Ozone Disinfecting: An Overview

As a disinfecting agent, the power of ozone can be harnessed quite literally from thin air. While it is widely used as an alternative to chlorine within the wastewater treatment industry, ozone disinfection is gaining traction within the wider cleaning sector. While it is versatile and dynamic, this method of disinfection can only be effective when fully understood and correctly utilised.

What is Ozone Disinfecting?

As the name suggests, ozone disinfecting involves the use of ozone, a gas normally found within the atmosphere of the Earth.  As Live Science explains, “Ozone is a pale blue gas composed of three oxygen atoms bonded together. It occurs naturally high up in the Earth’s atmosphere, where it protects the surface from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays unless dissipated by natural or human phenomena.”  The outlet adds that, when found at the ground level, ozone is noted to be a pollutant.   

Analytica Technology also observes that – while ozone does occur naturally  it can also be created or artificially manufactured by running an electric current through oxygen to create ozone.  These ozone molecules are highly reactive and  when they come into contact with microorganisms  will destroy pathogens on contact.  When ozone is manufactured, “Ozonizers and ozone generators are just a few of the machines that generate ozone. These machines can be used as an air and water purifier by destroying bacteria and other toxins,” it states.  These machines, the outlet further explains, can be used to purify air and water.   

How Does Ozone Disinfection Work?

America’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a technical insight into how ozone works as a disinfecting agent.  During the ozone disinfection process, it explains that, “…bacteria are destroyed because of protoplasmic oxidation resulting in cell wall disintegration…”.  The agency further clarifies that this disintegration leads to cell leakage and, ultimately, to the destruction of a pathogen at a cellular level.   

As a disinfection method, ozone is widely utilised to remove harmful microorganisms from wastewater in order to render it safe for drinking.  CleanLink acknowledges that the use of ozone within the cleaning sector is a fairly new phenomenon.  Ozone disinfecting, it explains, “…is a way to produce cleaning and or sanitising/disinfecting solutions on site and on demand, rather than go the traditional route of ordering from a distributor or buying products in a store. It is also a way to remove chemical fragrances and dyes from the cleaning and infection control products.” 

For cleaning professionals and facilities teams seeking to utilise ozone disinfection technology within their premises, the outlet explains that aqueous ozone  which can be obtained via either a filling station or from a mobile unit in a solution form  can be used to clean, deodorise and disinfect a premises or a site. 

Ozone Disinfecting: Benefits and Disadvantages

As a method of disinfection, there are both benefits and disadvantages to using ozone as an agent to kill or eliminate harmful pathogens. The government of the Canadian province of Manitoba offers a comprehensive round-up of both here and is especially relevant to a food processing setting.  As noted by the EPA, the production of ozone  to be used in any application  requires only the presence of oxygen or air.  It is also noted that ozone can also be more effective than chlorine at killing microbes. CleanLink also adds that, “Because aqueous ozone is not stable for long periods of time, it needs to be continuously made and used in order to guarantee aqueous ozone levels are always at the concentration needed to clean effectively.” 

In terms of the disadvantages of the use of ozone as a disinfectant, the EPA states that, “The effectiveness of disinfection depends on the susceptibility of the target organisms, the contact time, and the concentration of the ozone,” a sentiment echoed by Health Europa.  Microbiology of Waterborne Diseases observes that, in comparison to other methods of disinfection – including chlorination  ozone disinfection can be more costly.  Finally, CleanLink also advises hygiene professionals that ozone  especially in its aqueous form  is only stable for a short time and so should be used quickly in order to be effective. 

Generated from nothing more than thin air into a powerful disinfectant, ozone has the potential to be an impressive tool in a cleaner’s kit.  When used correctly, it can be deployed in multiple settings and applied to multiple surfaces, offering hygiene professionals a versatile method of disinfection to suit a wide variety of environments.   

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