Heacock’s Corner: Ozone

Heacock’s Corner: Ozone

Ozone is a gas, as well as one of the many components which make up the air we breathe. That means all of the air around you right now. Adding some ozone to the air with an ozone machine will accomplish one thing for sureā€¦ It will remove malodor molecules from the air by breaking down the odor molecules themselves.

There are a number of ozone machines on the market and they are definitely not all alike, except for the fact that they generate various amounts of ozone. Some are so small that they will only treat an area such as that found in a car, a truck, a restroom, etc. These machines have a very small output and would prove ineffective at treating an entire home, office, or store, etc.

Larger ozone machines generally have a control knob that determines the ozone’s output (from very small amounts to fairly large outputs). Their range of effective treatment can be anywhere from a single home, to restaurants, to auditoriums (depending on the cubic feet of air needed to treat). Many restaurants, bars, taverns, etc. use these machines, especially businesses that allow smoking in their establishments.

The problems associated with ozone depend on the amount added to the air. Like most anything, it can be helpful, or dangerous, depending on the amount.

Just like water, for instance. We all need some water, but too much can kill you!

Ozone can be used to control odors following a water or fire damage restoration job and depending on the severity of the problem, how much ozone is needed to remove the odors. The worse the odor, the more ozone is needed to correct the problem.

So, for small odor problems, only a slight amount is needed, and people can be present without problems. On the other hand, for severe odor removal, like that after a fire, a lot of ozone is needed, and people cannot be present where there are very large amounts of ozone.

OK, how much ozone is safe to be around, and how much is dangerous?

It all has to do with how many “parts per million” of air. Small amounts of naturally occurring ozone are present in the air, all the time. This amount is approximately 2 parts per million of air. If you have a small odor problem and add some ozone, the amount shouldn’t rise above 3 to 4 parts per million to be effective. You cannot smell the ozone when it is at 3 or less parts per million. You begin to smell it when it passes the 4 parts per million mark.

For severe cases, such as a fire, the amount of ozone from large output machines can increase to as much as 3000 to 5000 parts per million of air. This much ozone becomes dangerous, and this is what many people think of whenever ozone is mentioned, never realizing that there is ozone in the air all the time. They only know that “Ozone is dangerous!”

When there is any appreciable malodor, and a spray will not cure it, or if it is in an inaccessible location, such as, in the floor, sub floor, cement, walls, or ceilings, then a more powerful cure is needed.

How it works…

An ozone generator produces a “corona electrical discharge”, creating a gas called ozone. This gas is then distributed into the air via fans. It can also be blown under carpets with air movers. Ozone is formed with oxygen in the air. A third radical molecule is added, which not being stable, rapidly combines with anything it can adhere to, changing the composition slightly. It will combine with almost any hydrocarbon, and since the odors you smell are a gas given off from a hydrocarbon, the ozone alters that smell, along with its chemical composition.


Every living thing is based on hydrocarbons, including mildew, and bacteria. Given long enough exposure, ozone will kill living organisms, even plants and pets! Take great caution when using ozone. Keep customers and pets out, and remove fish and plants, etc. from the treated areas. Close all outer doors tightly during treatment. Put a warning sign on the outside of the door, warning not to occupy this room because of the ozone treatment going on inside. Under normal use, ozone is not dangerous. The small deodorizing equipment will not generate dangerous levels to people. A respirator is not needed when going in to shut the machine off. However, ozone can be an eye irritant, so eye protection is a good idea when going in to open all windows and doors to air the room out. A timer can be used to shut off the ozone machine at a certain hour, also.

An ozone treatment is very effective, and will penetrate walls, etc. Because it is a gas, it will go anywhere air is. For that reason, separate clothing in closets, open up cushions in furniture, open drawers, etc. to get the most effect from the circulation of the gas.

Ozone, in large amounts, has a deleterious effect on foam rubber. Remove this from the treated area, if possible. Otherwise, it will most likely have to be replaced. Small latex items can be covered with petroleum jelly.

Ozone in the air will NOT combine with water to form peroxide. While it seems possible that it might, and some people are concerned with this possibility, it simply cannot happen. First of all, there are not enough molecules of ozone in the air that might combine with water to form peroxide for this to actually occur.

At a maximum of 3000 to 5000 parts ozone PER MILLION of air, the amount needed to form peroxide is well over hundreds of thousands per million, which is simply not reachable.

Furthermore, the ozone molecules are constantly breaking down, because they are not stable in the air, or anywhere, and when they touch anything, they break apart. This “breaking apart” is what actually performs the deodorizing, and if a molecule in the air Would happen to touch a molecule of water (should peroxide form at all), it would also be unstable and break down immediately.

Like fire, ozone should not be feared so much as it should be respected for what it can do.

Gary Heacock
-The Interstellar Crossroads of The Universehttp://www.heacocks.com

Copyright 2003 Gary Heacock. All rights reserved.
Used here by permission of Gary Heacock.