Governments, quite rightly, consider cleaning graffiti to be a must do because it largely detracts from the beauty of a local area

Cleaning graffiti has become a necessity of the modern age.

Although graffiti has long been a part of urban society and despite the occasional pieces which may be considered to be street art, most forms of graffiti are often ridiculous tags which offer no aesthetic benefits.

Unfortunately, due to most instances of graffiti occurring in public spaces, local governments are responsible for the Graffiti cleaning in order to maintain the look of the local area, this is, of course, at the expense of the tax payer.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 states that the person responsible for the surface is accountable for the cost of getting the Graffiti cleaning.

A ‘graffiti removal notice’ will be issued to them ordering the removal of the graffiti within a specific time period or face prosecution. Graffiti can quickly bring down a neighbourhood through being seen as a low socio-economic area.

This then converts to poorer housing prices and has strong connections with local crime and sometimes gang activities.
Graffiti causes great cost on local communities, the local council usually take the burden, through removal.

Methods for Cleaning graffiti

Painting over graffiti

Painting over the graffiti, so that it can no longer be seen is considered a low costs method.
Unfortunately, over time the long term effects of this removal method begin to surface.

Effective for already painted walls, this option often leads to poor results on other surfaces, as it can appear out of place and the area develops a “patchwork effect” on the surface.

When used regularly on the same wall or surface, the paint will peel, which means the method is considered an ineffective long-term solution for Graffiti cleaning.

Chemical Graffiti cleaning

Using chemicals actually removes the graffiti. Active chemicals within certain products remove the graffiti from the surface.

These chemical although largely effective, has been, with poor application of the chemical,  found to damage the surface, especially painted surfaces.

In these cases the existing paint along with the graffiti is removed, which leads to poor results.

The increasing desire for environmental sustainability makes chemical removal an increasingly outdated method of Graffiti cleaning.

The mechanics of cleaning graffiti

There are four controllable factors that should be considered when attempting to remove graffiti.

  • Time – The longer the time the solution is left the deeper the graffiti remover will soak in. Therefore, the more sensitive the surface the shorter the time the graffiti product should be allowed to stay on the surface.
  • Temperature – Warmer weather will speed up the rate in which the graffiti remover products operate.
  • Agitation – Graffiti removal products often benefit from being applied by means of a hard bristled brush or scourer, This assists in breaking the surface of the graffiti allowing the solution to penetrate the paint.
  • Chemical – Always use the correct chemical for the task.
    Compensation for any reduction in one of these four variables will increase one of the other variables, for example:
    If the temperature is cold, you will need to increase the contact time between the graffiti and the graffiti remover, alternatively you could increase the temperature of the surface possibly by spraying with hot water before attempting the removal.

Environmentally sustainable removal

Using organic products which remove the graffiti from the surface is a great way to ensure environmental sustainability.
This method is usually comparable in cost to a chemical or paint over removal, and will often have the benefit of lower or no risk to health and safety.

Historic surface graffiti

Many methods for removing graffiti involve an abrasive of some sort (grit blasting, wire-brushing and the like) or the use of potentially hazardous and powerful chemicals, these may damage historic fabric such as the stone frontage of a building.

Laser cleaning, although more expensive, is most likely to be much more appropriate and beneficial to historic stonework.

A few chemical cleaners can also be used with an inert poultice material, in this case the chemical is often applied early to dissolve the pigment, followed by the poultice to draw the pigment out of the surface.

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