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Imagine an all-purpose cleaner, sanitizer, and deodorizer that’s effective, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and made with plain tap water. Sounds too good to be true?
That’s the claim of aqueous ozone cleaners — and there might be something to it. Here’s what to understand about the science behind aqueous ozone, how these cleaners are best used, and three options to try.
Ozone is an oxygen molecule that has gained a third oxygen atom, which makes it a powerful oxidant.
While the gas form of ozone is toxic to people, infusing it in water creates what’s known as “aqueous ozone.”
This substance is not only safe, but it’s also capable of breaking down odors, soil molecules, and various bacteria and viruses, including E. coli and salmonella. That makes it an impressive sanitizer.
In fact, ozone has been used to disinfect drinking water for decades. Both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved aqueous ozone to wash fruits and vegetables. It’s also used as a commercial cleanser in places like
That third oxygen atom is produced when oxygen molecules are energized, prompting them to split. These single oxygen molecules collide with regular O2 molecules to form ozone.
In the atmosphere, this occurs with electric charges in the air.
In aqueous ozone cleaners, manufacturers recreate this scenario in a spray bottle by moving water through an electrode to generate aqueous ozone.
While the science may seem a little complex, aqueous ozone cleaners themselves are quite simple. They work like any cleaner: Just spray and wipe.
The big difference between them and chemical-based cleaners is that, because they need electricity to create their key ingredient, they must be charged before use.
You can use an aqueous ozone cleaner on all the same non-porous spots you’d use a regular cleaning solution, like:
- bathroom fixtures
- high-touch areas, like doorknobs and light switches
- tables and cutting boards
- baby toys
It’s also a safe and effective deodorizer for:
- pet messes
An added benefit is that, unlike green cleaners that may have dyes or fragrance, aqueous ozone cleaners leave no detectable chemical residue and aren’t irritating to the skin, eyes, or respiratory system.
After spraying, you might notice the faintest whiff of ozone (which is exactly what you smell in the air outside after a big thunderstorm), but there’s no long-term scent.
Like many cleaners on the market today, aqueous ozone is a sanitizer and deodorizer, not a disinfectant. It’s an important distinction.
According to the
When it comes to viruses, like the new coronavirus that causes the disease called COVID-19, be mindful about misleading claims.
As a disease, COVID-19 cannot be “killed” by a cleaning product. However, a product that claims to kill the coronavirus may be backed up by third-party lab tests. It’s worth digging into the research on each specific product that interests you.
Still, aqueous ozone cleaners shouldn’t be your only weapon if you’re worried about someone in your home contracting COVID-19.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a list of approved cleaners that have been shown to be effective against the coronavirus.
Another important note: The efficacy of aqueous ozone relates to a number of factors, including:
- ozone concentration
- ambient temperature
- humidity levels
- exposure times
This means it’s important to follow the directions on your specific cleaner.
Ozone itself can be toxic, but aqueous ozone is not. It’s generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the FDA and is typically safer than many traditional, chemical-based cleaners on the market.
It’s important to follow the directions for use, which may include wearing gloves, as you should with most cleaning products.
After spraying, many manufactures recommend letting the ozone-infused water sit for 30 seconds before wiping, or leaving to air dry. What’s left of the water will then evaporate and the ozone reverts to oxygen, without chemical residue left behind.
With no boxes or packaging beyond the bottle itself, aqueous ozone cleaners are also impressively eco-friendly.
Ozone has been used for sanitation in the food industry and clinically for years, but its use as a residential cleaning product is still relatively new.
In making our recommendations for the best aqueous ozone cleaners, we looked for certifications and third-party lab tests as a way of ensuring safety and efficacy.
Additionally, all the products were vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards. Read more about our process here.
A note on editorial testing
Sifting through product descriptions and customer reviews can be overwhelming. We’re here to make researching products easier.
In some cases, that means having our writers and editors test products to see how they perform in real life. In others, we rely on crowdsourcing reviewer feedback from retail sites.
For this review, our writer tested the O3 Waterworks cleaner, and our editor tested the Tersano iClean Mini.
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100–$150
- $$$ = over $150
- Price: $$
O3 Waterworks calls this spray cleaner “Mother Nature’s sanitizer” for all hard, non-porous surfaces. But it also cleans and deodorizes carpet, sofas, and car interiors. It’s something I had to put to the test, and my expectations were far exceeded.
