Removing Graffiti From Your Garage Door With A Solvent: What You Need To Know

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Few things are more frustrating than the discovery that somebody has sprayed graffiti on your garage door. Even a relatively small 'tag' is unsightly and a constant reminder of vandalism, so most people want to remove all traces of the offending marks. Find out how a solvent could help you remove unwanted graffiti from your garage door, and learn how best to use these chemicals to deal with this unsightly problem.

How solvents work

Put simply, a solvent is a chemical substance that will dissolve another material. Chemists generally work with three types of solvent. These are:

Solvents make cleaning easier. These chemicals can break down and disperse dirt and dissolve stains. Some solvents also stop cleaning chemicals evaporating, so they can get to work quicker and more effectively. Many solvents can help you clean graffiti off your garage door, but you need to know which product to choose.

Choosing different types of solvent

Graffiti vandals often use a variety of inks and paints when they spray on surfaces like your garage door. You should choose the right solvent according to the age of the graffiti, the type of garage door and the ink or paint the vandal used.

Most people keep a bottle of mineral or white spirits at home. This is a type of petroleum distillate that painters use to thin paint. It's cheap and easy to use, but has limited use with graffiti. White spirits will normally only work on light, fresh paint.

Naphtha is also a petroleum solvent, but this chemical is stronger than white spirits. Naphtha will dissolve dry, hardened paint. The chemical can also break down crayons that other thinners struggle to deal with.

If you're dealing with markers, isopropyl alcohol is generally a good option. The chemical is popular as an external medicine, but this solvent can also break down shoe polish and ink.

Lacquer thinner is perhaps the most effective solvent against graffiti. Acetone can soften and dissolve most types of paint and is highly effective against graffiti. However, acetone can soften certain types of plastic or vinyl, so it's unsuitable on a plastic garage door. Methylene chloride is also a strong type of paint thinner. This solvent is the active ingredient in products sold as graffiti remover.

Most solvents are suitable for use on unpainted wooden or metal garage doors, although you should carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you painted your garage door, the solvent will also take off the coat of paint under the graffiti, so it's often easier to just paint over the offending vandalism.

Using solvents safely

Most solvents are hazardous chemicals, and some of the stronger lacquer thinners are dangerous. As such, you should these materials carefully.

Make sure you work in a well-ventilated space. With stronger solvents, you should wear a respiratory mask, too. Always wear rubber gloves, safety glasses and protective clothing. Some strong solvents can irritate or burn your skin, and it's relatively easy to splash the liquid when applying to your garage door.

Dispose of dirty rags and cloths carefully. Don't leave used rags inside your garage, or the fumes may build up inside. Remember that solvents are often highly flammable, so don't store large quantities, either. In fact, most cleaning companies suggest that you only buy what you need each time.


The right technique is important. Perhaps most crucially, you should get to the graffiti as quickly as possible. Fresh paint or ink is always easier to remove.

If you apply the solvent incorrectly, you may just smear or spread the graffiti. Use a clean rag every time. If you use an old rag, the solvent will probably dissolve paint or lacquer on the cloth, which you will then smear over your garage door.

Use a clean part of the rag each time you wipe. You may need a wire brush to scrub away graffiti paint or ink, but this can damage some garage door surfaces. Steel wool is often more effective, as this material isn't as harsh as a brush. You may also find that the graffiti leaves a 'shadow' on the garage door surface, so bear in mind that you may eventually decide just to repaint the surface anyway.

Few homeowners want to see graffiti on their garage doors, and solvents can often help remove unwanted tags and marks. Talk to a garage door repair service for more information. These companies often have experience of different cleaning methods.