Removing Automotive Graffiti...
December 1, 2014 10:24 PM   Subscribe

So the side of my pickup's shell was tagged the other day. I've been looking at how to remove the spray paint and am getting a lot of conflicting advice.

It's a white painted steel shell (now) with black spray paint. I've searched around online and found people advocating everything from GooGone, to Gasoline, to Carnauba wax, to Rubbing Compounds. However, I've found just as many people warning about using any of the above.

I've tried a liberal application of GooGone and scrubbing with a paper towel. If kind of lightened up the paint but even with much elbow grease the paint isn't coming off. Any suggestions?

Bonus points for something I can run out and get at lunch or Google Express ahead of time. Double bonus points for finding the vandals and giving them a wedgie.
posted by flyingfox to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Added info: I read through this which tempted me into playing around with GooGone (regular, not automotive gel). The solution there turned out to be 3M Rubbing Compound, but the link is stale.
posted by flyingfox at 10:27 PM on December 1, 2014

Your prayers have been answered. The answer is "no".

You can't totally remove it; paint is designed to not be removed. The only answer is to go to a body shop and get it repainted e.g. $$$$.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:31 PM on December 1, 2014

A few strategically-placed bumper stickers?

The suggestion is partially tongue-in-cheek but also a real possibility if repainting the car is too expensive right now, just follow up on Chocolate Pickle's wise comment.
posted by smorgasbord at 10:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

This happened to the door of my cousin's SUV. We went to an automotive store and got a can of something made just for this recommended by the sales guy. He said to spray it on a cloth and wipe, took it right off. We did it the same day we found it but it's worth a try.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:05 PM on December 1, 2014

Best answer: Yes, paint is designed not to be removed. But for that design to succeed, you typically need much better surface prep than the average spray can vandal ever performs.

If the car body has ever been waxed, the graffiti will be clinging to the wax, not the underlying paint, and a cut and polish or a specialist removal product from an automotive store might just be enough to deal with it.

On the other hand, it is black paint on white; very little of it needs to remain in place to stay visible.

The worst case scenario from trying out assorted kinds of removal gunk is damage to the underlying paintwork, but it would need to be damaged a lot worse than that in the process of doing a respray anyway. So don't give up hope. You might be able to get rid of it with the right solvent.

The longer you leave it, the harder that will be. So hie thee to the auto accessories shop and see what they have to offer you.
posted by flabdablet at 11:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is from a car detailers website.

Never tried it (thankfully) but seems to work. Using Carnauba wax.

There is also a Reddit LPT thread on this

posted by MarvinJ at 2:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can always decide that nothing will work, but why start with that when there may still be other options?
I'd start trying some different solvents, and if none of them work, change the strategy and try a rubbing compound such as Commandant 4 or even 5 (may be differently named where you are, but it's meant for polishing weathered paints, removing a thin coat of paint in the process).

Whatever you do, be quick. The new paint is now still softer than the old paint, and easier to dissolve or polish off. Make good use of that while you can.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:20 AM on December 2, 2014

If none of the other suggestions work, try oven cleaner. Also try Goop, comes in a tub for under $3. They both work great on ink, I usually use graffiti remover on paint, but sometimes the oven cleaner works where nothing else will.
(I'm a bar owner, I deal with this stuff regularly).
posted by newpotato at 5:23 AM on December 2, 2014

I used non-acetone nail polish remover and a paper towel to remove white spray paint from a black car with pretty good results. I was super cautious about damaging the underlying finish so I didn't use as much elbow grease as I should have. It worked very well but you can still see white specks. I felt a little bit foolish though because my neighbor just went through an automatic car wash 2x and it got the spray paint off just as well, so we may have had a particularly incompetent tagger. My fall back method was body shop clay, which is what they use to remove paint over-spray and supposedly works very well.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2014

Response by poster: It all worked out well.

So I stopped by the grocery store and picked up some implements of destruction. My armaments consisted of GooGone Gel spray, Mr. Clean Magic erasers, Acetone, and some scrubby sponges.

I set at it with the GooGone Gel not thinking it would work. The regular little squirt bottle of the same stuff didn't do anything so I wasn't expecting much. However, the spray bottle kicked ass. With a minimal amount of scrubbing the paint came straight off. Here's some play-by-play action.

Thanks to everyone for your help. If this didn't work I was standing by with a big old canister of gasoline to finish it off. Thankfully, it all worked out well. So for posterity, if your local taggers didn't do adequate surface prep (as pointed out by flabdablet) GooGone Gel is the bee's knees.

As an aside, this reminds me of the time I was at Home Depot picking up a bunch of different colours of spray paint and primer. Turns out, I didn't bring my driver's license with me and the teller didn't want to let me buy paint. Then this crusty old guy behind me piped up, "Sir, if this kid's gonna prime his road signs before painting them, he deserves to walk out of here with that spray bomb." He grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "You, sir, are an arr-teest!"

I paid my money and left with my paint. On the receipt, my birthday was 00000000.
posted by flyingfox at 10:33 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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