LCO 101: 8 Tips to Remove Graffiti at the Crag

Categories: Tips , LCO 101

With many of our most popular climbing areas within close proximity to major population centers, the work of taggers or graffiti “artists” seems more prevalent than ever. If you’re like most climbers, you’re fed up with these attacks on our cherished resources. Ready to fight back?

Climbers all across the country host successful graffiti removal Adopt a Crag events, showing land managers that even though the climbing community is not responsible for this vandalism, we are dedicated to protecting our climbing areas.

Here are eight tips to help you successfully tackle graffiti at your crag:

  1. Connect with your land manager. They will be your biggest ally in the fight and will have the most current guidelines for how to tackle graffiti on their land. Any solvents used in the removal process will need to be approved by the land manager, especially in sensitive watershed areas.
  2. Choose the right solvent for the job. Elephant Snot and Taginator are two of the most popular and effective solvents. Both break down well in the environment. The US Forest Service has approved both in several locations and may already have a stash in their maintenance sheds.
  3. Wait for it. Each solvent is a little different, but generally the longer you leave it on the graffiti, the better the result. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Some of the higher quality paints used by vandals may require even more time.
  4. Choose the right brush for your rock type. On hard rock like granite, schist, gneiss, and quartzite, metal or steel bristled brushes work best. On softer rock like sandstone, use a nylon or other soft-bristled brush to avoid damaging the rock even further. Bring a few types of brushes and test a small area before you start scrubbing hard.
  5. Protect yourself. Even though most graffiti removal solvents break down well in the environment, they do present a caustic reaction to skin. You will want to wear thick rubber gloves when scrubbing. If you’re using pressurized water to rinse, we recommend wearing eye protection or even a full tyvec suit to protect your skin and clothes.
  6. Apply copious amounts of elbow grease. Solvents only weaken the bonds between rock and paint—the rest is on us. Depending on the rock type, using harder bristled brushes might be a good option to speed the process along. But on softer stone, like sandstone, be as careful as possible to not damage the rock.
  7. Bring a lot of water! You’ll need to rinse the area multiple times to ensure that the solvent and graffiti are washed away. We recommend using a powerful backpack sprayer (like the ones wildland firefighters use) with a solid back-up supply of water. Your land manager may have some great supplies already, so check with them.
  8. Be persistent. You’re doing what you can in a battle that may sadly take years to win. The graffiti problem isn’t an easy one to solve, nor is it a “one and done” event, but if you consistently remove graffiti as it appears, taggers will look elsewhere for more permanent canvases. Keep your eyes open for potential troublemakers and report them as soon as you see them. Work alongside your local land manager on potential monitoring and reporting strategies.