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Don't let vandals leave their mark

07 November 2019

Paul Casson, technical field manager, Rentokil Specialist Hygiene, provides a guide to graffiti cleaning

The work of Banksy, Stik and Inkie has brought street art to the masses and they are renowned for their colourful and intricate murals which bring visual excitement to otherwise uninspiring surroundings. As a result, some brands now commission street artists to create murals promoting their products or latest releases. 

Graffiti, on the other hand, is generally unwelcome. It’s traditionally seen as a more anti-social form of street art, which is usually carried out to deliberately deface, mark or ‘tag’ a wall, property or other surface, without an intent for people to enjoy looking at it. 

For businesses, the unexpected appearance of graffiti on a premise can be detrimental to the property and more importantly, the brand’s image. This is especially the case in the retail, transport and property sales industries, where the presence of graffiti has been associated with a wide range of negative side effects, including decreased sales, reduced passenger numbers, and a steep decline in property values in the area. In schools and public places, the presence of graffiti is equally unfavourable, potentially conveying the message that crime happens frequently and is tolerated in the area. 

Time is of the essence 

The sooner graffiti disappears, the better. Its quick and effective removal often acts as a deterrent, where the offender may feel as though their efforts have been wasted if their work only appears for a very limited time. 

It is also worth noting that under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, the person responsible for the surface is accountable for the cost of getting graffiti removed. This means that it falls to the owners or managers of a building to deal with the problem. If graffiti is left untouched for too long, local authorities can issue a Graffiti Removal Notice, which gives the property owner or manager a timeframe to remove the graffiti or face the risk of prosecution.

The offending material could just be painted over, but this is not always a practical solution. In fact, it can sometimes create what is seen as a blank canvas, inviting even more graffiti in the future. 

Luckily, the permanent and effective removal of graffiti needn’t be as onerous or time-consuming as you might think. 

The benefits of Ecoblasting 

In our opinion Ecoblasting is one of the most successful ways to remove graffiti. It works by using compressed air to blast an environmentally benign abrasive, such as bicarbonate of soda or recycled glass, on the surface to remove substrate layers. 

Traditional methods of graffiti removal can involve the use of aggressive corrosive chemicals, and excessive amounts of water. Ecoblasting, on the other hand, is completely environmentally friendly, meaning it is safe to carry out in more rural locations without contamination risk to wildlife or watercourses that might be on or near the site.

Alternative abrasives

The abrasive material used to help remove graffiti can be altered depending on the surface, location and the extent of paint being removed. Bicarbonate of soda is an effective material to remove paint from glass and rubber, without any permanent damage being caused to the surface. If the graffiti is on concrete or a less delicate surface, recycled glass is a quick and effective solution.

If the graffiti is near an electricity source, the process should be altered so it’s completely dry to comply with health and safety regulations. 

An expert opinion 

Specialist technicians will always offer a full assessment of the premises before any Ecoblasting takes place. Given the service can be used on glass, wood, metal, brick and most stone surfaces, including soft stone, such as limestone, which would be eroded by an acid cleaner, a survey will ensure that the correct abrasive is used. It will also take into account the hardness of the surface, and the environmental requirements needed for a given location.

Following Ecoblasting, an anti-graffiti coating should be applied to the surface. This coating prevents the paint from being absorbed, so in areas prone to frequent targeting, the graffiti can be quickly and easily removed with detergent and water. Treating the surface like this should hopefully prevent any repeat offences from happening, once they realise their future work can be removed without hassle.

A sticky situation

Along with graffiti, discarded chewing gum can be another indication of anti-social behaviour. While this may seem like a minor issue at first, its removal can add up. On average each piece of unsightly chewing gum can cost £1.50 to remove and can take up to five years to biodegrade. Hiring a professional cleaning service will make sure the task is done as quickly and effectively as possible.

There are two common methods you could consider for removal, depending on the surface to be treated. The first is to use steam with a ‘gum gun’, which melts the gum quickly off the surface. Alternatively, Ecoblasting can also be used to remove chewing gum from certain surfaces.

After chewing gum has been removed, a surface restoration paint can be used to remove any stains or discoloured surfaces left behind.

Final words

If you are unsure how to clean graffiti or remove chewing gum, it is always best to consult a professional. Technicians are trained to understand the latest legislative requirements in their area of expertise and will be able to recommend the correct process to follow on a case-by-case basis. Thanks to Ecoblasting, in the unfortunate event that your property is damaged, you can rest assured that the issue can be solved quickly, safely and efficiently.