Graffiti Abatement
Tools and Techniques

Since 1995

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Before you cover it up or remove it, track the damage!
Visit the Blue Archer Graffiti Tracking System page for more information.

How do you remove graffiti in your area? Tell us! You can ask questions, share cleaning experiences at the DougWeb BBS Forums.

 

 

Centreville Manufacturing, Inc.





Graffiti Cleaning Links

Introduction

I was asked back in 1996 by persons reading the Anti-Graffiti Web to develop a page describing graffiti removal methods. This page is an attempt to meet these requests. I want you to know however, that I am NOT an expert in the use of chemical solvents. I encourage every political jurisdiction developing a cleaning program to spend time training volunteers in the proper use of a graffiti fighter's tools. I cannot assume responsibility for anyone's injury when using suggestions from this document. Your city public works department is probably your best source of information!

There are products other than caustic aerosol solvents that are safe. The products you use are up to you. How and who uses the products is what you need to consider important. Many of the better anti-graffiti products require special handling or training which is why you will find that companies who sell these products sell direct to cleaning companies or to city, county, or state departments of public works.

A number of VERY GOOD abatement companies support the anti-graffiti movement and the NoGraf Network at NoGraffiti.com. I suggest that you visit NoGraffiti.com to get a current list of companies offering cleaning products.

Building owners, cities, and counties, and other government entities should also consider specialized coatings for walls, glass, mirrors, fences and monuments. Companies like RainGuard offer complete coating solutions to protect property from vandalism.

Please submit your own suggestions and ideas and I will post them here for the world to see!

Jurisdictions that need specialized trailers designed for abatement efforts can contact Centreville Manufacturing in Maryland. This company (owned by my brother in law) makes some of the most unique trailers in the world for government agencies. Give owner John Doran a shot at building your ultimate abatement trailer. (Shameless plug ;) )

The following are some suggestions for a graffiti fighter's tool kit:

  1. aerosol solvent
  2. clean cotton painters rags
  3. trash bags
  4. 10 gallon plastic buckets with lids
  5. inexpensive paint brushes, rollers, and paint containers
  6. paint matching various surfaces around your neighborhood
  7. paint scraper
  8. dust mask
  9. safety glasses
  10. Federal Safety Orange Identification Vests
  11. kitchen cleaner and water in spray bottles.
  12. Carry a 5 or 10 gallon container of pure drinking water and a clean cup to splash water in your face or to wash your hands in the event you are accidentally splashed with chemicals.
  13. Carry a two way radio or cellular phone for emergencies. The new Family Radio Service radios lend themselves to this kind of use.

Solvents and Cleaners

There are a number of graffiti removal products on the market. It can help to become familiar with each one. Your local hardware store probably offers many of these products. Learn about use and safe handling. Some of the more well know solvents available at major hardware stores can be hazardous to your health. Using a respirator is probably safer than using a dust mask. Breathing this stuff is obnoxious and NOT healthy.

You need to be aware of wind conditions. You need eye and breathing protection when you use it. Rags used with solvent should be discarded properly. DO NOT KEEP FLAMMABLE RAGS in containers in your vehicle or garage.

Test every solvent before you apply it. Some older highway signs can be instantly destroyed with the wrong type of cleaner. You can actually do more damage cleaning the sign than the vandal did with a tag.

Know the product you are using and HOW TO HANDLE AN ACCIDENTAL INJURY when using the product.

NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE GASOLINE!!!!! GASOLINE IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. YOU CAN BE KILLED, OR BURNED AND/OR MAIMED USING GASOLINE!

 

 


 

 



These are the products I use and were purchased at ACE Hardware:

GOOF OFF The Ultimate Remover Atlanta Sundries, Lithonia, GA 30058
Extremely flammable
Vapor Harmful
Eye and Skin irritant
Always use safety goggles
Damages plastics, vinyl, automotive paints
Use solvent resistant gloves
Contains Xylene
GRAFFITI REMOVER "GOOF OFF Brand" Atlanta Sundries, Lithonia, GA 30058
Extremely Flammable
Vapor harmful if inhaled
Use with adequate ventilation
Eye and skin irritant.
Contains Xylene and Toluene

Some of the markers the vandals are using are not permanent. I have been able to clean some signs with soap and water.

