Windsor ‘Forker’ highlights need for rapid graffiti cleaning

The actions of a determined vandal who spray painted more than 150 items of graffiti in Windsor days before the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle highlights the need for a rapid response to graffiti cleaning.

An individual spray painted the word ‘Fork’ (a crude sexual reference) over surfaces all along the route taken by the royal party to and from Windsor Castle. Royal Borough of Windsor staff were observed trying to wash off the graffiti, but it is usually best to call in the professionals.

Professional graffiti cleaning companies have a range of solutions for removing graffiti. They take into account the types of paint or ink used to create the graffiti and the surface it is on, including stone, brickwork, plastic, or glass.

CleanSafe Services Director Martin Bull said: “Speed is essential when it comes to cleaning graffiti. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to remove. Paint will set, or cure, within hours and some substances will penetrate porous surfaces. It’s very important to contact a rapid response cleaning company that can attend to the graffiti incident straight away.

“We would aim to be on site within 2 – 6 hours.”

Offensive, racist or libellous graffiti must be removed quickly
If the graffiti is offensive, racist, homophobic, or libellous, it must be removed quickly or building owners and occupiers face serious reputational damage, if not legal proceedings. Owners and occupiers may be given notice from councils to remove or cover graffiti within a specified time, otherwise the council will do it themselves and recover the costs.

Rapid response graffiti cleaning companies have the correct equipment, ready to start work as soon as they are called.

Qualified CleanSafe Services technicians operate fully mobile steam-cleaning trailer units, which don’t need external electricity or water supplies. They use the latest technology for graffiti cleaning and can be mobilised to virtually any site to start cleaning immediately.

Steam cleaning prevents damage to substrate
The units use high temperature steam applied at low pressure to tackle the spray paint while doing no damage to the substrate.

If CleanSafe Services technicians are working near street telecommunications equipment or other street furniture that may contain electrical equipment, they adapt their cleaning methods to ensure that no water damage occurs to sensitive equipment. All graffiti is cleaned from these surfaces by hand.

Technicians always use the correct safety equipment when working with steam and ensure that there is no risk to the public.

Emergency paint removal service
Graffiti isn’t the only way paint is used to damage premises. When a disgruntled punter splashed emulsion paint all over a betting shop in Liverpool, CleanSafe Services techicians arrived before the paint even had time to dry.

CleanSafe Manager Stephen Savill said: “Emergency paint removal is made easier if we get the call for help straight away, as we did on this occasion.”

“We were able to wipe off some of the paint, then use a high pressure washer to clean off the shop front and pavement, without having to resort to heavy detergents.”

The whole paint removal process took four hours, leaving the betting shop spotless and clean.

Correct disposal of chemical preparations
Steam or pressure can be applied to most graffiti for effective removal. When chemical preparations are required (more likely with the application of metallic based spray paint), the teams ensure that all waste generated from this process is contained and disposed of correctly.

Often this will involve blocking off surface water drains, so no chemicals or paint can get into the drainage system and cause pollution problems.

Trained technicians only use carefully vetted chemicals to remove graffiti and they will supply all COSHH data sheets and risk assessments.

Graffiti prevention
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to graffiti. Increased security lighting, surveillance cameras and physical barriers can be powerful deterrents to the budding graffiti artist.

So too are the latest generation of specialist anti-graffiti wall coatings. Most are sacrificial coatings, designed to be washed off when covered with graffiti. The coating keeps the substrate clean and can be reapplied multiple times if necessary. Sacrificial coatings are useful for large wall areas and are cost effective to apply.

CleanSafe Services can advise on and apply the correct surface coatings to prevent graffiti from penetrating walls and make it easier to wash off.

Heritage and listed properties
If your building is in a conservation area or is listed, it pays to contact a reputable cleaning company for advice before their services are needed. The company will perform a site assessment and advise on the most appropriate cleaning methods depending on the age of the building and the materials used in its construction.

Limestone and sandstone in particular are vulnerable to certain types of chemical cleaning preparations, which could cause permanent damage if used incorrectly.

Reputable graffiti cleaning companies will always carry out test cleaning in unobtrusive areas to ensure that sensitive or heritage building materials are not compromised.

CleanSafe Services will also liaise with councils and other organisations to get the relevant consents in place before they begin cleaning a listed building.

‘Forked off’
Graffiti writers can be persistent. West Mercia Police research indicates that perpetrators are usually male, aged between 14 and 16. Incidents usually peak during long weekends and school holidays, especially in the summer months.

A Windsor Police source said in the Daily Mail: “It is fair to say this bloke is forking us off big time because as far as we are concerned we have our work cut out already on the big day.

“We are searching for two teenage offenders who have nearly been caught on a number of occasions and we have CCTV operators going through a lot of footage.

“We have been told that if there is so much as a single ‘fork’ on the walls of Windsor Castle the Queen will blow a gasket, so we are guarding it very well”.

About CleanSafe Services
CleanSafe Services is a reactive emergency cleaning company that is part of a larger group comprising emergency waste management, pest control and legionella control services.

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