Since 2005, we have researched, developed and patented ozone sanitizing technology for our clients in professional sports, universities, firefighters, law enforcement, industrial and manufacturing facilities, retail service locations and government agencies across 10 countries. There are several ways to apply this technology to sanitize and deodorize contaminated items. I am going to share with you the safest and most effective ways that we have used successfully for over 15 years.
One of the most effective ways to sanitize with ozone is via high concentration shock treatment. However, ozone gas is unsafe to breathe in high concentrations. So, ozone sanitizing treatments should only be performed in a completely enclosed area, such as a locked and sealed room, vehicle or cabinet.
Alternatively, ozone-infused water, also known as aqueous ozone, has also proven to be incredibly effective in cleaning and sanitizing non-porous, hard surface items. As awesome as ozone is in combatting pathogens and contaminants of all kinds, it does have its limitations. There are pros and cons that merit consideration in order to determine the right ozone machines to use in your sanitizing applications. Let’s dig in and I will share with you the methods for applying ozone the right way and some hazards to avoid.
Is Ozone Good or Bad for You?
Ozone is one of the most powerful disinfectants on the planet. It’s stronger than bleach and disinfects over 3,000 times faster. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate ozone’s ability to rapidly kill bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. However, several government agencies warn of the potential negative health effects of breathing in too much ozone gas. So, ozone is good in a sealed unoccupied space but bad in areas where humans or pets can breathe in high concentrations of it.
The Best Way to Use Ozone Generators
Ozone generators are generally used for two purposes: to sanitize and deodorize. Sanitizing with ozone is incredibly fast. Dwell time, the period that a disinfectant must remain in contact with a contaminant in order to kill it or render it harmless, is usually less than 30 seconds. Ozone is also a powerful deodorizer, able to get rid of smells caused by cat and dog urine, skunks, mold, smoke and even strong odors caused by cooking with exotic spices. However, treatment duration for deodorizing applications requires much longer contact times.
A common mistake made by many homeowners using ozone generators, usually rented from the local home improvement big box store, is that they used too much ozone or allowed too long exposure time. Some feel that with portable ozone generators they can just “set it and forget it”, but the unintended consequences often turn out to be damaged or faded fabrics, disintegrated rubber or leather components or a serious health scare from inadvertently breathing in a blast of ozone gas.
Safety has to be a primary consideration when using ozone. There’s no point sanitizing, deodorizing and attempting to create healthy environments but making yourself or your employees sick in the process!
With that in mind, here are the 3 safest yet most effective ways to use ozone:
- Stabilized Aqueous Ozone: Clean and Sanitize Hard Surfaces
- Inside a sealed Ozone Sanitizing Machine for porous items like PPE
- Portable Ozone Generators inside spaces like a sealed room or vehicle
Stabilized Aqueous Ozone for use on hard surfaces
Ozone has been used to treat drinking water and wastewater as far back as the late 1800’s in Europe. It does a great job of eliminating a wide variety of nasty germs, making for clean and safe drinking water free of dangerous contaminants and transforming toxic wastewater into much healthier effluent being reintroduced back into our rivers and streams. Many large cities across the globe use ozone somewhere in their wastewater treatment process thereby greatly reducing bleaches, chlorines and other toxic chemicals being released into the environment.
Many people are surprised to learn that nearly 80% of bottled water has been ozonated to improve its safety and taste. What’s even more surprising to many is that, shortly after the ozonation process, the water itself takes on disinfectant properties and can be applied to many surfaces to clean and sanitize.
For decades, ozone-powered water has been utilized as an efficient, safe, all-natural sanitizer, but it can have limitaions.
Here’s how it used to be done:
- Ozone gas would be passed through a container of water.
- After only a few minutes, the water would have enough ozone to serve as a disinfectant.
- Spray it on your counters, floors, and even your fruits and veggies; it’s EPA and FDA certified as a food-grade disinfectant,
- but ONLY for approximately 20 minutes since ozone loses its bacteria-fighting power quickly.
Wouldn’t it be nice if these disinfecting properties could be extended? Then you could put it in spray bottles, floor scrubbers, or pump sprayers to replace the expensive and hazardous chemicals that are now in use.
The team at Tersano has done it. They’ve developed a sanitizing machine that dispenses Stabilized Aqueous Ozone (SAO). Their ozone machine, the Lotus Pro, enhances the stability of ozone in water, extending the disinfecting capabilities from 20 minutes in standard aqueous ozone, to up to 24 hours! It also serves as a commercial-grade cleaner for up to 6 days, using this patented process.
In essence, they’ve created a cleaning and sanitizing solution that is food-safe, animal-safe, plant-safe, and ecologically friendly, and that can be used on virtually any surface while saving up to 80% on the chemicals you’re presently using to clean your facilities.
Their mission is to “change the way the world cleans” with this revolutionary technology. SAO is currently being used by restaurants and food facilities such as McDonald’s, Dominos Pizza, Campbell’s, and Pepsi Co. Companies and institutions like Stanford University, Ball State University, Microsoft, Google, and more.
