Graffiti is an unattractive stain on any structure. It lowers property values and curb appeal and can even cause serious damage to surfaces like stucco and brick. Removing graffiti, especially without damaging the surface underneath, can present a challenge, but it is possible to do with a power washer. For best results, let the professionals take care of getting rid of graffiti.
How to Remove Graffiti
Removing graffiti is a nuanced business. The exact process depends on how long the mark has been on the surface, the thickness of the spray paint, and the kind of surface to which the paint is applied. Sometimes a high-pressure application is enough. In other cases it is more effective to first wear down the paint with chemicals before rinsing it away.
An inexperienced hand can end up doing more damage than good if the wrong methods are used, chipping or gouging the surface underneath or leaving residual paint or “shadow.” The safest option is always to call a professional power washing company to remove any graffiti on your property. They will determine if the job requires both chemicals and pressure.
The Key to Removing Graffiti
Sometimes it is possible to scrub graffiti away without applying chemicals first, but such cases are definitely the exception not the rule and usually only apply if the paint has been on for less than 24 hours. The right chemicals will eat away at the spray paint without damaging the surface underneath. This sweet spot requires a thorough understanding of paint, stone, brick, and concrete to make sure the mixture is perfect.
Chemicals remove graffiti in one of two ways. Either they degrade the paint to the point of fading or they erode the glue within it so it pulls away from the painted surface. The easiest way to apply the chemicals to graffiti is with a pressure washer.
During this stage, the pressure washer should be dialed down among its lowest settings, around 80 psi, to avoid driving the chemicals deeper into the surface. You only want to apply the chemicals to the spray paint’s outer surface. Once the chemical cocktail has had some time to work, the same pressure washer on a higher setting will rinse away both paint and chemicals.
A Question of Power
A pressure washer is, as a rule, a great tool for removing graffiti. Often (perhaps 95% of the time) it is possible to remove all evidence of the spray paint with pressurized water at ambient temperatures. There are some particularly finicky stains, however, that need an extra punch. Sometimes this can be achieved with a very focused turbo nozzle. In other cases, however, the key is heat.
Rinsing with hot water provides 100 times the energy that cold water can offer. To get that kind of heat, you’ll need to switch out your pressure washer with a power washer. Hot water at a low pressure combined with the right mixture of chemicals will strip the spray paint right off your wall, and rinsing with hot water will make sure that all traces of graffiti are eliminated.
Can You Power Wash Graffiti off Brick?
A pressure washer combined with the right combination of chemicals should make removing graffiti from brick surfaces no big deal. You will find that each company will have their own opinions about which chemicals are best, some even recommending mineral spirits.
The biggest thing to look out for when removing graffiti from brick is that the surface is porous. It is important to apply chemicals gently to avoid driving them into the crevices and holes of the brick. Afterwards a careful rise at 1500-2000 psi should do the trick.
Will a Pressure Washer Remove Spray Paint from Metal?
Removing graffiti from metal is a bit of a gamble. Sheet metal doesn’t always hold up well under pressure, and structures like cars are likely to be dented in the attempt. If you are cleaning off graffiti from another metal surface, it may hold up better. You should know going into the project that it is likely to take a while to complete.
Generally speaking, a pressure washer can remove graffiti from metal surfaces. Unlike most other surfaces, recently applied graffiti comes off of metal less readily than paint that has been there for a while. Be sure that when you pressure wash spray paint off of your metal you use the right kind of nozzle to avoid damaging it further.