When building service contractors hear the words “graffiti” and “vandalism,” they probably immediately think of spray paint on a business facade or marker ink on a restroom partition. But vandalism runs the gamut from the very common (gum in the carpet) to the highly specialized (acid-etching in windows). BSCs should know how to — or at least know someone who can — remove various types of vandalism in order to meet all their customer’s potential needs.

A sticky situation In environments such as malls, department stores and schools, gum is often found stuck to walls, floors and carpeting rather than being properly disposed of in waste receptacles — causing a sticky mess for BSCs.

To simplify gum removal, the best defense is a good offense, says Wayne Simmonds, CBSE, chairman of the board, FBG Service Corp., Omaha, Neb.

“All of our operators carry a scraper. That way when you’re dust mopping or even walking around the site, you don’t just walk by the gum,” says Simmonds.

When gum is still fresh, operators typically remove it by freezing the gum and then separating it from the surface with a putty knife.

But, when working with carpeting, Mike Busby recommends even a duller instrument, such as spoon.

“You don’t want to damage the carpet. Using a knife or a putty knife can often snag the carpet pile and tear the carpet,” says Busby, owner, Buzz Building Maintenance, Wichita, Kan.

If janitors can’t respond quickly to the gum, removing the unsightly problem might require a solvent.

Alternative cleaning products such as citrus solvents or hydrogen peroxide cleaners can effectively break apart the gum and loosen it from the carpet fibers.

After removing gum, carpet will still be sticky and require an extractor or carpet spotter, says Simmonds. If the carpet is not rinsed out immediately, the spot will resoil and any chemical left in the carpet could have additional reactions, he says.

An alternative to freezing and solvent products is steam. Steam cleaning works on both hard flooring and carpet surfaces and can be a quicker solution, says Ron Goerne, CBSE, CEO of Service Resource and co-founder, 123 Training Systems, Bloomington, Ill. Freezing requires janitors to spray, wait and scrape, whereas steam melts the gum in a matter of seconds, he says.

From gum to glass In large cities such as San Francisco and New York, glass vandalism is a major problem. Gang members use glass cutters or other sharp instruments to tag their names into glass windows of businesses.

To remove scratches, BSCs will need a glass-scratch removal machine in order to sand the glass down to the level of the scratch. The wheel of the machine polishes the glass and a faster wheel will obviously get the job done quicker, says Dan Fields, president, Fields Construction Services Inc., Livermore, Calif., who uses a 6,000-rpm machine. He can remove a scratch in about five minutes, compared to 20 or 30 minutes for a machine with around 3,000 rpm.

The wheel’s pad heats the glass; if the window is heated too much, it can break, says Fields. To prevent breakage, pads need to be cooled with cerium oxide. Some machines have the coolant already embedded into the pad, while others require operators to add the coolant onto the pad themselves.

But this method can be messy, says Fields. When the machine is turned on, coolant typically sprays everywhere; floors and surrounding furniture will need to be masked off prior to work, he adds. Also, this method is time consuming. The operator can only polish the glass for a short while before more coolant will be needed.

Instead, Fields recommends buying a machine containing an internal bucket for the cerium oxide. This way, the coolant will constantly circulate from the bucket to the pad and back to the bucket. The pad will always remain at the correct temperature.

Sometimes, when vandals scratch glass, they push so hard that pieces of the glass will pop out around the edges of the scratch. These chips are actually three times as deep as the scratch, says Fields. Operators can remove the scratch, but the chips are best left in. Polishing the glass that deeply won’t break the glass, but it will give it a distorted, wavy look, says Fields. If owners want the chips removed as well as the scratch, then it is better to replace the window.

A problem related to glass scratching is acid graffiti. Taggers use hydrochloric acid or a glass-etching product sold in stores to write their names in the glass. The acid gives the glass a white, milky look, explains Fields. Fortunately, acid graffiti only affects the surface of the glass and can be easily removed with the machine.