How To: Get Graffiti Removed From Property




If a home, business, vehicle or other property has been subject to graffiti, the City of Philadelphia can assist.

The city provides a free service for all residents for the removal of vandalism from property. The Philadelphia Graffiti Abatement Team has cleaned graffiti from more than a million properties and street fixtures in the city in the past ten years. The Community Life Improvement Program, a city agency, sponsors this free service.

Don’t wait too long. According to the city codes, management of property damage is the responsibility of the owner. If the graffiti is not reported or removed within five days of the damage, the property owner is subject to a fine of up to $100.


Who to Call

Similar to requesting a pot hole repair, Philly311 is a good place to start for handling property damage requests.

For homes, businesses, municipal buildings, street signs and traffic signals: Dial 311 or fill out a request online. There’s also an easy to use app available through iTunes and Google Play.

Be vigilant in the community. The maintenance of property in public spaces is managed by different city agencies.

Public Schools: (215) 400-6434

News Stands: (610) 800-6455

Newspaper Boxes: (610) 292-6312

Mailboxes: (215) 895-8610

Septa Bridges: (215) 580-7800

PGW Property: (215) 684-6288

PECO Property: (800) 494-4000, Press 0

Center City District: (215) 440-5500


Be Prepared

When contacting the agency, have the exact address and zip code of the graffiti. Be specific with the location of the issue on the property.

Depending on the exact issue, several removal options are available. Painted surfaces can be repainted, but be sure to specify what color. Brick, stone and metal can be power-washed.

The city Community Life Improvement Program website recommends reporting graffiti immediately.


Do it Yourself

Lauren Drapala, conservator with the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust has a few tips for taking graffiti removal into your own hands.

For a painted surface, a few options exist. Marker can be easily removed with rubbing alcohol. If it proves difficult, tracing the tag with another marker will reactivate the ink, which can then be wiped clean with alcohol and water. When in doubt, it can be painted over.

Street signs can be given the same rubbing alcohol treatment as painted surfaces. The signs are protected by a UV coating that makes the them resistant to weather and light chemical solvents.

Exposed wood absorbs ink easily, but is also sensitive to chemicals. The best bet is to do a light sanding of the affected area.

Metal surfaces are resilient. They can be cleaned with steel wool to remove ink and paint. Again, chemicals should be avoided.

Stickers are the easiest tags to remove. Use a damp sponge to wet the surface and the paper will start to dissolve. Straight edge tools, such as a razor blade, can help scrape the surface clean.

Stone and brick are among the most difficult surfaces to remove graffiti. Drapala says the tags can only be removed with chemical cocktails that are dangerous to the user and damaging to the surface unless handled properly. Best to call the city on this one.


-Text and image by Brianna Spause.

Brianna Spause
Lew Klein Fellow for // Multimedia Journalist

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