1. What is ozone?

Ozone is an allotropic, triatomic form of oxygen. In other words it is a molecule of oxygen that has three atoms (O3) instead of the usual two (O2). Ozone is an unstable form of oxygen that is produced by nature to cleanse the atmosphere. The fresh clean smell after a thunderstorm, or at a surf beach, or near a waterfall is partly due to ozone. It is also found in a thin layer around the earth that protects us from the strength of the sun. (The width of the ozone layer in the stratosphere is about 40km, but if it was at sea level it would only be 3mm thick.) Ozone was discovered over 100 years ago and has been used ever since to disinfect drinking water, swimming pools and for air cleaning and freshening. There has been a dramatic increase in the use of ozone for medical and industrial applications in the last twenty years; however it has only been the last ten years that ozone has been making its mark in laundry use, with decidedly dramatic results.

2. How does ozone disinfect and clean?

This third oxygen atom is loosely attached or 'unstable' and can easily separate from the ozone molecule to combine with other substances thereby readily decomposing or changing them into other compounds. In a laundry machine the ozone will directly destroy organic compounds but ozone in water also produces hydroxyl radicals. The hydroxyl radical is one of the most powerful and fastest oxidizing agents known, and is primarily the reason why the use of ozone produces such brilliant whites and colours and is so effective at killing micro-organisms.

3. Is ozone dangerous?

Ozone is a natural gas and in the low concentrations used in industry does not have any effect on humans. Ozone is being used in many countries for medical purposes and is very effective for certain treatments. It is also used for disinfection of drinking water, cooling towers, swimming pools and spas, sewerage treatment, air cleaning and many other industries. Ozone in high concentrations can be harmful, just as concentrated oxygen can also be harmful. Low levels of ozone are completely safe. Of course it is not common sense to breath in concentrated ozone or any concentrated gas including oxygen. There have not been any human deaths attributed to ozone usage since 1885.

4. Is ozone the same as "SMOG"?

"Smog" is air pollution and is virtually the opposite of ozone. Smog was originally coined to describe a combination of smoke and fog. Nowadays it means dirty air created by pollutants. Smog is largely composed of harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide. There is a theory that if we could generate just the right amount of ozone in the atmosphere it would actually help to clean up smog.

5. If I use ozone in my laundry, will it help replenish the ozone layer?

Not directly. Ozone dissipates within minutes. Any ozone molecules that escape into the atmosphere will clean up the air in the laundry and in doing so leave no residual ozone. However when using ozone we reduce the energy used to heat water, therefore one 22kg washing machine will mean a reduction of over 12 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas CO2 !

6. Will ozone corrode the laundry equipment?

No. Ozone laundry systems use minute amounts of ozone and will not do any harm to machinery.

7. Does ozone have an odour?

Yes. Depending on the concentration, the odour ranges from slightly sweet to hospital clean. A customer recently likened the smell of ozone to “melting snow”. (Melting snow does actually produce very small amounts of ozone!)

8. Will ozone kill bacteria?

Yes. It is regarded as the second most effective disinfectant in the world and kills an enormous variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, spores etc.

9. How is ozone different from chlorine?

Ozone purifies water and air very quickly and efficiently, 3,000 times faster than chlorine. Ozone leaves no by-products except pure oxygen. In contrast, chlorine leaves a chemical by-product called hypochloric acid, and once in the waste stream chlorine breaks down to salts which stay in the environment. According to Wikipedia - Hypochlorite is a strong oxidizer, and the products of the oxidation reactions are corrosive, and can burn skin and cause eye damage, particularly when used in concentrated forms. Hypochlorite must not be mixed with organic materials (e.g. dirt), as the resulting trihalomethanes are carcinogenic. The extent of the hazard thus created is a subject of disagreement.

10. How is ozone produced?

Ozone can be produced in a variety of ways but for industrial applications ozone is produced either by ultraviolet light in a similar fashion to the production of ozone by the sun, or by corona (electrical) discharge similar to the way lightning produces ozone during a lighting storm.