FM Articles

Taking a More Positive Look at Ozone


When we use the word “ozone,” most of us think of many different things, most of them unpleasant. For instance, the disappearing ozone layer surrounding and protecting the earth; ozone pollutants in the air we breathe; even ozone generators, which were once heavily marketed (and still may be) as indoor air purifiers. What we are finding is that there is the possibility that inhaling too much ozone from one of these systems can cause infections and respiratory problems in humans as well as animals.

So it might be difficult to accept the fact that there are some positive things to say about ozone, with many of the most promising involving cleaning. Some form of ozone generating system has been marketed in the professional cleaning industry for more than a decade. But we are seeing them play a much more prominent role in professional cleaning today.

Early systems tended to be costly, and some were manufactured to look and work like traditional sprayers used every day to perform cleaning tasks. The only problem, among others, was that these early systems weighed more than eight pounds. Compare that to a filled cleaning solution sprayer that might weigh 16 to 20 ounces, or slightly more.

But things have changed in the past few years. Manufacturers, believing the technology has promise, have developed new systems that have helped make these machines less costly, much more practical, easier to use, and able to be used on many more types of surfaces from counters and restroom fixtures to floors and carpet. Many systems have even been Green-certified, verifying they have a reduced impact on the user and the environment when compared to other types of cleaning products used for the same purpose.

The industry has even come up with a new name for these devices: onsite generation engineered water-cleaning systems. That’s a mouth full and applies to other related technologies as well. However, they all have the same feature in common: water.

For example:

  • With some systems, water is transformed into a cleaning agent using electricity. This creates what is known as Electrolyzed water. Some leading floor machine manufacturers use this technology, and it has proven useful and popular.
  • Water turned into a vapor. These systems heat tap water to temperatures above 240 degrees. Hot enough to kill most germs and bacteria along with being able to hygienically clean surfaces.
  • Water used as an indoor pressure washer. While these systems were originally designed to work with chemicals, some studies have found they are effective without cleaning solutions. Apparently, the pressurized water removes soils and contaminants from surfaces, once again leaving them hygienically clean.

And finally, water is used to make aqueous ozone. The ozone is created by adding ozone molecules to oxygen, which is then infused into water, thus the name aqueous ozone. Studies indicate these systems can help eliminate germs, odors, stains, mold, mildew, and other contaminants from most types of surfaces. Once the ozone has been applied to a surface, it essentially evaporates.


Aqueous Ozone and Sustainability
Aqueous ozone systems appear to have many benefits. First and foremost, they are proving to be effective at cleaning surfaces and removing many types of soils and contaminants. And as mentioned, some are viewed as a very Green way to clean.

And as noted earlier, they are also referred to as “on site” cleaning systems. What this relates to is the fact that the cleaning professional can use the cleaning system where needed/when needed. No going back and forth to a janitorial closet looking for supplies. According to some estimates, this can take as much as 15 minutes, which can sorely impact worker productivity.

But here are less tangible benefits that actually may be the most significant advantages of this technology. When an aqueous ozone cleaning system is used, it means:

  • No non-renewable resources are used to make aqueous ozone
  • Manufacturers do not have to use energy and resources to make cleaning solutions
  • No packaging materials are necessary to box cleaning solutions and related products
  • No waste is generated
  • No fossil fuels are needed to deliver products from one area of the country to another
  • No greenhouse gasses are released.

As you can see, these systems promote sustainability in many ways. It is because of these factors, and the other benefits mentioned earlier that many leading corporate offices, including those in the high-tech sector, are experimenting or have adopted aqueous ozone to clean their facilities.

Is Aqueous Ozone Cleaning for You?
While there are systems that can be attached directly to a water supply, so that the aqueous ozone can be poured directly into a spray bottle, for a small office or property, the answer is likely no. The system will probably not pay for itself quickly enough to appreciate its many benefits.

However, if yours is a medium to large facility such as a school or multi-tenant office building, these systems are well worth considering. They can improve worker productivity, and they help eliminate – or at least significantly minimize – the need to purchase cleaning solutions. Both factors can contribute to improving the bottom-line. This also makes the return on the investment much faster.

At the very least, you now know there is a new, very Green and very sustainable cleaning system available to consider. It’s all part of what we can expect in the future, as our Green Cleaning journey continues.

Stephen P. Ashkin is the founder of the Green Cleaning Network, a not-for profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning and president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).