I tested the cleaner in my kitchen to start. After charging for less than an hour, I filled the spray bottle with cold water — bonus that there’s nothing to mix or measure — and I aimed it at the granite countertop.
Pulling the trigger delivers an even mist of on-demand aqueous ozone, courtesy of a proprietary and patented diamond electrolytic cell. The bottle also has built-in LEDs, so you know when it’s time to charge.
Following a very successful trial run on the granite — which wiped off completely streak-free — I moved on to the stainless steel appliances. I expected streaks and watermarks, and I was stunned when the aqueous ozone cleaner left my fridge, dishwasher, and range spotless. The same was true of my windows, mirrors, and shower doors.
To test the deodorizing properties, I spritzed down our sofas and a big upholstered chair. Gone was the lingering mustiness, and it wasn’t due to a masking fragrance.
They looked bright and clean, and they had no odor at all. In a house with two dogs and four active kids, that’s really something saying.
O3 Waterworks’s sanitizing spray bottle is lab verified, but the company doesn’t specify which lab conducted the tests. Results show a 99.9 percent reductions in microorganisms including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and salmonella after 30 seconds.
The company is also EPA established and Green Seal certified.
Online reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with customers praising the sanitizing spray for its cleaning, deodorizing, and sanitizing abilities.
A few drawbacks mentioned relate to the size of the reservoir, which can mean multiple refills if you’re doing a big clean, and the bulkiness of the bottle itself. Still, I didn’t personally find either to be an issue.
According to the company, the O3 Waterworks bottle lasts up to 3 years or 600 fills.
- Price: $$$
The Tersano iClean Mini has a sleek design with a diamond electrode core to create ozonated water on demand.
Other features include a removable reservoir, an anti-skid base, a window to display water volume, and a replaceable filter designed to remove impurities.
The filter differentiates the iClean Mini from competitors. It filters minerals in your tap water for more enhanced sanitizing — but it does need replacing every 3 months.
You can use the iClean Mini on many surfaces, from kitchen and bathroom fixtures to your shoes and car interior. It’s also safe to use around pets.
It charges in 60 minutes and kills 99.999 percent of germs, according to lab results. But, like O3 Waterworks, Tersano doesn’t specify which lab conducted these tests.
In testing, Healthline Editor Chelsea Logan found the iClean Mini extremely easy to use, thanks to the sleek design. It fits well in your hand, with a button conveniently located on the front of the device, so you can just point and spray.
Since it’s tall and slim, it also takes up minimal space — less, even, than a traditional spray bottle. It also has a non-slip bottom, so you can easily keep it within arm’s reach on your countertop.
Logan tested the device on tables, kitchen counters, bathroom surfaces, and mirrors, noting that all the surfaces looked nice and clean without noticeable streaks afterward.
She also tried it on carpet, finding that the deodorizing properties delivered without a noticeable scent once dry.
Online reviewers love that the iClean Mini replaces traditional wipes and cleaners. They also enjoy its light weight and ease of use.
On the downside, some reviewers note the high price tag but do mention the return on investment — over time, it pays for itself.
Fill the HoMedics Ozone Multi-Purpose Cleaner with cold tap water, power it on, and watch the water begin bubbling. That’s the ozone generator in action.
After the cycle is complete (2 to 4 minutes), a ring will turn blue, and your sanitizer and deodorizer is ready to use on food, furniture, appliances, pet items, and more.
HoMedics links to ozone test results, but like O3 Waterworks and Tersano, the company doesn’t specify which third-party labs conducted the studies or its methodologies.
Reviewers are particularly happy about the value of the HoMedics aqueous ozone cleaner, which sometimes can be found on sale for less than $100.
However, some people note that the 2 to 4 minute delay is a little inconvenient.
An aqueous ozone cleaner can be an effective, non-toxic and sustainable alternative to harsh cleaners, which come packaged in plastic and ultimately end up in a landfill. These surprisingly versatile cleaners perform well anywhere you’d use a regular cleaner.
While the upfront cost may be high, you won’t be buying (and then throwing away) plastic spray bottles every few weeks or introducing synthetic chemicals into the environment.
You might not be able to completely replace all your cleaning supplies with aqueous ozone cleaners, but it’s a pretty good start.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.