Our Graffiti Task Force is considering the use of a potentially easier to use product called United 256 by United Laboratories. It is a citrus based product that is not as hazardous as a solvent. I do not have personal experience with the United brand products but I understand the United products are popular with graffiti abatement groups.

Clean Cotton Painters Rags

These rags are cheap. I like the cotton variety because they seem to clean better than smoother, shinier fabrics. Your hardware or paint store sells these by the pound or packaged.

Trash Bags

I have trash bags to put old rags used with solvents as well as trash I find in the areas where I am cleaning graffiti. I tend to buy very cheap brushes and rollers so I don't bother cleaning them. Having a trash bag gives me a place to throw away the yuk before I get home.

10 Gallon Painter's Buckets with Lid Attachments

My painter neighbor told me about this nifty gadget. At larger hardware and paint stores you can buy a screw on (child proof) lid adapter for a 10 gallon paint bucket. In the event I don't have trash bags I keep rags and solvents in the bucket so the fumes don't permeate the car. I can keep my graffiti supplies safely packed away using the buckets.

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses keep paints, solvents, and dust from entering the eyes. Always use caution. Never compromise eye safety. I suggest carrying a large squirt bottle containing fresh water that can be used to irrigate (wash) eyes immediately if necessary. Of course you should also read any product warnings present on any chemical you decide to use.

Paint

I get paint from various places. Often times the jurisdiction responsible for the property will provide volunteers with paint.

Make sure the paint you are using DOES NOT CONTAIN LEAD.

Safety Vests

Many city graffiti task forces wear a simple orange vest that says "GRAFFITI MANAGEMENT TEAM" or other caution type slogan on the back. The vest identifies you to the public and police, and it acts to alert people and drivers to your presence. Wear visible protective gear for safety and identification. It also gives you good press with the public! Chances are you may pick up new volunteers who see you working and stop by to say hello. Always work in pairs. Never work by yourself or without additional people in communities that may not appreciate your presence. Get local buy in for your abatement activity through contact with local community organizations before you take a chance with your safety.

Cleaning Smooth Surfaces

Test an inconspicuous area of the surface with your cleaning material. Most modern signs clean quickly. I like to start my cleaning with soap and water first and then proceed to solvents. Remember to test first so that you do not damage signs as you try to clean the signs.

Using Solvents and Cleaners

Test surfaces with your solvent or cleaners BEFORE you use the substance over a wide area. There are some silk screened surfaces (like some newspaper racks) that can be removed by the wrong cleaners. Contact vendors responsible for these devices and encourage the vendor to use more durable paint. Read the instructions on the can. Some solvents work better if applied with a cloth. Others must be sprayed on the damage and allowed to sit until the paint has absorbed the solvent.

Signs

Some early model traffic signs use a press on lettering that can be damaged with conventional solvents. Replacement is often the best option for these signs.

There are signs whose paint is removed by any cleaning or scrubbing action. One of the best examples are old California freeway signs. The green paint on these signs begins dripping off as soon as the solvent hits. When you try to rub the graffiti off the sign paint comes with it. Often you just end up covering the sign lettering and the graffiti with green slime. In this case your only abatement recourse may be to wait to have the sign replaced.

Have your city experiment with press on plastic coatings. A city crewman rubs a laminate over the sign. When the vandal paints the sign the city removes and replaces the laminate. This is a great idea for signs that are frequently attacked.

Cleaning from Rough Surfaces

Many times paint on a rough surfaces causes permanent damage. The character of the surface will change because it is virtually impossible to remove all of the paint from any porous surface. A perfect example is a freeway sound wall or any cinder block wall. You may be forced to paint the wall -- the entire wall. Simply framing the damaged area leaves you (and the vandal) with an ugly blotch. Eventually, every wall panel will be painted so the entire wall will have the same appearance. Cites that can invest in scientific methods of graffiti prevention will benefit from products like those offered by RainGuard and other manufacturers. Using spectrophotometers, some paint companies can match the color of the existing wall and mix paint for you.

