Whether put there by you due to accidental overspray or by some stranger as graffiti in the middle of the night, spray paint can be one of the harder substances to remove from concrete. It can leave you scratching your head, wondering how to remove spray paint from concrete.
Fortunately, there are a variety of commercial and home remedies for removing paint from concrete.
The best way to remove paint from concrete is by using a graffiti remover specially designed to break apart the molecular content of spray paint. For particularly stubborn graffiti, extreme measures such as a sandblaster or angle grinder will get the job done where chemicals cannot.
In this guide, we’ll review the most effective methods, both beginner and advanced, to remove paint from concrete while discussing how to safely use these methods.
What Makes Spray Paint so Difficult to Remove From Concrete?
The composition of concrete makes it difficult to remove spray paint. Concrete is very porous, which causes it to act like a rigid sponge that can soak up a significant amount of liquid. Given that spray paint generally has a thinner viscosity than other paints, concrete absorbs it more quickly than pain with a thicker viscosity such as latex or oil-based paint.
The porous nature of concrete and the thin consistency of spray paint makes it a challenge to remove.
How to Protect Your Concrete While Removing Spray Paint
While you may be anxious to remove unsightly spray paint from a surface as quickly as possible, especially if you’re removing offensive graffiti, make sure you don’t cause harm to the concrete during the removal process.
Some cleaners, such as trisodium phosphate, are effective at removing stubborn spray paint from concrete; however, if left on concrete too long, they can dissolve the concrete, causing permanent damage.
With this in mind, it’s wise to use cleaners that are safe for concrete. Some homeowners make the mistake of forgetting to clean the concrete after using a chemical treatment to remove paint. Make sure to remove the cleaner after the paint has been removed to prevent it from potentially eating away and dissolving the concrete.
How to Remove Spray Paint From Concrete
There are numerous methods for removing spray paint from concrete. While each of these methods is effective, some are better for larger jobs, while others are well-suited for treating smaller areas.
1. Soap and Water
This is the most cost-effective and the least effective solution on this list. While soap and water likely won’t remove graffiti that has had the opportunity to soak into the concrete and dry, it’s an effective means of cleaning spray paint after an oops moment of over-spraying paint on the driveway or garage floor during a project involving spray paint.
By applying soap and water to wet paint, you can quickly dilute and break up the paint molecules before they have a chance to set.
Even if the paint has had a chance to dry, this is a good place to start, as it will at least remove some of the paint and clean the surrounding area, setting the stage for bringing out the big guns later.
To clean using soap and water, begin by sweeping or vacuuming away any dirt in the area. Mix mild dish soap with warm water in a bucket and stir it up until it produces suds.
Apply clean, warm water to the area. This will help to saturate the concrete and prevent the paint from absorbing into it.
Dip a brush into the soap solution and scrub the area to remove the paint particles. Use a paper towel or rag to soak up the paint. Repeat this process until the paint is removed or the solution is no longer effective. Rinse the area with clean cold water.
2. Power WasherPower washers or pressure washers shoot a powerful stream of water that can remove various materials from hard surfaces, including spray paint. Though water is a medium in most spray paint removal methods, here, it’s being used to physically remove paint from the surface through the force of the spray rather than by chemical means.
With that in mind, the key to successfully using a power washer is to use the right PSI and nozzle. Use a pressure washer with between 2,000 and 3,000 PSI. Why this range? Too low and there won’t be enough pressure to separate the paint from the concrete. Too high and the pressure washer could damage the concrete.
Just as choosing the right PSI is critical, so is selecting the right nozzle. Most power washers color code their nozzles based on the size of the fan of water it emits in degrees: the smaller the degrees, the more powerful the pressure washer.
You only want to use as much power as is necessary to prevent damaging the concrete. Begin with the highest degree nozzle and work down. While a broader 40-degree or 25-degree nozzle may be effective, you’ll likely need to use a smaller 15-degree nozzle to produce enough power to remove paint.
Although it’s unnecessary, you can use a cleaner with the power washer, such as trisodium phosphate, or a commercial cleaner that is compatible with a power washer for additional cleaning power.
If you use a cleaner, don’t forget to rinse with clean water after removing the paint to prevent the cleaner from remaining in the concrete and potentially damaging it.
3. Graffiti Remover
For graffiti that’s more deeply absorbed into the concrete, you’ll need more power than pressurized water has to offer. Consider using one of the following commercial products, which is designed specifically for graffiti removal.
