Reverse graffiti

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Reverse Graffiti advertising Cadwalader's in Cardiff

Reverse graffiti, also known as clean tagging, dust tagging, grime writing, green graffiti or clean advertising, is a method of creating temporary or semi-permanent images on walls or other surfaces by removing dirt from a surface. It can also be done by removing dirt/dust with the fingertip from windows or other dirty surfaces, such as writing "wash me" on a dirty vehicle. Others, such as graffiti artist Moose, use a cloth or a high-power washer to remove dirt on a larger scale.


English artist Paul Curtis (aka Moose) is one of the first street artists to make an art piece using the reverse graffiti technique.[1] He discovered the technique at his dishwashing job.[2][1]

The first large scale reverse graffiti art piece was made by Alexandre Orion in 2006. The intervention was called Ossario (ossuary) and was over 1000 feet long. The municipality of São Paulo washed it away on July 26.[3]

Street artists such as Banksy have made works with reverse graffiti as well.


As with traditional graffiti, the technique is also used commercially as a form of out-of-home advertising.

Since then, large companies such as Microsoft, the BBC and Smirnoff have advertised their products in this way. In response to Moose's use of the technique for advertising in Leeds, a city council representative described the work as illegal advertising.[1] In this context, marketers call it "clean advertising" or "clean graffiti".

Environment impact[edit]

Because reverse graffiti is temporary, may be biodegradable, generally uses no hard materials (such as ink, paper, or harsh chemicals) or electricity to back or front light, reverse graffiti can be an environmentally friendly way of advertising.[4]


There have been several instances of authorities attempting to prosecute those performing this form of advertising, but prosecution has been difficult due to the temporary and non-destructive nature of the practice.[5][6] Moreover, while adding something to the sidewalk like paint is illegal, cleaning is not. Thus, companies or artists offering their reverse graffiti services are operating in a legal gray area.

In the Netherlands, however, one needs to have a permit for commercial advertisements in a public space even if nothing is being destroyed.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Carter, Helen (15 November 2004). "Graffiti artist's new form of street art under fire". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Paul Curtis' website
  3. ^ Smillie, Eric (27 November 2007). "'Reverse Graffiti' Artist Creates Tunnel of Skulls". Wired. Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Brenhouse, Hillary (3 June 2010). "Marketing firms clean up with 'Reverse Graffiti'". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Morgan, Richard (10 December 2006). "Reverse Graffiti". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Baron, John (14 February 2011). "Pavement ads under fire as Leeds council is accused of 'environmental crime'". Guardian Leeds (London). Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "'Guerilla-reclame' KPN in Arnhem snel verwijderd". de Gelderlander (in Dutch). 16 February 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2015.