Graffiti Removal  Tips & Tricks From the Experts

Let’s face it, unwanted graffiti on the exterior of your commercial building is not just an eyesore but also a pain to clean. Unfortunately, no matter how many precautions you take, if you have a taggable exterior, it’s probably going to happen – repeatedly. Fortunately, graffiti removal methods are available. UNfortunately, you can chalk up the graffiti removal process to just another cost of doing business.

So, let’s discuss how to remove graffiti paint effectively and the best available methods for each surface. As a commercial building or business owner, this information can save you valuable time and prevent unnecessary mistakes when cleaning up unsightly tags.

Graffiti Removal Methods

These methods for removing graffiti are tried and true. Although some elbow grease and time are involved, the results are worth it. However, it’s essential to understand how each method works and learn which are safe for your commercial surfaces. Although unwanted graffiti is annoying, ruining the wall or other area when cleaning is a headache you don’t need.

Chemical Removal

Although highly effective, chemical removal requires caution. Aside from adverse environmental impacts, strong chemical solvents can be dangerous to workers and others in the vicinity. Most solvents are toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact, so extreme caution is imperative during use, such as employing personal protection equipment (PPE), face shields, chemical-resistant gloves, or respiratory protection.

Also, the chemical graffiti removal process isn’t safe for all surfaces, so carefully read the instructions before application and always perform a patch test – or better yet, consult a professional graffiti removal surface.

Pressure Washing

Although pressure washing is one of the least invasive graffiti removal methods, it’s also one of the least effective, and it’s also a significant drain on water resources. Unless you are trying to remove chalk from your building’s sidewalk, parking lot, or exterior, pressure washing probably isn’t going to do the trick. In most cases, pressure washing is used in combination with chemical cleaners and used to rinse and remove the solvents from the area being treated.

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Sand Blasting

Sand blasting can be an effective graffiti removal process for deep-set and dried paint on a surface since it gently removes surface layers. It requires special equipment and involves a significant clean-up afterward. Best used with masonry and cement surfaces, sand blasting needs careful application, so chipping or etching doesn’t occur. However, if the masonry or stone is old or historical, another method will be less damaging.

Painting Over

Many building owners simply paint over graffiti. Although inexpensive and initially effective, painting is not an ideal long-term solution. Unless your wall is already painted, this removal option will create an unsightly patchwork effect if the same area is treated more than a few times. Also, multiple coats of paint will begin to peel over time, requiring repair and more work in the long run. Consider applying an “anti-graffiti” protective coating to the surface after painting, which will aid in future removal.

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Dry Ice Blasting

This graffiti removal method has been an industry favorite for some time. Basically, this method involves “blasting” a surface with compressed air and C02 or particles (which is essential dry ice). A few things happen – the area treated instantly freezes through sublimation, and the CO2 particles chip away the unwanted frozen material. Dry ice blasting is considered a safer and more environmentally friendly graffiti removal process and is widely used by professionals.

Wet Ice Blasting

Wet ice blasting is the improved cost-effective version of dry ice blasting, and it involves using compressed air to chip away debris with ice pellets. However, unlike dry ice, wet ice is never in short supply like its alternative (dry ice). Ice’s easy accessibility makes this graffiti removal process much less expensive – and overall, the most environmentally friendly of all the graffiti removal methods.

Best Methods to Remove Graffiti From Different Surfaces

With all of these options available, which graffiti removal process is right for you? It really depends on what type of surface you need to clean, as some of these graffiti removal methods can be harmful to less hearty surfaces. The type of paint used and the age of the graffiti arere also factors to consider when selecting the best cleaning method.

Following is a breakdown of which way works best for various commercial walls, sidewalks, etc.

How to Remove Graffiti From Brick?

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The most effective way to remove graffiti from exterior brick is pressure washing, sand blasting, dry ice blasting, or wet blasting – depending on the age and severity of the graffiti application. When power washing, be careful when selecting the type of tip you use in the pressure wand. If it’s too narrow (such as a 0 degree), it will etch the masonry surface, leaving a perfect outline of the graffiti removed.

If this graffiti is on an interior brick surface, you may not have enough room to use washing or blasting, so a chemical solvent is a suitable alternative. Be sure and carefully select the brand to ensure it will not corrode the brick – and, as mentioned before, take proper safety precautions.

How to Remove Graffiti From Concrete?

Like brick, using pressure washing, dry ice blasting, sand blasting, or wet blasting are great graffiti removal methods for concrete, and we recommend applying the same advice mentioned above. Be sure and test an area before proceeding to ensure the technique is etching away too much of the concrete or its protective coating.

How to Remove Graffiti From Wood Fence?

If the wood is sealed with paint, stain, or sealer, you can remove graffiti paint with chemical paint remover (like mineral spirits). However, if the wood is unsealed and weathered, this process may absorb the chemical and drive the paint deeper into the wood. In this case, try power washing or sand blasting. We recommend testing a patch first to verify that the pressure isn’t causing the graffiti to sink into the wood or stripping too much from the surface.

If any of these recommendations make you nervous, the safest bet is to simply paint over the graffiti.

How to Remove Graffiti From Glass?

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Professional chemical removers are safest for removing graffiti from glass surfaces, as they will not etch or scrape the glass. Some cleaners may require gentle scraping with a straight-edge razor to remove the graffiti.

How to Remove Graffiti From Plastic?

Plastic surfaces respond best to chemical cleaners for removal. Simply spraying and wiping can do the trick; however, you may have to use a wire brush to remove stubborn paint from plastic surfaces gently. It’s best to patch test plastic surfaces before applying a cleaner liberally.

How to Remove Graffiti From Stone?

Pressure washing, sand blasting, dry ice blasting, and wet blasting are good options for removing graffiti from stone surfaces. If the graffiti is minor, a gentle gel chemical cleaner should do the trick without all the heavy equipment associated with the other techniques.

How to Remove Graffiti From Metal?

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Chemical removers work well on metal surfaces covered in graffiti. Many will need light pressure washing to cleanse the area after applying, wiping, or scrubbing the metal surface with the cleaning substance.

How to Remove Graffiti From Painted Surfaces?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, painting over the graffiti is the most efficient and effective solution if the surface you are cleaning is already painted. Painted surfaces will also benefit from a protective coating that creates a non-stick surface to repel graffiti from the paint. These products are usually a semi-gloss coating that facilitates easy graffiti paint removal with light pressure washing or wiping.

Chicago Graffiti Removal Services

Graffiti is a common problem for businesses, especially in urban areas. It can be costly and timely to maintain graffiti-free commercial exteriors (or interiors). Many business owners prefer to leave it in the capable hands of graffiti removal service professionals to ensure efficiency and safety.
If you are in the Chicago or Cincinnati area, the paint professionals at PPD painting can handle graffiti removal of any size, on any surface. We will quickly assess the damage and facilitate the safest process to clean the area with little to no business interruption. We will also make recommendations for ways to “graffiti-proof” your assets when possible. At PPD Painting, we are experts at painting and removing paint. Call us today for a quote.


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