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Waterblasting vs Erasing Airfield Markings


Waterblasting vs. Rotary Erasing

waterblasting vs erasing

Welcome to the Stripe Removal Championship… Let’s Get Ready to Remove!

The SMITH X-Series Dry Rotary Eraser was a knockout at the Salt Lake City and Raleigh-Durham Airfield Symposiums.

After besting waterblasting for removing stripes on asphalt in SLC, the SMITH X3 Eraser was challenged to remove stripes where water performs best – on hard concrete.

The event was held October 14, 2015 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The X3 Dry Rotary Eraser arrived the day prior by common LTL carrier. A locally rented high-flow skid steer was used to power the X3, and quickly coupled to the bobtach plate. To the many onlookers sitting on the airfield ringside, they observed the operator making a few depth and pitch adjustments prior to the X3 being lowered to the concrete pad.

At the opening bell, the X Series hit the surface punching. With each stroke, the painted markings were knocked out of the concrete surface. Each passing sweep made by the operator and the chanting of the crowd saw more of the paint being peeled from the surface. Minutes later, 90% of the markings were gone with the final surface bone dry.


Round two – water came out with a steam. After adjusting the pump pressures and speeds of the many valves and dials, the water-blast truck technically delivered the water jets to the surface and washed away the paint from the surface leaving only a wet surface.  The crowds that pressed their face close to the action felt the cool drops of water splash from the water blast delivery.

When it was over, both the Eraser and waterblaster felt victorious. The crowd saw both machines had removed the paint, but which process would be crowned “Stripe-Removal Champ?”

The judges compared the final surface with the CSP1 – CSP10 profile pad samples. The water-blaster removed all the paint and left the surface in a CSP7 – CSP8 condition.

waterblasted surface

Waterblaster-treated surface showing microcracks. Click for larger view

The Rotary Eraser left some paint spots in the lower-lying areas with an overall smoother CSP4-5 profile.

erased surface

And the winner is…

The duel ended in a draw. If judging strictly by speed and looks, water was faster on this surface. Factoring in acquisition and operational costs per foot,  ease of maintenance, and smoother surface finish, the Eraser would be a winner by knockout.

It is common knowledge that the SMITH X-Series Dry Rotary Erasers leave a more consistent surface finish when removing striping on asphalt than high-pressure waterblasting processes. However, the X Series, leaves a more consistent, no-groove surface profile on concrete surfaces, as well.  Review this article on the reasons how rotary, drum, and water methods deliver surface finishes.


If you are looking for an effective tool to compliment your waterblast operation, consider adding a SMITH X-Series walk-behind, skid-mount, or truck-mount Rotary Eraser with a dust-and-debris-collecting vacuum system to your operations. If you want cost-effective, no-groove surface finish on asphalt or concrete with your contract operations, consider these specifications.

To learn more how the SMITH X-Series Dry Rotary Erasers can perform in your maintenance operations, please speak to your SMITH Representative directly for details.

Want to see the video of the RDU demonstration, please request a copy here.


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Specifications and data are subject to change without notice.