They've dissolved fake blood left behind by King Kong atop the World Trade Center and scrubbed away billions of microbial algae, lichens and molds from the porous limestone walls of Allen Fieldhouse.
Tuesday morning, it was the spray-painted graffiti on the back of Corpus Christi Catholic Church that proved to be no match for products from Prosoco Inc., the Lawrence-based company whose products are known nationwide for cleansing brick, masonry and stone.
A team of specialists - a corporate officer, a testing director and a formulations chemist - took on the work for free, using it as a real-life case study for new products designed to remove the painted "tagging" that ranks among the most stubborn of stains.
"It's the newest, most durable paint that's out there," said Bruce Boyer, Prosoco vice president, who was on the scene Tuesday at 6001 Bob Billings Parkway. "It's the big paint manufacturers trying to make the most idiot-proof, durable paint they can, and then the kids get a hold of it, and it's really some of the meanest, nastiest stuff to take off.
"This is a good training field."
Prosoco, which moved from the Kansas City area to the East Hills Business Park in 1999, has 86 employees dedicated to coming up with products strong enough to eliminate growths, stains and other discolorations from a variety of surfaces.
The graffiti at Corpus Christi showed up over the weekend; the church was one of eight that reported being hit with spray-painted vandalism. Another report turned up Tuesday - this one at Lawrence Baptist Temple, 3201 W. 31st St., which had graffiti spray-painted on an exterior wall and on a bus parked on the property.
While less than 5 percent of the solutions and other products Prosoco sells each year are used to clean up after such vandalism, Boyer said, the jobs account for more than 20 percent of the time and money spent on cleansing jobs annually. Last year, privately held Prosoco recorded sales of more than $20 million.
At Corpus Christi, the Prosoco team spent much of Tuesday assessing the problems, treating affected areas and preparing to return today. Initial treatments with a paint stripper - Defacer Eraser Graffiti Wipe - were followed up with a medium-intensity power wash and proved enough to remove all of the spray paint from two metal garage doors at the back of the church.
Two areas of brick proved more difficult to clean. Daryl Ortgies, a formulations chemist, treated those sites with a second product: Enviro Klean Safety Peel 3, a solvent-soaked paste that he painted on the bricks like a facial mud mask.
The solvent is absorbed by the brick, so that it can dissolve atomized paint particles and then evaporate - leaving the mask to be washed away, just like in a salon.
"Same scenario," Boyer said.
Prosoco products have been used to clean a number of prominent landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol, Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building and Carnegie Hall. Soon to be added to the list will be the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.