Post-COVID tags

Shaun Doak, CEO of React Specialist Cleaning, lets us know how the pandemic has affected graffiti removals.

Over the past year, people have gone through many restrictions on leaving their houses, from being asked to stay inside, only go on short and local walks, or be allowed up to 5km away.

At React, during this time we’ve noticed that the instances of graffiti being reported have gone down significantly. With restrictions lifting and the UK public allowed to venture further from home, visit beauty spots and go off the beaten track once again, reports of graffiti have risen rapidly.

Members of the public play a key role in the process of graffiti removal as they are often the ones who report it. In addition to the decrease in reports on graffiti sightings and the lag time between it being reported and dealt with due to other priorities, the rise in graffiti can be attributed to a boredom throughout the pandemic, a lack of other outlets and less chance of the offenders being caught.

As a consequence, we’ve noticed that there’s now a backlog in dealing with these cases, as graffiti that may have been painted months ago is now only being picked up and reported. Graffiti tends to attract others to the same spots who paint more, creating a bigger problem when the clean- up does actually happen.

As well as the pandemic having an impact on the high demand for graffiti cleaning now, having to deal with the backlog of cases and much older graffiti presents additional problems. There are many variables that impact the amount of effort and time put into cleaning it up: this can be anything from the type of paint and the nature and texture of the surface it’s painted on, to how fresh or old the piece is, as well as how many layers there are.

You need to be especially careful with graffiti removal when you remove the paint from an already painted surface, as it’s easy to damage the surface underneath. Extra attention and


care is paramount for an effective removal – if the products are left on too long then the surface will be damaged, if not left on long enough then it won’t be effective on the graffiti.

One of the best combatants against graffiti is prevention tactics. The issue with continuous cleaning and removal on a particular area that sees a lot of graffiti is that you are just providing a new, blank canvas for the graffiti to be repeated, which can end up damaging the surface with repetitive cleaning.

Although not suitable for all brickwork, using anti-graffiti paint works as a preventative measure and can help avoid recurrence. The use of appropriate chemicals is incredibly important – due to the nature of graffiti removal, these need to be fairly harsh. However, there are more environmentally- friendly options becoming increasingly available – a development welcomed by most companies as we try and look for sustainable alternatives.

CCTV can also act as an effective deterrent, in addition to appropriate lighting, although these are likely to be used in more densely populated areas in cities and towns as opposed to more remote instances of graffiti.

Moving forward, it will take some time to work through the backlog of requests for graffiti removal, but as the country nears all restrictions being lifted, it’s likely we will be seeing more recent cases reported and dealt with efficiently.

It’s hopeful that as the next generation is more environmentally-focused and increasingly concerned with issues such as recycling and littering, graffiti frequency will decrease. Coupled with focusing on preventative measures such as close monitoring and anti-graffiti paint developments, we hope to see an overall decrease in cases in the future.

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