How to Remove Graffiti

graffiti paint removal

tips to remove graffiti from house siding.

Graffiti is a crime that effects more than aesthetic appearances. This vandalism brings a negative perception of the cleanliness, security, and safety of an area. The Los Angels Police Department reports, "The more social disorder and graffiti in a neighborhood, the louder the message is sent that 'nobody cares'." This sets off a vicious cycle that encourages further crime in affected neighborhoods. Additionally graffiti left untreated can cause permanent damage to vehicles, homes, buildings, and other surfaces. But many of us are unsure of how to remove graffiti. Graffiti removed without the proper products and know-how can often cause more damage than the graffiti itself. We’ll walk you through our expert tips on how to remove graffiti without causing harm to yourself, your property, or the environment with these safe and easy tips to remove graffiti.

graffiti summary

Safe and Easy Tips to Remove Graffiti

Identify the problem:

Graffiti can be a combination of aerosol spray paints, permanent marker, and inks. Most graffiti removers rely on very harsh chemicals to strip away anything in their contact. This one-size-fits-all may not effectively remove all types of graffiti and is often too harsh for the surface being treated resulting in additional property damage. Motsenbocker’s Lift Off® offers two products specifically formulated to target spray paint or marker and ink.

It may be difficult to identify which form of graffiti is the culprit. Spray paint will often have a soft, “fuzzy” line break and drip marks may be noticeable. Markers and inks leave sharper lines and are commonly used indoors. Additionally spray paint is often used to cover larger areas.

Limit Irritants:

Harsh solvents such as mineral spirits and paint thinners are often used to remove graffiti but can produce noxious odors and can be very dangerous to your personal health. This is partially concerning when working indoors or in an area that cannot be well ventilated. Look for low VOC formulas to reduce exposure to irritants that can produce respiratory problems, watery eyes, and headaches.

Learn how to stay safe when removing graffiti

Account for Surface:

Oftentimes removing graffiti causes more damage than the graffiti itself especially when using harsh chemicals and solvents. These products are designed to breakdown a variety of sub straights including clear coat paint on a vehicle, pigments on house siding, or finishes to furniture and signage.

You may have noticed a time when graffiti was improperly removed – the paint or ink is gone but so is the finish below leaving a “white out” effect in the shape of the original graffiti tag.

Learn how to remove spray paint and graffiti from cars and vehicles

Use the Right Tools:

Anyone who has attempted to remove graffiti from a porous surface, such as brick, concrete or stone, knows a microfiber cloth won’t cut it. On the other hand, you wouldn’t dare touch your vehicle with an abrasive scouring pad or brush. Before attempting to remove graffiti assess the nature of the surface you’ll be working on. Is it delicate or porous? Is there paint or a finish beneath that will require special care?

Porous surfaces such as brick, concrete, and stone are particularly difficult because the graffiti may be absorbed deep into the surface. A graffiti removal product may need to remain on the surface longer for deeper penetration. A high-pressure water system can be used to lift the graffiti from within the surface.

Interior surfaces such as lockers, restroom stalls, and furniture can pose their own unique set of concerns. Before applying any graffiti remover, ensure the surface is factory-finished and test on an inconspicuous area. Avoid highly abrasive brushes that can scratch the surface and use a soft microfiber cloth.

Consider the Surrounding Area:

When treating graffiti on surfaces that are outdoors, it is important to consider the surrounding area and the impact to the environment. Paint that is removed, and some graffiti removal products, can pose a serious threat to the environment and in some regions may be considered a violation.

Working with a biodegradable, environmentally safe product is a necessary first step. Then take into consideration the process for removing the paint: Will paint debris come in contact with the environment, such as trees or nearby water? How will the surrounding environment be protected from the paint remover and paint debris? How will he the paint debris and paint removal products be disposed of after the graffiti is removed?

Motsenbocker’s Lift Off® products break the molecular bond at the surface level. This unique formulation allows removed paint and graffiti to remain intact instead of being “melted” as is the case with harsh solvents and paint thinners. Paint remains solid so it will not seep into soil or mix with surrounding bodies of water. It is then safe to be disposed of with standard trash removal.

How to Remove Graffiti Guide

Now that you have a better understanding of what graffiti is and how to expertly assess your unique situation this guide on how to remove graffiti will walk you through each step providing our expert methods and suggestions.

Learn how to remove graffiti without causing damage

What You’ll Need:

  • Clean cotton cloths

  • Scouring pad or stiff bristle brush

  • Rubber gloves

  • Bucket with soap and water

  • Plastic wrap – optional

  • High-pressure water system (1,200 psi with a 10-15 degree nozzle) – optional

Get Started

  1. Determine if the graffiti is spray paint, marker, ink or a combination.

  2. Assess the surface and determine if special precautions are needed to maintain the finish. Such as when working with a vehicle.

  3. Spray a small amount of Motsenbocker’s Lift Off on an inconspicuous area to test for colorfastness and surface integrity. Then thoroughly spray area and allow the product to sit for 60 seconds.

  4. Agitate as necessary paying close attention to the surface. A cotton cloth works well for delicate surfaces that may scratch easily such as a vehicle. A scouring pad or stiff bristle brush works better for more durable surfaces such as a brick building or concrete sidewalk.

  5. As the graffiti is removed, wipe the surface clean or rinse with soap and water to remove the graffiti remover. Then repeat as necessary. Thick layers of graffiti may require multiple removal applications to completely remove each layer.

Graffiti 1

A few notes for tough situations:

For Vehicles:

  1. Move the vehicle out of direct sunlight before removing graffiti. The heat of the sun can intensify the graffiti removal products and you may risk damage to the clear coat.

  2. Avoid using abrasive materials to wipe away graffiti as they may scratch the surface. A soft cotton cloth works well.

  3. After the graffiti is removed completely rinse graffiti removal products off of the vehicle. Do not allow graffiti removers to sit on the vehicle for more than 60 seconds as it may affect the clear coat.

For Porous Surfaces:

  1. Thoroughly spray area with graffiti remover and allow it to sit for 3 minutes to soak into the surface. Plastic wrap can be used to cover vertical areas, such as walls. This will help the graffiti removal product to stay in place longer.

  2. Agitate with a stiff brush. For best results remove paint with a high pressure water system set at 1200 psi or greater working from bottom to top.

  3. Repeat as necessary. Spray paint and graffiti will “soak” into porous surfaces such as brick, concrete, and stone and will often require several applications. You may even see graffiti reappear after a period of time as it is pulled from deep within the surface. If this happens repeat the steps above.