Graffiti Removal Tips

The following are tips for removing graffiti from various types of surfaces. The City of Stevens Point does not endorse specific brands of products, but rather uses brand names to help the consumer identify these graffiti removal materials and supplies.

Before you get started, remember:

  • Prompt removal is most effective
  • Always use the most gentle means of removal first in order to not harm surfaces.
  • Use caution when using dangerous and toxic chemicals.
  • Test your removal methods and materials on a small, unimportant area to be sure they work without causing damage.
  • Hire a trained professional for valuable surfaces, historic buildings, or unstable materials.

Metal Surfaces:

  • Try wiping graffiti with any common paint thinner (i.e. mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, acetone), or try graffiti removal products such as Goof Off. Sometimes wiping the graffiti with light penetrating oil such as WD-40 or Three-in-One will remove it.
  • If graffiti remains, try to remove it by rubbing with steel or bronze wool or light sandpaper.
  • If graffiti still remains, try power-washing it with a pressure washer.
  • If none of these methods work, paint over the graffiti.

Wood Surfaces:

  • If the wood is not weathered and is sealed with paint, stain, or sealer, try to remove it by wiping it with mineral spirits. If the wood is weathered, do not use this technique, as the mineral spirits will be absorbed by the wood - driving the paint further down into it.
  • Power washing with low pressure can be used, however, watch carefully to make sure the pressure is not driving the paint deeper into the wood grain. It is not recommended to exceed 700 psi.
  • If these methods do not work, sand the wood and re-paint or simply paint over the graffiti.

Plastic Surfaces:

  • Try wiping graffiti with a light penetrating oil such as WD-40 or Three-in-One. Do not use paint thinners as they can soften the plastic and can cause clouding (if clear plastic) or permanent tackiness of the surface.
  • Sometimes a light rubbing with ultra-fine steel or bronze wool will remove the paint.
  • If these methods do not remove the graffiti, paint over it.

Glass Surfaces:

  • The best method for removing painted graffiti from glass is to use a razor blade to carefully scrape it off. This method is 99% effective. Use the razor blade in a holder and scrape at a 30-degree angle to the glass.
  • If the paint does not come completely off after using the razor blade, use ultra-fine bronze wool with water to gently rub the remaining paint off.
  • You can use paint thinners on glass, however, the razor blade method is much quicker and more environmentally friendly.

Masonry Surfaces:

  • The best option for this type of surface is to power-wash the graffiti with low pressure. It is not recommended to exceed 700 psi. Be careful in selecting the type of tip you use in the pressure wand. Too narrow of a tip (such as 0 degree) will etch the masonry surface leaving a perfect outline of the graffiti removed.
  • Sand-blasting is another removal option. As with pressure washing, be careful not to allow the sandblasting tip to remain in one spot too long as it can permanently etch the surface. Keep the tip moving over the painted area and the surrounding area so as to blend in the surface.
  • If power-washing or sand-blasting does not remove the graffiti, the next best option is to paint over the graffiti.

Get more information about removing graffiti from brick and masonry (PDF)

Always read product labels and follow all manufacturer instructions and recommendations. Most of the products identified above are flammable - use caution and follow safety directions when using these products. Always use proper safety clothing and equipment including gloves, safety glasses, etc. It is recommended that a small test area be done prior to a full application of any product.

Thanks to our friends from the City of Boulder, Colorado for this information.