Should Housekeepers Clean Without Chemicals?

February 24, 2017 | cleancore | Filed Under: Aqueous Ozone information, Blog, Industry Articles, Trade Magazine stories

aqueous ozone cleaning

A hotel chain was looking for ways to reduce cleaning-chemical supply use, minimize supply costs, operate more sustainably, and decrease its overall environmental footprint in its several four-star and five-star hotels. Looking at a variety of options and alternatives to traditional and green cleaning solutions, the hotel chain decided its most viable option was the use of what are called aqueous ozone cleaning systems.

The chain has been using the cleaning systems for all types of cleaning duties, from cleaning guest rooms and bathrooms, public washrooms, and glass to wood and ceramic floors and carpet. While aqueous ozone is not viewed as a disinfectant, at least not in the United States, the hotel chain representatives say they do use aqueous ozone to sanitize surfaces in order to help reduce the number of potentially harmful pathogens on a variety of “high-touch” surfaces. *

Overall, the hotel has been very impressed with the cleaning effectiveness of aqueous ozone, and a hotel spokesperson indicates, “We quickly noted a dramatic decline in ‘spend’ on [cleaning] chemicals as well as reducing the time spent cleaning.” Additionally, the spokesperson says the hotel no longer must have its housekeepers attend stringent chemical safety training programs. They are no longer needed because aqueous ozone is not considered a hazardous chemical that can negatively impact the health of users such as housekeepers.

Well, if aqueous ozone has worked so well in this high-class hotel chain, maybe other hotel chains, as well as other hospitality properties and also medical facilities, should look into it. Let us now examine aqueous ozone so we better understand what it is and what may be causing all the hullabaloo.

Aqueous Ozone History in the Making

Recently, CleanCore, one of just a few manufacturers of aqueous ozone cleaning systems in North America, released an “aqueous ozone timeline.” The timeline indicated what is now known as aqueous ozone was first discovered in the late 1700s and was first put to use, to treat water so that it would be potable (drinkable), by the 1850s. In fact, according to the timeline, Nice, France, began treating all of its city water using aqueous ozone by 1906 and the system is still active today.

This tells us aqueous ozone is certainly not new and, if it is used to treat drinking water, must be safe. In the past 20 years or so, its safety and effectiveness have been proven beyond a doubt. Again referencing the timeline, in the early 2000s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the use of aqueous ozone to clean and sanitize fruits and vegetables. As to the housekeeping and professional cleaning industries, last year Green Seal certified the solution made by aqueous ozone cleaning systems. This certification once again verifies the safety and effectiveness of aqueous ozone in cleaning and also confirms that when compared to traditional cleaning chemicals, the solution has a reduced impact on the environment.

Aqueous Ozone: What It Is and How It’s Made

Most of us are familiar with ozone, a naturally occurring gas, but what exactly is aqueous ozone? If ozone exists naturally in the atmosphere, how can aqueous ozone be mechanically made? These are just two of the many questions people have about aqueous ozone. Please put on your thinking caps and I will try to make this as easy to understand as possible.

Ozone is created naturally in the atmosphere when sunlight adds an extra oxygen atom to air molecules. It can also be created mechanically through the interaction of electricity and oxygen. When this ozone is then infused into water, it creates aqueous ozone, sometimes also known as liquid ozone, because it is now in a liquid state.

With me so far? This is actually fairly simply physics. So why has it taken nearly 300 years for aqueous ozone to be used for cleaning? The problem has been that ozone is unstable, meaning it returns to oxygen quickly. In order for it to be effective in cleaning, technology had to be developed to make ozone more consistent and stable. That technology has come about in the past 20 years and with it, the slow but steady introduction of aqueous ozone cleaning systems into the professional cleaning industry.

With this clarified, we’ve asked Matt Montag with CleanCore Technologies some of the other more frequent questions users and housekeepers have about aqueous ozone. His answers follow.

How does aqueous ozone work in cleaning?

When applied to surfaces, directly from a machine or through a sprayer, the aqueous ozone attacks and breaks down soils and contaminants that can then be wiped away. It also attacks germs and bacteria by breaking down cell walls which aids the cleaning process by reducing contaminates.

What surfaces can be cleaned with aqueous ozone?

Virtually all surfaces now routinely cleaned in a facility can be cleaned using aqueous ozone. However, it should not be used where a disinfectant is called for or required.

What happens to the aqueous ozone after application?

Once the aqueous ozone is applied to the surface, it begins to interact with soils and contaminants. Any “unused” aqueous ozone then converts back to oxygen and water. But this is not necessarily a quick process.

Should you wear gloves and goggles?

While it is not necessary specifically when using aqueous ozone cleaning systems, it is always advised to wear gloves and professional eye gear when cleaning.

On-Site Generation

As this technology evolves, a new terminology has developed in the professional cleaning industry and that is “on-site generation,” also called on-demand cleaning. While this term could apply to some traditional cleaning products, we are seeing it used predominantly by manufacturers of aqueous ozone cleaning systems as well as manufacturers of electrolyzed water and similar technologies that convert water into a cleaning agent.

Although these systems do differ, they share many of the same on-site generation cleaning benefits, such as allowing cleaning workers to have more efficient access to cleaning solutions when and where needed. This obviously has an added benefit, referenced earlier in our UK hotel chain example, of enhancing worker productivity considerably and reducing cleaning times.

For housekeeping administrators now considering the use of an aqueous ozone cleaning system, Montag makes the following suggestion: start a pilot program. Purchase one or two systems to be used in specific areas of a hotel or medical facility and analyze the results. To do this he says:

  • Test surfaces for appearance as well as the removal of pathogens using an ATP monitoring system after cleaning.
  • Interview housekeepers regarding their thoughts on using these cleaning technologies. (Easy to use? Likes? Dislikes? Benefits?)
  • See if the use of these machines has reduced cleaning costs.

“When switching to any new cleaning technology, it is very important to get staff ‘buy in,’” says Montag. “Taking these steps will tell you if aqueous ozone is something your facility should consider and help all cleaning workers adopt to the new technology.”

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries.


* Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level. As to the actual percentages, when sanitizing surface microorganisms will be reduced by 99.9 percent; disinfection is 99.999 percent and sterilizing is 100 percent. In all cases the proper products must be used, used correctly, and the surfaces should be properly cleaned before sanitized/disinfected/sterilized.


Sidebar: The Four Different Types of Ozone

Stratospheric ozone is six to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface and helps reduce the amount of harmful UV radiation that reaches the planet.

Tropospheric ozone is ground-level ozone and can be harmful. It may contain a number of pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and other potentially harmful particulates. Smog or haze is a form of tropospheric ozone.

Ambient ozone refers to the ozone we breathe, typically outside. Ambient ozone is monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and as long as it is within a certain range, it is considered safe.

Aqueous ozone is ozone that has been mechanically infused into water, turning it into a natural oxidizer that can be used to clean surfaces, fixtures, floors, and even carpet. We do not breathe aqueous ozone.