The Writing is on the Wall (so how do we get it off ?)
By Jim Goodbar, Bureau of Land Management

We've probably all seen it, and some of us have even tried to remove it. It's that ugly writing on cave walls. Some of it is old and was put there with a candle or carbide lamp. Other graffiti is the stuff nightmares are made of-black enamel spray paint or the reflective hot pink day-glow stuff. In whatever variety it comes, there are some basic guidelines for removing it.

This outline covers some of the successful techniques and appropriate tools for removing graffiti from cave walls. Discussion will include environmental concerns and impacts that can occur with poor technique and less than desirable supplies. Most of the following methods have been developed during twenty years of first-hand experience in vanquishing the foe.

I. What is it? Types: ocher, lamp black, carving, spray paint

II. When should it be left alone? Be aware of historical graffiti.

III. Removal Techniques

A. Scrub brushes

  • Stiff nylon bristle
  • Stainless steel
  • Natural fiber
  • Catch the chips

B. Water squirters

  • Hand bottle
  • Garden sprayer
  • High pressure pump
  • Bladder bags
  • Gravity feed systems
  • What to do with runoff

C. Water cautions

  • Choosing where to get water
  • Avoid contaminating water sources
  • Water collection

D. Use Heat Carefully

E. Avoid All Chemicals Cave critters and bugs are sensitive


IV. Other thoughts

  • Dental picks
  • Grinders & sand blasters
  • Camouflage
  • Blend with mud
  • And, someday, if the chemists come up with some kind of all-around cave-safe scrub stuff, and if the biologists assure us it won't hurt the biota, maybe we can use less elbow grease to erase graffiti vandalism.


Contact Jim Goodbar at:
PO Box 1778,
Carlsbad, NM 88220