We have partnered with Tersano distributor, Terozone, to bring you this incredibly brilliant technology.
However, as amazing as ozone-infused tap water is, and it REALLY is, not all sanitizing requirements can be adequately addressed this way. Porous surfaces, for example, are much better treated with ozone in its gaseous state.
Ozone Sanitizing Machines
Another highly effective method for treating contaminants safely with ozone is by utilizing a self-contained and sealed ozone sanitizing machine. Machines in this class typically share some basic similarities in that they generate and contain high levels of ozone within a sealed cabinet and restrict access to the inside of the machine until the treatment cycle is done and it is safe to access the items inside.
When it comes to ozone sanitizing and deodorizing, the ultimate goal is to use the right amount of ozone, over the right period of time to decontaminate items without causing damage or degradation.
For example, there is little benefit of sanitizing and deodorizing firefighter turnout gear if there is damage caused to one of the three protective layers that keep the firefighter safe from flames or steam burns, or decontaminating law enforcement tactical gear but degrading its capability to stop a bullet. No sanitizing treatments should compromise the integrity of the PPE (personal protective equipment) that emergency personnel relies on for their safety.
This is one of the key benefits of our ozone sanitizing machine, the Fresh Gear RSS (Rapid Sanitizing System).
Here’s what sets it apart from the rest. It:
- is a fully self-contained system, needing no tanks of consumables to draw from, or drains and vents of effluent or exhaust to release into the environment
- generates ozone within the machine itself by converting ambient oxygen to ozone via modularized components inside
- automatically locks access to the inside of the machine thereby allowing high concentrations of ozone to be safely used in the sanitizing process
- controls and optimizes ozone concentration levels and the length of time that items are exposed to appropriate levels of ozone
- rapidly deactivates the ozone within the machine after a treatment cycle ends but before the operator can open the machine’s doors
- has a large install base, currently in use in hundreds of locations across 10 countries
It’s about the size of a large double-door fridge and can sanitize and deodorize pretty much anything you place inside on the shelves. You can also use the optional perforated tubes and direct high-velocity ozone flow into the firefighter turnout gear, tactical gear, hockey gear or football equipment. This enables the decontamination of helmets, boots, gloves, jackets, skates and other things that are challenging to fit inside a standard washing machine or industrial extractor. It is a completely dry process, with no soaking, chemicals or consumables required.
Who uses Fresh Gear? Companies and organizations, large and small. For example, General Motors, Hershey’s, Atomic Energy Canada, US Coast Guard, professional and college sports teams, law enforcement agencies, firefighters, dry cleaners, retail hockey shops, DHS, FBI, U.S. Bureau of Prisons and a host of other federal agencies that need protective gear sanitized.
Portable Ozone Generators: Are They Safe and How Do You Use Them?
Is Breathing Ozone OK or Is It Bad For You?
It depends on the quantity or concentration of the ozone present in your space. I’m not a medical expert. I keep it simple. If the experts say not to breathe it in above a predetermined threshold, then I go with that advice. Again, why make yourself or others sick while attempting to make a space more healthy?
Here’s a list of U.S. government agency guidelines (Canada, UK and EU guidelines are similar) related to ozone exposure limits while at work:
OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- 0.1 ppm TWA (time-weighted average) for 8-hour work shift exposure
ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)
- 0.2 ppm for no more than 2 hours exposure
- 0.1 ppm for 8 hours per day exposure doing light work
- 0.08 ppm for 8 hours per day exposure doing moderate work
- 0.05 ppm for 8 hours per day exposure doing heavy work
NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- 0.1 ppm TWA (time-weighted average) for 8-hour work shift exposure
Since these limits are all measured as an average over the length of a work shift, some may reason that acute ozone exposure, for example over 10 ppm would be ok, as long as ozone levels for the rest of the shift are low enough to bring the average below 0.1 ppm. This would be incorrect. According to NIOSH, Ozone levels of 5 ppm or higher are considered to present an immediate threat to life and health. Portable ozone generators are capable of generating ozone concentration levels far above that. Putting it plainly, improper operation of portable ozone generators can pose a serious health risk.
Even in very low concentrations, ozone gas is quite easy to smell. Like any scent, some people like it some people don’t. The important thing to note is just because you can detect it with your nose, does not mean that it is at a dangerously high level and it does not mean that it is at a safe level either. The point is, your nose is not an accurate detection device when it comes to safe levels of ozone. You will need a method to monitor for safety.
How do I know if ozone levels are safe?
Ozone concentrations can vary greatly at various locations, and the concentrations are often highest in unexpected places. This is why it’s important to measure ozone at various points in the room.
Here are a few more facts to consider, according to the ozone measuring experts at Eco Sensors:
- Ozone is much heavier than air and tends to sink to lower areas.
- Ozone has a low vapor pressure and so it does not fill a space uniformly. Higher concentrated pockets can form.