Some have experimented with pressure water washers, washers that use water and sand, and the wire brush. Pressure washers can actually etch a cinder block wall, further hastening the wall's demise. There have been some improvements in washing technologies so the best thing to do is to contact a contractor near you for advice and a quote. The wire brush is limited in effectiveness as well. Pressure washing never completely removes the vandalism because of the porous surfaces involved. A hazy remnant of the graffiti may still remain.

Elbow grease and the wire brush.

An inexpensive wire brush is excellent for removing paint from many surfaces. The surface will look like someone has wire brushed it but the vandal's message will be history. Any surface where you use a wire brush should be a surface, that will over time, weather back to the original color or texture. Every graffiti fighter needs a simple wire brush in their toolkit.

Use the wire brush on:
telephone poles
street curbs
some rough metals
smooth stone surfaces
decorative rocks
wood fences
concrete

You would be surprised how fast a vandals message can be removed from a telephone/power pole using the wire brush! (Note: In California, Pacific Gas & Electric Company does not want persons cleaning ANY PG&E equipment. Report graffiti damage to PG&E equipment to PG&E for cleaning.) I'm certain that the power company would like to remind everyone NOT to disturb the ground wire that may be on the pole. Other power companies may feel the same way about their property so ask first. Do not let the power company forget the tags need to be cleaned. Follow up regularly. Should your community have an abatement team include the power company in your meetings.

Other Graffiti Cleaning Products

Your experience with these products may be different. Please let me know how each has worked for you and I will add your comments to this chart.

This list has not been updated since 1997. Since it is 2007 feel free to send me your company name, address, telephone and link to have it added to this list of products. I still get email so why not?!

October 10, 2008. Because of considerable interest I want to update this list. If you are a company offering graffiti cleaning products for sale please send me the information on your product. Send it to [email protected] and use the SUBJECT LINE: GRAFFITI CLEANING LINK. Send a link you want the public to see at your website. This includes coating, blasting, companies as well. Please note the links you see below were Googled! I have not tested these products. When I have seen the products demonstrated or have used them I will indicate that.

Graffiti Removal Contractors

When looking for a contractor that can remove graffiti Google the terms "graffiti removal" with your city and state. My initial efforts at Googling for US based companies produced few graffiti specific companies. There are many cleaning companies and pressure washing companies that have added graffiti removal as a specialty. It was my first impression, just based on Internet queries, that you are more likely to find a company that specializes in removal if you live in Canada, the UK, or Australia. A large majority of US cities and counties have their own in-house removal systems and methods from volunteers to fleets of trucks that patrol affected areas. You should contact your city or county to find out how graffiti is removed in your area.

Please let me know if graffiti is not being abated where you live. Tell me about your own efforts to get it removed. THEN, join the NoGraf Network at NoGraffiti.com and then tell your local police agency about the network.

Prevent Graffiti

There are a number of graffiti products that can prevent graffiti. There are company's offering coatings for various surfaces that prevent paint from sticking. There are special surveillance or anti-loitering devices that can deal effectively with vandals. Look through the list of vendors that have sent me information about their products and share the information with your city or county.


Graffiti Removing Product

Use

Comments

RainGuard

The most specified specialty coatings company in America. SUPPORTS NOGRAF

World's best Graffiti Removal System

You too can totally obliterate graffiti in your area with a proven system recommended by more contractors and Municipalities than any system on earth. SUPPORTS NOGRAF

GRIP: Graffiti Reduction & Interception Programs

THE MOST INTELLIGENT AFFORDABLE GRAFFITI & CRIME TRACKING POSSIBLE At $2,000.00 per annum for cities under 150,000 in population Can your city be without it? SUPPORTS NOGRAF

Tripwire Systems

Tripwire's Rapid Apprehension System FINALLY, AN INNOVATIVE SYSTEM THAT ALLOWS INSTANT IMAGES AND ALERTS TO BE SENT TO A DESIGNATED MOBILE UNIT WITHIN 60 SECONDS SUPPORTS NOGRAF

Graffiti Safe Wipes

Safe wipes. SUPPORTS NOGRAF

LEA's GraffitiCam.com

The GraffitiCam’s innovative technology immediately notifies law enforcement and security professionals of graffiti-related activity so they can quickly apprehend offenders. In addition, the quality and quantity of images captured by the GraffitiCam™ aids in an easier conviction of criminals. SUPPORTS NOGRAF

Pressure Wash Company Directory

This pressure wash company directory contains listings from contractors all over North America.  