Motsenbocker’s Lift Off Paint Scuff and Graffiti RemoverThe nice thing about Motsenbocker’s Lift Off paint remover is the way it works. It doesn’t liquefy the paint, which makes for a messy removal once the cleaner has been applied. Instead, it breaks up the molecular structure of the paint while leaving it solid, making for easy clean-up.
The other nice thing about this product is that it works on various surfaces, including plexiglass, metal, tile, vinyl, and brick, as well as concrete, and will remove most types of paint.
This makes it a great all-purpose paint remover to have at the ready in the garage or shed. To apply, simply spray on the concrete surface and wipe clean with a rag or scrub with a brush. Since this product contains no solvents, it won’t harm the concrete either.
Sunnyside Ready Strip Paint & Varnish RemoverWith its ability to remove up to seven layers of paint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a paint stripper that’s more effective against thick paint than Ready Strip. You’ll have to be patient with it, though, as it doesn’t offer quite the same instant gratification as other paint removers. It takes time to work its magic.
To use, apply the remover with a paintbrush or roller and be patient. It takes about 60 minutes before it starts working. At that time, it will begin curdling the paint. You’ll need to give it several hours to completely work through the paint, especially if there are numerous layers. Once it’s penetrated all layers of paint, remove using a scraper or a stiff-bristled brush.
The removal can be a bit messy, so be prepared to spend a significant amount of time on clean-up after all the paint has been removed. As with other paint removers, Ready Strip works on various materials and a variety of paints.
Goof Off Graffiti RemoverGoof Off graffiti remover is well known amongst homeowners for its ability to remove sticky substances from various surfaces. This special formula of Goof Off takes aim at graffiti, and its simple-to-use application makes it one of the more attractive commercial options.
It comes in an aerosol can. To use, apply Goof Off to a cloth and attempt to wipe the graffiti away. If that doesn’t work, apply the remover directly to the concrete, testing the product first on an inconspicuous area to ensure it won’t stain.
Once applied, use a scrub brush to separate the paint from the concrete, then rinse away with water. Since Goof Off is a gel, it sticks to surfaces, making it suitable for walls and driveways, basements, and walks.
In addition to concrete, Goof Off will also work on brick, metal, glass, wood, and oil-based painted surfaces, making it a good product to have available to use in a pinch.
4. Safe ‘n Easy Graffiti RemoverThis graffiti remover from Safe ‘n Easy is specially designed for porous surfaces, making it ideal for removing spray paint from concrete. This means it’s effective and it won’t damage or stain the surface. It works by emulsifying the paint, making it easier to remove.
True to its name, Safe ‘n Easy is also non-toxic and safe for the environment.
Safe ‘n Easy is a gel formula, so it works well on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. To use, apply liberally to the paint and allow to soak in. Give the remover time to break apart the paint then use a scrub brush to help work it in.
Rinse the remover with cold water to wash the paint away.
4. TSP (Paint Stripper)TSP is one of the most effective means of removing spray paint from concrete. It’s available either as a stand-alone chemical at most big box home improvement stores or in one of a variety of different brand name products.
It comes in powder form, requiring you to mix it with water to use or in a convenient liquid form that doesn’t require mixing. Either way, this chemical functions similarly to a paint stripper, eating away at the molecular content of the paint so that it can be rinsed away with water.
It’s important to note that TSP is extremely toxic, so make sure to take all safety precautions when using it to prevent it from coming into contact with skin and eyes and to ensure you don’t breathe it in.
It’s also harmful to the environment. It’s not a good idea to use it to remove large amounts of paint from a walk or driveway unless you can confine it to avoid damaging landscaping or generally harming the environment.
To use, begin by diluting the TSP with warm water per the instructions on the package. Dip a brush into the solution, then begin scrubbing the affected area. You can also allow it to soak in for about 20 minutes for maximum cleaning power.
Rinse the area with water, then repeat until all traces of the spray paint are gone. Remember to fully rinse the TSP away, as allowing it to remain in the concrete could damage the surface.
5. Sand BlasterSometimes you need to bring out the big guns to remove graffiti from concrete, and the guns don’t get much bigger than a sandblaster. This method isn’t so much about removing the paint, as it is about removing the entire layer of concrete upon which the paint sits.
With that in mind, this is a solution that should be used when all other efforts have been exhausted.
While this is one of the most effective means of removing paint from concrete, it does take some know-how to use it safely and to avoid damaging the concrete itself.
It’s also one of the costlier solutions as you’ll need to rent the sandblasting machine. You’ll also need to purchase sandblasting media to load into the equipment.
