Gently does it: graffiti solution preserves historic value
A gentle industrial cleaning process has worked wonders in transforming graffiti-ridden historic buildings in Leamington Spa
Graffiti is a pervasive problem in most UK town centres. Its presence is often seen as a sign of urban decay, and it is not surprising local authorities strive to remove it.
The spray paints or indelible markers that are often used for graffiti are notoriously difficult to remove. Traditionally, abrasive cleaning systems have been required to remove them. However, these methods are not always suitable for rendered buildings or delicate stonework as they sometimes cause as much damage to the building as the graffiti itself.
One LA, Warwick District Council, has come up with an alternative solution using a gentle industrial cleaning process, which it successfully trialled in transforming the historic buildings of Leamington Spa.
“Within the Victorian parks and gardens in Leamington Spa a number of old buildings, including the Grade II listed Royal Pump Room, are being continually covered in graffiti,” explains Tony White, principle building surveyor for Warwick DC.
“Because of the historical value of the buildings and their importance as a tourist attraction, it is vital that we continually monitor and attend to all graffiti damage in the area.
“The council had employed its own jet washing machine to tackle the problem. However, the force of the jet was causing damage to limestone columns and soaking into age-old rendered walls causing them to swell and crumble. We needed to find a new method.”
Warwick trialled a process from Ecologic Systems, which is able to provide the same graffiti removal power as sandblasting without damaging substrates. Using a 100% natural, water-soluble compound, the EcoLogic system works on impact, not through a chemical reaction.
Delivered under pressure using compressed air, the non-toxic crystals disintegrate on contact, which causes any coatings or soils to be dislodged from the substrate.
EcoLogic Systems director James Ackrill explains how the process works. “Because the cleaning compound disintegrates on impact, it does not damage or distort most substrates as other techniques such as sand-blasting or jet-blasting.
“When used on the Royal Pump Room and the various other buildings in Jefferson Gardens & Victoria Park, this system removed all traces of graffiti. With very little water used in the process, the porous substrate did not soak up any water – maintaining the integral strength of the render and limestone and leaving it in perfect condition.
“Jet-washing can damage surfaces and, by soaking the render, the graffiti ink can soak into the substrate leaving a faint shadow that is difficult to remove. This was the case with previous attempts to clean the walls of the Royal Pump Room. Fortunately, the physical reaction produced when the EcoLogic compound comes into contact with the wall can shock these ink particles away from the substrate.”
EcoLogic can be used on soft or delicate materials, such as glass, aluminium or sandstone, and is capable of removing just one layer of paint without damage to underlying coatings.
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