- Ozone tends to cling to rough surfaces such as fabrics and breaks down (converts back to oxygen) when passing through restricted and obstructed passageways.
- Ozone reverts back to oxygen with a “half-life” (time to go to half its original amount) of 20 minutes, on average.
- Measuring instrumentation can confuse ozone with other oxidizing gases such as chlorine compounds, acid fumes, and nitric oxides (NOx). Strong “reducing” gases, such as vapors of alcohol and solvents, can reduce the apparent concentration of ozone.
With those points in mind, here are a few popular ways of detecting and measuring ozone and other gases:
- Pros: Lower initial cost
- Cons: Only provides a spot measurement for a single point-in-time. Not useful for TWA. High potential for inaccuracy if handled incorrectly.
- Capable of detecting over 500 different hazardous substances – under the right conditions.
- Here are a few tips on how to handle them correctly.
EcoZone EZ-1X Ozone Monitor
- Pros: price ($520)
- Cons: range (.02-.14 ppm), accuracy (within 20%)
- Constant monitoring. Ozone concentration is shown by a multicolored graphical display from green (safe) to yellow (caution) to red (danger).
- Fine for employee safety but not really useful for ozone shock treatments of spaces or items.
Eco Sensors UV-100 Ozone Analyzer
- Pros: accuracy (within 2%), range (01-999 ppm)
- Cons: price ($4,500), requires shipment to the manufacturer for annual recalibration
- We have used this unit extensively for our R&D and ozone sanitizing at client sites. Very accurate and dependable.
- Most other measurement devices will not go above 10ppm. Sometimes we have needed that.
How Long Should I Wait After Using an Ozone Generator?
It is well documented that ozone gas has a half-life of approximately 20 minutes. This can vary greatly depending on factors such as temperature, humidity and ambient airflow. I’ve often measured high ozone levels that in a room hours after it was shock treated. So, contrary to what some YouTube influencers will share with their adoring fandom, if they “smash” the like button and “subscribe” for more videos dispensing half-baked wisdom, it’s often not a linear equation, since ideal conditions rarely come about. More “wisdom” I’ve seen them share with their audience is to “hold their breath” when reentering a room full of ozone in order to open some windows and let the room “air out”. Bad idea. Open a window? How do you get to the window without wearing proper PPE? Are you just supposed to hope that you don’t pass out on the way to the window? Absurd.
There is no need to fear ozone, but you should understand and respect it. It’s powerful.
Here is a list of PPE (personal protective equipment) ozone generator users should always have with them:
- gloves – rubber gloves may deteriorate fast in high ozone environments. Choose a different kind.
- goggles – air-tight to the face.
- a proper mask. NOT N95, not fabric, not a scarf. None of those was made to filter out gases. You need a reusable respirator capable of filtering out harmful gases. We typically use 3M masks and filters. Well worth the investment.
How Long to Run a Portable Ozone Generator
The objective when using a portable ozone generator is the same as using an ozone sanitizing machine; use the right amount of ozone, over the right period of time to sanitize and deodorize without causing damage to the contents and materials within the space you are seeking to improve.
I highly recommend that ozone shock treatments only be performed by professionally trained ozone technicians. The information that follows is primarily intended for their use. That being said, I know that many home and car owners are intent on DIY ozone applications. This list is derived from my experience running an ozone sanitizing business and training other operators across North America for over 15 years, to do the same. It should be treated as guidelines or “swim lanes” in which to work with. Results may vary based on several factors including, temperature and humidity.
To assist with that, I have put together a table containing suggested contact times and treatment methodologies to maximize the efficacy of sanitizing and deodorizing with ozone gas and stabilized aqueous ozone (SAO). It’s important to familiarize yourself with your ozone generating, monitoring and deactivating equipment so that you can achieve repeatable, predictable results on your own.
Application | o3 concentration | Sanitizing duration | Deodorization Duration
Spaces: Cars, houses, RV’s, boats | min-4ppm / max-10ppm | 1hr | 4hrs-6hrs
Portable generators – Activo (favorite)
Items: PPE – Sports Gear (Hockey, Football, Lacrosse, Ski, Motorsports, Helmets), Firefighter Turnout Gear, Law Enforcement Tactical Gear – Fresh Gear RSS (Favorite) |
Hard Surfaces: Tables, chairs, counters, toys, electronics – SAO (favorite)
Should you use DIY Ozone Sanitizing Machines?
After considering all the factors related to the cost and safety of ozone generators, acquiring the necessary PPE, ozone monitoring and deactivation equipment, you would likely be deterred from the DIY methods of applying ozone.
It is cheaper and safer to work with a reputable ozone sanitizing service provider.
Other articles in this series will cover the following popular questions:
- Can ozone generators be used to kill mold?
- Can ozone generators be used to kill bed bugs, fleas and other insects?
- How to get rid of the smell of skunk, dog or cat urine, cigarette smoke using ozone.
- What are the best ozone generators available for the task?