Finally, since this method produces a considerable amount of dust, you’ll need a vacuum designed for sucking up concrete dust as well as the appropriate equipment to protect your skin and eyes and to prevent breathing in the dust. Gloves, canvas suits, respirators, and goggles are a must.
A sandblaster works by using compressed air to blow sand at such a high speed that it removes a layer of concrete. For removing paint, use a sandblaster with 50 PSI and fine grit. This will minimize the amount of concrete you lose to remove the paint.
6. Angle GrinderContinuing with options that fall under extreme methods, the angle grinder is another solution for removing graffiti. As with sandblasting, this method will take some amount of concrete with it, so this is a last-ditch option when all other efforts to remove the paint have failed.
An angle grinder works similarly to a circular sander. It uses a round grinding wheel, which spins at a high velocity to remove material. Angle grinders use different types of grinding wheels to cut, grind, polish and even clean different materials. They can even be used for sharpening tools.
To remove paint, use a paint stripping wheel. To use, start the angel grinder and apply the wheel to the offending spray paint. Begin grinding using a circular motion.
Make sure to apply light even pressure to avoid making gouges or other significant alterations to the concrete surface. Keep grinding until the paint has been removed.
Like a sandblaster, an angle grinder will remove some concrete along with paint. Avoid putting too much pressure on the angle grinder to avoid noticeably altering the surface of the concrete.
Unless you own an angle grinder, you’ll need to purchase or rent one along with a paint-removing wheel, which makes it one of the more expensive options on this list.
Also, keep in mind that this method produces a considerable amount of dust, so safety measures to protect skin, eyes, and mouth are essential.
How to Clean Concrete After Paint Removal
After the elation of successfully removing spray paint from concrete, returning it to pristine condition, it’s natural to walk away and move on with life. That would be a mistake.
While the cleaners on this list are very effective at removing paint from concrete, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do damage to concrete themselves. It’s crucial to rinse away the cleaner to ensure it doesn’t slowly eat away at the concrete, especially if you’re using an acidic cleaner such as TSP.
It’s critical to clean before the concrete dries and the cleaner becomes absorbed by the concrete.
Clean-up is simple. Mix water with mild dish soap and lightly scrub the concrete. This will help neutralize the chemical you used to clean it. Rinse the area thoroughly with water, either with a hose or mop, to make sure the cleaner doesn’t stay trapped in the pores of the concrete.
While you may be tempted to skip this step, it’s key to preventing stains while preserving the structural integrity of the concrete.
How to Remove Spray Paint From Pavers
Given the decorative nature of pavers and their availability in different colors, they can be more susceptible to stains and discoloration from chemicals. This can be tricky when looking for a solution to remove spray paint from pavers.
Paint thinner is an excellent solution. It will remove the paint while leaving the pavers unscathed. To use, apply your paint thinner of choice evenly to the affected area using either a brush or rag. Some thinners also come in an aerosol can.
After application, wait the instructed amount of time for the thinner to break apart the paint. Scrub the paver using a wire brush or steel wool. This will help loosen the paint from the stone.
Rinse the stone thoroughly with water after the paint has been removed and allow it to dry.
How to Remove Spray Paint From Brick
Paint stripper is the best way to remove spray paint from brick. It will get into the nooks and crannies of the brick and mortar without causing damage to the brick.
There are a wide variety of paint strippers on the market. To use, first thoroughly clean the brick. Apply the paint stripper of your choice to the affected area by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply the stripper, allow to soak in, then wipe the brick to remove.
For larger paint removal jobs. Remove the paint in sections. Rinse with water after the paint has been removed.
Paint stripper is a solvent, so its fumes are toxic and it can burn skin. Make sure to take the necessary safety precautions when working with a paint stripper.
Many of the chemicals used to remove paint from concrete are hazardous, as are methods that physically remove paint through grinding, pressure washing, or sandblasting. It’s crucial to take the necessary safety precautions to protect yourself.
When using an angle grinder, pressure washer, or sandblaster, make sure to use eye protection as these methods create dust. If using a sandblaster or grinder, it’s also a good idea to use a respirator or mask that can filter our particles to avoid breathing concrete dust.
For chemical paint removers, wear goggles, thick rubber gloves and to cover exposed skin. When working indoors with spray paint remover, make sure to ventilate the space as much as possible.
Whether it’s overspray or vandalism, spray paint on concrete can mar the aesthetics of an otherwise attractive driveway, walk, or wall. While getting this paint off can be a challenge, it’s certainly not impossible.
The methods above present simple as well as more advanced methods for removing spray paint from concrete, providing solutions for removing everything from overspray that’s still wet to multiple layers of dry paint.