Abstract Tephra falls impact urban communities by disrupting transport systems, contaminating and damaging buildings and infrastructures, and are potentially hazardous to human health. Therefore, prompt and effective tephra clean-up measures are an essential component of an urban community’s response to tephra fall. This paper reviews case studies of tephra clean-up operations in urban environments around the world, spanning 50 years. It identifies methods used in tephra clean-up and assesses a range of empirical relationships between level of tephra accumulation and clean-up metrics such as collected tephra volume, costs, and duration of operations. Results indicate the volume of tephra collected from urban areas is proportional to tephra accumulation. Urban areas with small tephra accumulations (1,000 m3/km2 or an average of 1 mm thickness) may collect < 1% of the total deposit, whereas urban areas which experience large accumulations (> 50,000 m3/km2 or an average of 50 mm thickness) remove up to 80%. This relationship can inform impact and risk assessments by providing an estimate of the likely response required for a given tephra fall. No strong relationship was found between tephra fall accumulation and clean-up cost or duration for urban environments which received one-off tephra falls, suggesting that these aspects of tephra fall clean-up operations are context specific. Importantly, this study highlights the advantage of effective planning for tephra clean-up and disposal in potentially exposed areas.