In today’s rough and tumble world, signage is subject not only to the usual wear and tear, but also to the appearance of graffiti. And that can be problematic, because if you don’t remove the graffiti within 24 hours, it’s likely to attract more of the same.
That’s why, although we spend a lot more time thinking of what signage to build for our clients and the best ways to install it, we have also cultivated a certain degree of expertise in graffiti removal. That’s a big reason we sometimes select special materials – such as high pressure laminate – for signage intended for the MBTA or for schools, where graffiti is more likely to happen.
On painted surfaces, the simplest approach is to paint over the graffiti. But on signage, over-painting is rarely a good solution.
Solvents are a better approach to removing graffiti from signage. One good solvent is simple acetone. It’s better to put the acetone on a cloth and wipe the graffiti away, rather than squirt the acetone directly onto the sign, because it can run down the sign and compromise its substrate, as well as any tape and silicone holding the acrylic in place.
Stronger solvents can attack more resistant graffiti. But if the agent you use is too strong, it may require special protective gear, and may also damage the signage, particularly any reflective coating it may carry. The strongest solvents require specialized cleanup so residues and run-off do not damage the environment.
Another approach is pressure washing, which sprays plain water or water mixed with a solvent at relatively high pressures. In some cases, adding baking soda or another “blasting agent” helps wash away the unwanted material. Pressure washing is a great remedy for graffiti, but will eventually “wear away” the signage surface, too.
Signage Protection First
Unfortunately, many of the “obvious” graffiti removal agents can damage the signage itself. That’s why it’s better if the signage carries a protective coating from the get go.
Protective coatings are designed to be “sacrificial” or “non-sacrificial.” The “sacrificial” coatings come off the sign and take the graffiti with them. The “non-sacrificial” coats are intended to remain on the signage, but provide such a slick surface that graffiti can more easily be removed.
Anti-graffiti coatings are specialty products sold in bulk, and should be applied by experts at the time the signage is fabricated. “After market” products that signage owners can apply on their own tend to be far less effective.
Even when a sign has a protective coating, however, it’s helpful to identify the material used on the sign’s surface, and also the material used in creating the graffiti. Then it’s easier to select an effective removal method that won’t damage the underlying signage.
While most graffiti is made with spray paint, it can also be made with adhesives (to apply stickers), etching agents, lipstick, markers, or even shoe polish. The longer the graffiti remains on the signage, the more difficult it can be to remove.
If you need help with a graffiti problem, contact us here. We’re always happy to help.