Most carpet cleaning professionals are well aware of the aqueous ozone generators manufactured by several companies in the professional cleaning industry. These systems are most often brought in to treat odor problems when just about every other odor killing attempt has failed.
They recently made headlines in Washington, D.C., when Representative Paul Ryan became the new Speaker of the House. Apparently outgoing Speaker John Boehner was a chain-smoker, and even after the office was cleaned (including the carpet and upholstery) and repainted, smoke odors remained. Ozone generators were brought in, just as they have been in similar “smoky” situations, to help remove the final whiff of cigarette smoke from the office.
But now we are starting to see ozone being used for another purpose: The actual cleaning of carpet. Before going further, we should clarify that what we are referring to is the use of aqueous ozone, sometimes called ozonated water or engineered water.
How it works
Manufactured by a few different companies, the essence of how they work is essentially the same. The system mechanically infuses ozone into water. This can be done by installing a small unit under a sink, in which the ozonated water is then poured into a sprayer, or used in a caddy, which looks a lot like a carpet extractor, with wands and tool accessories for cleaning a variety of surfaces, including carpet.
The process is totally safe for the user and the environment. In fact, aqueous ozone is often referred to as “greener than green cleaning” because no chemicals are used in the process at all. After cleaning, the water and ozone simply convert back to water and oxygen.
As to their effectiveness, there is considerable documentation as to the benefits of aqueous ozone in professional cleaning. For instance, a September 2015 study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that, when used to eliminate colony-forming units of E. coli and Listeria, both potentially health- and death-risking bacteria, “there was a significant decrease in E. coli and Listeria on the treated areas.” Further, they found it was as effective as the main bacteria-killing ingredient in many hospital-grade disinfectants.
So now we know aqueous ozone is a very effective cleaner, but does that mean it can also be used to clean carpet — and do so without the use of chemicals?
Aqueous ozone in carpet cleaning
Of note, some ozonated systems have earned the Woolsafe approval, indicating they are safe and effective for cleaning wool carpet and fabrics. Additionally, an April 14, 2015 report by the National Ozone Association found the use of aqueous ozone to clean carpet “a little unexpected because [so few] understand how ozonated water works.”
However, the Association goes on to say “ozone does offer a very interesting alternative” to traditional carpet extraction, specifically because “no soap or similar chemicals” are involved. It also notes that aqueous ozone cleans using cold water, making it a more sustainable cleaning option as well as green.
The Association says that aqueous ozone works by opening up fibers so that soil can be eliminated by the ozone. They also report ozonated water “extracts many [spots and] stains that regular cleaning is unable to remove.” This is essentially why it is used in commercial laundries and why it is now being considered to clean carpet fibers.
While the Association reports it was not a professional or scientific study, they did work with one carpet cleaning technician to witness a firsthand experience of using ozone to clean carpet. According to the Modesto, CA, carpet cleaner who uses ozonated water to clean carpet:
“I’m getting stains out of the carpet without the use of chemicals… [and] the clients like the results. I know it is doing the job because…I am seeing the dirty water come out of the waste tank [and] it does not have the foul smell I’m used to. I have actually reused the [waste] water to feed their lawn.”
In your future?
While this technology is being used for a variety of cleaning tasks, at this time, its introduction into professional carpet cleaning is somewhat limited. However, three things are happening that may increase its popularity and the possibility of its expanded use in carpet cleaning. These are:
- More cleaning/carpet cleaning professionals are becoming aware of aqueous ozone cleaning.
- More advocates for green cleaning are promoting its no-chemical attributes.
- Studies, like the one mentioned earlier, are indicating it is effective.
All we can say right now is aqueous ozone does appear to be an interesting and likely effective alternative to some of the traditional cleaning solutions used in such cleaning methods as carpet extraction.