Graffiti is the most common type of property vandalism (35%) according to the Bureau of Justice statistics. Immediate removal (within 24 to 48 hours) is the key to successful graffiti prevention.
The first step in graffiti removal is identifying the surface type and substance to be removed. Brick, stone, concrete, aluminum siding, utility boxes and poles, street signs, bus shelters, pavement, wood, and glass are just some of the materials that can be defaced with graffiti. These surfaces can be smooth or textured. Some are painted while others are unprotected. While most graffiti is applied with spray paint, graffiti vandals also use markers, adhesives (stickers), shoe polish, lipstick, stencils, and etching products. The length of time graffiti has been on a surface usually impacts how easily it can be removed the longer, the more difficult. Depending on the substance to be removed, each surface requires or responds better to a particular method. Use the simple graffiti chart below for ideas about where to start.
Graffiti Removal Chart
Aluminum Siding, Fiberglass
Paint remover (sparingly); rinse with water.
Razor blade to scrape off; can also use paint thinner.
(includes brick, marble, stone, tile, granite, and concrete) Power washing with low pressure; sand or soda blasting (may create a shadow): paint remover or chemical graffiti remover/solvent applied with brush and rinse with water; paint over.
Historic Masonry or Other Valuable Structures
Seek out a professional; get the National Park Service Brief on removing graffiti from historic masonry.
Paint thinner or chemical graffiti remover/solvent and rub with steel wool or sandpaper and rinse; power washing; paint over.
Chemical remover and power washing; soda blasting.
Chemical remover (make sure it does not remove reflective coating).
Paint remover/chemical remover and rinse with pressure wash; paint over.
Chemical remove with cloth or scrubber.
Chemical solvents sparingly as they may remove the vinyl coating; repaint with primer first.
On painted, unweathered wood can try mineral spirits; power washing with low pressure; sanding; repainting.
Etching may be repairable on some glass (seek out a professional); replace glass.
Scrape away as much of the adhesive as possible; use nail polish remover or acetonebased cleaner to remove remaining residue. Be aware that acetonebased solvents can soften plastics. You should always test a small area when using any solvent.
City of Kenosha Graffiti Ordinance
A. Purpose. The purpose of this Ordinance is to reduce the potential for blight and gang violence.
B. Definitions. The following words shall, for purposes of this Ordinance, have the meanings provided:
- Deface(ing)(ment) shall mean to mar or disfigure the face or surface by cutting, engraving, inscribing, chipping, painting or otherwise marking in some permanent manner.
- Graffiti shall mean marks, symbols, signs, letters, names, phrases, or sentences which are inscribed or placed on real property for the purpose of defacing said property or making a personal statement which is a blighting influence neighborhood.
- Permanent shall mean not being capable of being removed with soap and water. Cutting, engraving, inscribing, chipping and painting shall be deemed permanent.
- Real Property shall mean a building, structure, garage, shed, fence, deck or other improvement to a parcel of land
- Reasonable Time shall mean fifteen (15) days from the posting of the property, unless a greater period of time is warranted by weather conditions, in which event reasonable time shall mean as soon as possible, subject to the potential for a time extension under C.3.
- Remove(al) shall mean to obliterate and eliminate graffiti by such means as will restore real property to its condition existing prior to defacement by graffiti.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to deface real property which they do not own with graffiti.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to place graffiti or to permit graffiti to be placed upon real property which they own.
- It shall be unlawful for the owner of real estate to fail to remove graffiti from their real property within a reasonable time, as determined by the Department of Neighborhood Services and Inspections, upon being provided a written notice thereof and order for removal by a date certain served upon them by personal service or by regular mail, sent to the address listed on their real estate tax bill, and by posting the order on the real property. Upon written request received by the Department of Neighborhood Services and Inspections prior to the expiration of the time provided for compliance, the Director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections of said Department may, for just cause, grant an extension of time for compliance. Each day of violation shall be a separate offense.