One of the most effective strategies against illegal graffiti is to remove it as quickly as possible and to persist in removing it every time it occurs.
The three key steps in effective graffiti removal and prevention are:
- Identify the surface type and substance to be removed.
- Select the appropriate removal method.
- Where possible apply preventative measures.
Where practicable, graffiti is always more easily removed if done so as soon as possible after occurrence and before the paint has fully dried.
Surface types and appropriate removal methods
The most common surface types for graffiti vandalism are:
- Porous surfaces such as brickwork, concrete and soft stone.
- Non-porous or painted surfaces such as colourbond steel and sign posts.
The most important thing to remember when removing graffiti from porous surfaces is to use the correct graffiti removal solution. Solutions vary, but typically the stronger the solution, such as a chemical solvent, the faster it will dissolve or remove paint. These solutions can be bought from local suppliers in your area. The strength of solution needed depends on the type of surface the graffiti is on. It is also important to take the proper safety precautions. It is a good idea to use face shields and rubber gloves when using graffiti removal solutions. To remove graffiti from porous surfaces:
- Apply the appropriate graffiti removal solution onto the surface with a small brush.
- After waiting between 10 and 20 minutes, use either a hose or water-blaster to remove the graffiti.
For graffiti on non-porous or painted surfaces such as colorbond steel and sign-posts the only really effective removal technique is to actually repaint the defaced area.
This involves either repainting the whole wall, or targeting just the graffitied area itself.
This means that the paint has to be colour matched to the original wall’s paint colour.
To colour match the paint you need to obtain a small paint sample from the graffitied site. Then just take the sample to your local hardware store where it can be colour-matched. It is good practice to label and store any unused paint so it is available to cover repeat graffiti at the same site. To paint out graffiti incidents on non-porous surfaces:
- Using a brush or roller you must first apply a coat of stain blocker (primer) to the graffitied area. You need to put this primer on first otherwise you will find that the graffiti shows through the layers of fresh paint. This takes around 15 minutes to dry.
- Still using a brush or roller, apply colour-matched paint, usually this would be acrylic paint. A second coat may be required.
You will find that if the graffiti is very fresh and the paint has not yet dried the graffiti can be removed using the appropriate graffiti removal solution for non-porous surfaces and some steel wool.
Note: this can only be done in the first few days of the graffiti being applied. If a texta pen has been used, methylated spirits can be effective.
Applying preventative or anti-graffiti coatings are also an effective way to prevent graffiti vandalism.
There are two types of anti-graffiti coatings:
- non-sacrificial or permanent.
Sacrificial coatings are protective, but come off when graffiti is removed and must be reapplied. Non-sacrificial or permanent anti-graffiti coatings are unaffected by the graffiti removal process and remain on the surface, however they are more hazardous and difficult to apply. These coatings can be bought from local suppliers in your area.