7 Cleaning Tips to Remove Graffiti from Old Masonry

Shannon Lee

Graffiti can be a heartbreaking sight for those who love older homes and the charms of original masonry. It can be tough to see words or images scrawled across something with such historic value, especially if that graffiti is created with bold paints and colors that are hard to remove.

The key to successful graffiti removal is getting to it as soon as possible, and using careful removal methods to avoid damaging the surface as you remove the offending marks.

7 Ways to Remove Graffiti from Historic Masonry

One of these methods, or a combination of several, can be helpful to remove graffiti:

  • Water and detergent. Starting with the simplest route is always best for delicate or older masonry. Graffiti removal should always begin with a thorough soap-and-water cleaning. Start with low-pressure washing and use only the gentlest detergents.
  • A cleaning poultice. A poultice consists of absorbent material and cleaning solutions that are held against the masonry for a long period of time in an attempt to draw out the paint used to create graffiti.
  • Paint removers. Take care when choosing paint removers to clean graffiti; some are not designed for use on masonry, concrete, or stone of any kind. The wrong paint remover can actually make the graffiti much worse! Always use proper ventilation when working with paint removers.
  • Bleach. Regular household bleach might be the ticket to graffiti removal. Depending on the kind of graffiti you are dealing with, bleach can dull the colors, draw out some of the darker paint, and in some cases, remove the graffiti altogether.
  • Alkaline solvents. Before opting for alkaline solvents, be absolutely sure that your unique type of masonry won't react to them. Although these solvents can remove graffiti quickly, they can also cause significant damage to some types of stone.
  • Abrasion methods. One of the last resorts for graffiti removal, cleaning your masonry with abrasive methods, must be done with great care. High-pressure washing, abrasive grits, and sanding can all effectively remove graffiti, but they can also damage the masonry work you are trying so hard to preserve. If you must use an abrasive method, consider calling in a masonry professional to help.
  • Laser removal. Expensive but very effective, laser removal is not a common form of graffiti removal. However, for large jobs and historic treasures, it might be something to consider.

Once the cleaning is done, look for ways to deter new graffiti such as well-placed security lights or gates around the property you want to protect.


About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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