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When anti-social behaviour needs a clean-up: part 2

We protect the environment and boost communities with graffiti removal and graffiti prevention services

Environmentally friendly graffiti removal and prevention services by REACT Specialist Cleaning
Graffiti is the most common form of vandalism in the UK, and it does real damage to communities

Summer is here, and unfortunately so is anti-social behaviour that affects commercial, public, and private spaces. In our last blog, we looked at how REACT addresses some of the main health and safety consequences of illegal dumping of waste. But sometimes, there is also a consideration of how anti-social behaviour may damage the fabric of buildings or other public and private property. And this same behaviour can also undermine the aesthetics and reputation of our environment, with ongoing economic effects for communities. We’re talking about graffiti, and there’s plenty that needs to be cleaned up and cleared. Increasingly, the focus is on protecting the environment from the effects of graffiti removal, whether that’s with preventative anti-graffiti coatings or less harmful removal products and methods. In this second of our blogs on anti-social behaviour, we look at our graffiti prevention and graffiti removal services.

Graffiti has real negative consequences

In an article in this month’s issue of Tomorrow’s Cleaning, our Head of Operations Dave Rudge outlines some of the things to consider around graffiti. It might seem ironic to be publishing this when a retrospective of work by the infamous graffiti artist Banksy opens in Glasgow (>> But graffiti rightly remains illegal, and in its most common form, it can be hugely damaging. In certain parts of the UK, it is indeed prevalent, and not just in urban areas. Whether it’s a brick wall, a shop shutter, or a train carriage, we’ve all regularly seen graffiti as we go about our daily lives.

As the most usual form of vandalism, graffiti can disrupt entire communities. And as with much anti-social behaviour, it attracts more graffiti and other forms of vandalism, as criminals believe their actions will go unchecked. What’s more, the longer paint remains on the surface, the more difficult it is to remove as it fixes (especially on porous surfaces such as brick). So dealing with it early is essential. This can be hugely disruptive to services, for instance if a train has to be taken out of service to be cleaned.

Is prevention really better than removal?

By some estimates, graffiti removal costs the UK economy up to £1 billion per year. Here at REACT, we’ve noticed a significant shift away from traditional methods of treatment. Many of our clients have stopped asking us to remove graffiti; instead, they’re requesting paint-over services with graffiti-proof paint. This can make it up to 80% easier to remove graffiti from a surface. For both indoor and outdoor surfaces, non-stick, non-mark paints and coatings such as fluorocarbonates often work well. For outdoor furniture, signs, and walls, fibreglass and porcelain coatings work best. Some people even glaze vulnerable surfaces and objects with plastic laminates.

But such solutions are imperfect, as these chemical coatings can also damage the surfaces they’re applied to. A graffiti-proof paint can prevent wood from breathing, for example, which might cause the object to rot. There can also be an aesthetic sacrifice, affecting the building’s intended design. It’s sometimes difficult to find a graffiti-proof paint that matches the colour of a structure’s original paint. So prevention must go hand-in-hand with other ways of dealing with graffiti.

Working to improve the environment

Here at REACT, we recognise that many of our clients still require the complete removal of graffiti. There is rising demand for more ecological approaches to graffiti removal. Traditional cleaning agents, like hydrochloric acid or butyrolactone, can often harm the environment when applied improperly. They can also harm the lungs, eyes, and skin of the operative who is using them, which affects overall working conditions. Despite these facts, many cleaning companies continue to use them because they remain effective.

REACT is proud to be working with more environmentally friendly graffiti removal products and methods. While these products used to be ineffective, a surge of market demand has fuelled innovation and they can now produce the same results as traditional cleaning substances. For brickwork, we can use sandblasting using the least damaging abrasive products on the market. And almost all the organisations that REACT works with now demand an environmentally friendly approach as part of our service. While these products are typically more expensive than traditional options, we’re investing in them to meet client demands.

As part of our commitment to our ISO14001 for Environmental Management standards, we’re always thinking of ways of improving our processes. Beyond graffiti, too, we can provide an environmentally friendly clean-up. For instance, self-contained water vans present a more environmentally friendly means of providing jet-washing. Whether it’s neglect or other anti-social behaviour, jet-washing can help improve safety and aesthetics in our environments. That’s all part of our range of services to boost communities across the UK.

You can read the full article by Dave Rudge here in Tomorrow's Cleaning >>

To find out more about REACT Specialist Cleaning and our environmentally friendly approach to graffiti removal and graffiti prevention, contact one of the team today.

Post by Sam Haywood

Sam is Group Sales Director of REACT Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning going beyond the everyday. His focus is on delivering clients with excellent service whatever their cleaning challenges. Sam has a background working in facilities services and facilities management across hard, soft, and M&E services for national accounts and clients.


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