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Public Works Department City of San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Police Department

Helpful Hints to Remove Graffiti

Municipal Code Graffiti Summary
The following are tips for removing graffiti from various types of surfaces. The city does not endorse specific brands of products, but rather uses brand names to help the consumer identify these graffiti removal materials and supplies.

Metal Surfaces:
  • Try wiping graffiti with any common paint thinner (ex: mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, acetone), or try graffiti removal products such as "Goof Off." Sometimes wiping the graffiti with light penetrating oil such as "WD-40" or "Three-in-One" will remove it.
  • If graffiti remains, try to remove it by rubbing with steel or bronze wool, or light sandpaper.
  • If none of these methods work, paint over the graffiti.

Wood Surfaces:
  • If the wood is not weathered and is sealed with paint, stain or sealer, try to remove it by wiping it with mineral spirits. If the wood is weathered, do not use this technique, as the mineral spirits will be absorbed by the wood, driving the paint further down into the wood.
  • If these methods do not work, sand the wood and re-paint or simply paint over the graffiti.

Plastic Surfaces:
  • Try wiping graffiti with a light, penetrating oil such as "WD-40" or "Three-in-One." Do not use paint thinners as they can soften the plastic and can cause clouding (if clear plastic) or permanent tackiness of the surface.
  • Sometimes a light rubbing with ultra-fine steel or bronze wool will remove the paint.
  • If these methods don not remove the graffiti, paint over it.

Glass Surfaces:
  • The best method for removing painted graffiti from glass is to use a razor blade to carefully scrape it off. This method is 99% effective. Use the razor blade in a holder and scrape at a 30-degree angle to the glass.
  • If the paint does not come completely off after using the razor blade, use ultra-fine bronze wool with water to gently rub the remaining paint off.
  • You can use paint thinners on glass, however the razor blade method is much quicker and more environmentally friendly.


Always read product labels and follow all manufacturer instructions and recommendations. Most of the products identified above are flammable - use caution and follow safety directions when using these products. Always use proper safety clothing and equipment (including gloves, safety glasses, etc.). It is recommended that a small "test" area be done prior to a full application of any product.