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Graffiti / Paint Removal

Graffiti in London, like it or hate it sometimes it needs to be removed!

Graffiti has long been a part of the social fabric in urban society. Despite the occasional pieces which may be deemed as street art, most instances of graffiti are often simplistic tags which offer disputed aesthetic benefits. Therefore, most governments have seen graffiti as detrimental, and have outlawed the practice. However, due to most instances of graffiti occurring in public spaces, local governments are responsible for graffiti removal in order to maintain the beautification of their local shire, council or city.

Removal methods

Governments take different approaches to graffiti removal, often depending on their resources. These approaches have been developed and shifted due to larger movements within the cleaning industry, costs of supplies and the end results of removals.

Paint out

This method involves painting over the graffiti, so that it can no longer be seen. This is considered a low costs method and has historically been used widely by governments. However, over time the negative effects of this removal method begin to surface. Although effective for already painted walls, this removal option often leads to poor results on other surfaces, as it appears out of place and develops a "patchwork effect" on the surface. Furthermore, if this method is used regularly on the same wall or surface, the paint begins to peel, leading to the method being an ineffective long term strategy for graffiti removal.

Chemical removal

This method actually removes the graffiti in earnest. These are cleaning products with active chemicals which remove the graffiti from the surface. These methods are largely effective, however, with poor application of the chemical, this approach has been found to damage the surface, especially painted surfaces. In these cases the paint along with the graffiti is stripped, leading to a poor result. In addition, the increasing prevalence of environmental sustainability makes this method an increasingly outdated method of removal.

Graffiti on historic surfaces

Many graffiti removal methods involve abrasive processes (wire-brushing, grit blasting, etc.) or the use of powerful and potentially hazardous chemical solvents, which may damage historic fabric such as the stone facade of a historic building. Laser cleaning (using lasers of the Nd:YAG wavelength), although more expensive, is likely to be more appropriate for historic stonework. Some chemical cleaning agents can also be used with an inert poultice material, in which case the chemical is usually applied first to dissolve the pigment, followed by the poultice to draw the pigment in solution out of the substrate. Removal of graffiti from historic surfaces and objects should only be undertaken by appropriately trained and skilled personnel.

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03 December 2020
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