look less than perfect are mosses, lichens and algae. These types of plants grow without needing anything to put roots down into, and their spores are easily carried, so they can start to settle into stone quite easily.
Although these growths can't be stopped completely, you might be pleased to know that there are a few things you can do to discourage them. This will help you keep your loved one's monument looking just as it should, so you can spend less time cleaning it.
Clean it first
It's easier to remove moss, lichen and algae by hand and then apply a preventative, as you can make sure all of it is gone. With a selection of sponges, cloths and brushes, gently scrub at it with soap and water.
Moss should be easiest to remove, coming away with little effort. Algae might take a bit more work but shouldn't be too difficult. Lichen can be tricky, as it's often hard and gets into all the cracks and lettering. A stiff brush is best for this; try to get as much as possible so it doesn't grow back.
Apply a preventative
A 50:50 bleach and water solution is a good way to prevent these unpleasant growths returning. While it shouldn't damage the stone, it's best to check first. Put a very small amount on an out-of-sight area, leave it a day or two and check back. Assuming it's fine, use a cloth to cover the stone with the solution and repeat once a month. If the bleach mixture causes any damage to the monument, try a solution of water, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
You can also use a glyphosate-based weedkiller, but be very careful not to get it on grass or any plants around the monument. This will need fewer applications than bleach; every six months should do it.
Look at the environmental factors
These plants generally grow in damp conditions where there's little to no sunlight, so find out if any of these factors can be changed. If it's damp and there are sprinklers operating, ask the people in charge if they can change where they spray. You might also find using a cloth to keep the monument dry whenever you visit can help. If there's limited sunlight, there's not much you can do, unfortunately, unless there's something blocking it that can be moved. If there is, it's worth asking, as it will save you a lot of problems.
If after cleaning and treating the monument you continue seeing issues that lead to damage, don't hesitate to look into monument restorations so that your loved one maintains a proper memorial.