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. 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.
4. 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.