How to Remove Graffiti

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A woman removing graffiti from a wall

Some graffiti is an art form — but you might not think so when it’s on the side of your business or apartment building. Unsolicited graffiti is an illegal act of vandalism, and private property owners have the right to remove it. How to remove the graffiti, though, is often the tricky part.

While some reliable DIY methods exist, it’s always best to call in a professional cleaning service for graffiti removal. The goal is to safely remove the markings without causing any further damage.

Why You Should Remove the Graffiti on Your Commercial Building

Graffiti removal is a controversial topic, especially in large cities like Seattle. Some people call it a culture war — should freedom of expression prevail, or should cities prosecute vandalism?

In any case, you likely want control over the facade of your building. Graffiti can reduce the value of your commercial property or deter potential customers, and failing to take prompt action can make your building a target. Leaving graffiti up is likely to attract more tags from the same person or others in the area. This can quickly escalate, leaving you with a bigger problem than when you started.

If you do business in Seattle, the Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance requires prompt action in removing graffiti to avoid fines. So if you want to stay on the right side of the law, it’s best to know how to remove graffiti as soon as possible.

What Kind of Graffiti Are You Dealing With?

The exact method or cleaning service you choose for graffiti removal depends on how your building is marked. There are two main types: painted graffiti and sticker/decal graffiti.

1. Painted graffiti

Painted graffiti is the most common and is usually a spray paint tag. This graffiti can be removed with careful scraping, pressure washing, sandblasting, or chemical removal.

2. Sticker/decal graffiti

This is usually caused by stickers that are applied to the surface. This type of graffiti can be tougher to remove but can still be done with the right tools and techniques.

How Do You Remove Graffiti?

Keep in mind, some surfaces are more sensitive than others and require a gentler approach.

If you are going the DIY route, you must ensure you have the right tools and protective gear. This includes gloves, goggles, proper respirators, and clothing to protect your skin from chemicals.

If you decide to use chemicals, make sure you’re aware of any safety precautions you need to take. Remember that the wrong chemical can cause further damage, so be sure to read all labels before you begin.

Here are the steps to remove graffiti.

1. Assess the Damage

The first step is to assess the damage. If it’s a simple tag or small drawing, then you can probably get away with some basic cleaning supplies. But don’t be tempted to start scrubbing at the graffiti with a stiff brush or sandpaper, as this can cause more damage and make the graffiti harder to remove.

2. Prepare the Area

Once you’ve surveyed the site and determined the type of surface the graffiti is on, you’ll need to prepare the area. That means making sure it’s clear of any furniture or objects that may get in the way of your cleaning efforts.

3. Choose the Right Cleaning Product

A professional cleaning service for graffiti removal will likely bring some kind of lacquer thinner. Visit your local hardware store and look for paint or epoxy strippers, or products specifically designed to remove graffiti. Choose the right cleaning product depending on the surface type. Several products available can help you remove graffiti, such as paint removers, solvents, and graffiti removal chemicals.

Many graffiti removal products contain methylene chloride, so you can look for this substance on the bottle if you’re not sure. Remember, these chemicals are toxic and can irritate your skin.

4. Test the Cleaner

Before cleaning, test the product in an inconspicuous area to ensure it won’t damage the surface. This is especially important when dealing with delicate surfaces like wood or brick.

5. Apply the Cleaner 

Once you’ve chosen the right product and tested it in an inconspicuous area, it’s time to apply the cleaner. Make sure to follow all the instructions on the product label and use protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask.

Afterward, use a soft cloth to gently scrub the surface in a circular motion, being careful not to damage the surface. Once you’ve removed the graffiti, rinse off any remaining cleaner and dry the surface completely.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

In a worst-case scenario, you may need to paint over the graffiti rather than remove it. Usually, the quicker you take action, the more likely you will have success. Make sure to contact a graffiti removal cleaning service for further advice on troublesome surfaces.

Call Seattle Commercial Cleaners at 206-755-2949

How to Remove Graffiti From Different Surface Types

Here are some common surfaces and how best to remove graffiti from them.

1. Brick and concrete

Masonite, concrete, or brick surfaces usually need sandblasting or pressure-washing treatment to remove the graffiti. With pressure-washing, you’ll need to take care so you don’t damage the surface. Be sure to use a low-pressure setting.

Sandblasting is another option and is usually the most effective method of removing graffiti from brick or concrete surfaces. 

If you don’t have any of this equipment handy, you can also use a chemical remover, like graffiti removal products, especially if it is only on a small surface. But for best results, hire professional cleaning services for graffiti removal.

2. Metal surfaces

These surfaces typically require chemical removal through paint thinners. Since the graffiti may have caused a “bond” between the metal and the paint, these chemicals work to dissolve the paint on the metal. 

If you’re sandblasting, keep in mind that the process can cause damage to the surrounding areas, so be sure to cover any nearby plants or furniture.

3. Glass surfaces

Removing graffiti from glass is tricky as it requires caution. It’s important to not use too much pressure if the glass has any cracks or chips, it could cause more damage.

If you’re dealing with tough stains, you can use a razor blade to scrape them off carefully. You can also use other materials like bronze wool and water to scrub the graffiti gently. When you’re finished, clean up any remaining residue with a clean rag and warm, soapy water.

Keep in mind that this approach can only work for small surfaces. Larger surfaces will require professional cleaning services for graffiti removal.

4. Wood surfaces

Removing graffiti from wood is relatively straightforward, but you’ll need to take extra care not to damage the wood.

Start by using paint thinner like turpentine or mineral spirits to wipe away the graffiti. For weathered wood, you should use an abrasive scrubbing pad instead. Afterward, use a soft-bristle brush to scrub away any remaining residue.

5. Plastic surfaces

Removing graffiti from a plastic surface is easy as many solvents and cleaning solutions will work. Cleaning supplies like liquid dish soap or rubbing alcohol will do the trick.

You can also use penetrating oils like WD-40, as oil tends to dissolve the paint and graffiti. Just dab a cotton wool or cloth with the oil and rub it into the graffiti until it’s gone.

If you’re dealing with tougher stains, you might need to use a stronger solvent like acetone. Be sure to test it in a hidden area first and use protective gloves when handling the chemicals.

When Should You Call in a Professional Cleaning Service for Graffiti Removal?

Sometimes, graffiti can be too tough for DIY solutions. In these cases, it’s best to call in the professionals. 

Professional graffiti removal services are experienced in dealing with all kinds of graffiti so they can take care of the job quickly and efficiently.

They also have access to specialized cleaning products and equipment that you won’t have at home, which means they can get the job done even faster.

Here are a few signs that you should call in a commercial cleaning service for graffiti removal:

  • The graffiti covers a large area
  • The graffiti is in a hard-to-reach area, like a high wall or ceiling.
  • You don’t have the right tools or expertise to complete the job.
  • The graffiti is on a delicate or sensitive surface
  • You’re dealing with an unusually tough stain
  • You need the job done quickly

Let Seattle Commercial Cleaners Help You

Removing graffiti from your commercial building shouldn’t be a hassle. You don’t have to go through the trouble of DIY solutions or put yourself in a dangerous situation.

Instead, you can rely on cleaning services for graffiti removal. The professionals at Seattle Commercial Cleaners can quickly remove the graffiti and restore the surface to its original state.

We have years of experience in the industry and use only high-quality products to ensure the best results. Our cleaning equipment is top-notch and in line with the latest industry standards.

Whether it’s a state directive you are dealing with or simply a desire to refresh your property, we are ready to assist.

Contact Seattle Commercial Cleaners to revitalize your property.