Broadband Discovery Systems

Broadband Discovery Systems, Inc. (BDS) offers the means to excel through advanced event discovery, identification and location of a security or process control event in real time.  

Goodbye Graffiti (TM)

Graffiti abatement franchise company USA and Canada. Contracts with cities to remove graffiti. On-line reporting form.  

Contract Sweepers and Equipment

Our varied methods can clean graffiti from most surfaces. Armex Blasting lets us remove the graffiti without damaging the surface. On painted metals our chemical cleaning does the trick. (Cincinnati and Columbus, OH)  

APP All Remove Canada, Inc.

Graffiti Removal and Protective Coatings.  

Graffiti Removal Brigade

The GRAFFITI REMOVAL BRIGADE (GRB) is a Canadian company established to provide a professional service to customers requiring graffiti removal and anti-graffiti protection.  

Futur Graffiti Solutions Inc.

Contract removal services. On-line reporting with quote request.  

Graffiti Removal Services

Graffiti Removal Services is the Nation’s First completely mobile Graffiti Removal Company. On-line email report form.  

US Coating Solutions

Coatings  

So Safe Safety Shield and Remover

So Safe Graffiti Removers & Anti Graffiti Coatings Fast, Safe and Easy graffiti removal every time. Graffiti solution for Cities, Schools and Mass Transport.

 

GraffitiRemover.com

Removers and coatings.

 

Graffiti EnviroSafe

The safest effective graffiti removal solutions. American Owned and Operated.

 

Taginator

Unpainted masonry surfaces.

 

Interstate Products

Wipe Away Graffiti For markers, paints and more.

 

Graffiti Solutions

Comprehensive line of leading edge technology graffiti removal products developed by professionals for professionals.

 

New Dimensions

Unique specialty products.

 

Landa Graffiti Remover

Brick, masonry concrete

 

Velocha Inc.

Mosquito: THE MOSQUITO™: a safe, non-confrontational anti-loitering device that effectively discourages young people from gathering on or near specific locations where it has been installed. THE MOSQUITO will disperse groups of teens and young adults within a few minutes of being activated by using any of the following available options: remote control, motion sensors, and/or timers. Moreover; THE MOSQUITO boasts an unmatched 90 to 100 per cent success rate.

 

Solutions MB Inc.

Permanent Anti graffiti coatings water or solvent-based (Not even permanent marker will harm these coatings) Graffiti Remover water-based one product removes all

 

G-Shield Anti-Graffiti Coatings

G-Shield Anti-Graffiti Coatings are clear permanent coatings that permanent markers, spray paints, inks, tar, sap, grease and other stains cannot stick to. The graffiti will wipe right off. Product Name: G-Shield Anti-Graffiti Coatings Company: KiON Specialty Polymers - A Clariant Business

 

Community Clean

UK Based Community Clean provides anti graffiti solutions and range of specialist cleaning and coatings services to both the public and private sectors.

 


Cleaning Ideas from the Barcroft Neighborhood

Reprinted with permission.

After some months of using mainly wire brushes and xylene, we are now experimenting with several other less dangerous chemicals and other abrasives. In particular we have found a citrus paint stripper called Citristrip to be more effective than xylene removing paint from porous concrete. We have also had good success with nail polish remover, including some foil-wrapped pads available in grocery stores and pharmacies. And our favorite abrasive for signs and other surfaces where a wire brush is too harsh is 3M's scouring pad known as Scotch Brite Scour Pads or sold in hardware stores as 000 steel wool replacement. Our bicyclist's graffiti kit now has two of those Clinipad nail polish remover pads, two 2 inch squares of 3M pad, and two paper towels in a small plastic bag. Add a four inch piece of wire brush and you are prepared for almost anything. We are reserving the carcinogenic Goof-Off for the worst jobs, and may drop it entirely. The fumes seem highly toxic even when used outdoors.



The Graffiti Abatement Tools & Techniques page
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Content last modified January 8, 2009

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