Safer Alternative Graffiti Management Methods for California

Graffiti control is resource intensive and costly, and often involves chemicals that are dangerous to workers and the environment. 

This month, the US Environmental Protection Agency, together with the San Francisco Department of the Environment and Bay Area Air Quality Management District , released a new study examining the hazards and effectiveness of several graffiti removal and prevention tactics. The results have national significance.

The study was conducted by the Institute of Research and Technical Assistance, in cooperation with the Port of San Francisco, Municipal Transportation Agency, and Department of Public Works, along with the City of Simi Valley’s Department of Public Works.

The report tested a variety of products in real-world situations. The products included commercially available graffiti removers, custom-made graffiti removers, painting over, protective films and coatings, and blasting systems – machines that shoot dry ice pellets or recycled glass powder.  These were tested against spray paint, paint markers, and stickers on masonry, glass, wood, street signs, and other nonporous surfaces.
Key findings:  

  • Glass blasters worked especially well on masonry surfaces, with dry ice blasters more appropriate for more gentle applications, such as wood.
  • Painting over graffiti with low-VOC paint is a good choice on any painted, nonporous surface, as long as the color can be matched.
  • Some chemical graffiti remover products were effective on non-porous surfaces, but results varied widely.
  • Protective coatings made graffiti removal easier on some non-porous surfaces, but most coatings contain hazardous ingredients, and may themselves discolor surfaces.
  • Certain protective films were good options on street signs, where graffiti removers alone might damage the sign.
  • Sacrificial films are useful for glass (for example, on buses), and may help avoid damage from etching.

The report also goes into greater detail on certain problematic graffiti situations, such as rubber handrails on escalators, light fixtures on trains, fiberglass advertising boards on trains, grout, and brick buildings.

sfe_th_graphic_arrowcircle_50px.jpg Download the full report.