At ECS, our fire restoration technicians keep a large toolbox of tricks, equipment, chemicals and specialized tools for handling contents cleaning and deodorization jobs. While no two projects are the same, every home or business comes with such a diversity of materials that no one method will ever get the job done. Some items, like hard furniture and non-porous collectibles, respond best to a two-part liquid degreasing and deodorization process, using water and a mixture of safe solvents. Jewelry, ceramics, glassware and dishes can also be restored through our ultrasonic cleaning system. Other situations require a heavy amount of vacuuming and dry wiping with non-abrasive sponges before a liquid is ever applied. But there are still other more delicate contents that should never be saturated during any part of the cleaning process, like mattresses and pillows, fabric sofas, curtains, and paper documents. Our solution for effectively deodorizing these items is the use of an ozone generator in our facility’s deodorization chamber.
What is Ozone?
Ozone is a highly unstable arrangement of three oxygen atoms. This compound is formed when an oxygen molecule containing two oxygen atoms (O2) is placed in a highly energized environment, whether through electricity or from ultraviolent rays such as those given off by the sun. As its name suggests, the states conducive to ozone production occur in nature through both of the aforementioned means. In the upper atmosphere, the ultraviolent rays from the sun excite the oxygen molecules to the point where they are split up into individual atoms. The atoms then reform into triplets of oxygen called ozone, which in turn depletes 80% of the same ultraviolent rays that would otherwise wreak havoc on our bodies, causing severe sunburn, skin cancer and even blindness. The same pulling apart and recombining of oxygen happens during a thunderstorm when lightning passes through the air, exciting the molecules in much the same way. The fragrant and fresh-smelling property of residual ozone is also the reason why the air always smells so fresh after a heavy rain.
How does an Ozone Machine Work?
There are a large number of different types of ozone machines on the market today which use a mechanical form of either ultraviolent radiation or electricity to achieve the deodorizing and decontaminating effects of this unique arrangement of oxygen. The use of ozone can be traced back to the late 1800’s, when it was first used as a means of disinfecting drinking water. Today they are used in many different applications, including seawater purification, mold and algae prevention in pools, aquariums and spas, and even as a means of preserving fruits and meats and flowers during shipment and storage. Many European countries use ozone as a safer alternative to chlorine, and its water disinfecting and sterilizing abilities are slowing catching on in the States as well.
Because of its unstable nature, ozone cannot be stored for later use and must be generated on- site at the time of deodorization or sterilization. This is where the need for containment comes in, since concentrated ozone is hazardous to our respiratory systems, and effective deodorization requires that the machine run for several hours in a closed and unoccupied environment with mild temperatures and air circulating throughout the chamber. Also, since ozone is heavier than regular oxygen, the generator must be positioned higher than the items it will clean and deodorize. An added step we take is to set up air movers or blowers throughout the chamber to maximize deodorization and sterilization. Ozone destroys odor in the same way that it destroys harmful microbial contaminants and viruses—through oxidation. The extra oxygen molecule attaches itself to the organic odor-causing compounds buried in your contents and a form of chemical burning takes place in which the compound is destroyed on the molecular level, leaving your mattress unharmed. After the designated deodorization period, we ventilate the chamber, allowing the extra ozone to escape along with any residual odors. Depending upon the nature and severity of the odor, a chemical deodorization process such as thermal fogging may follow the ozone stage to ensure that the contents are completely deodorized.
Since our early days of ozone experimentation, technicians and customers alike have been consistently amazed at the ozone machine’s ability to quickly and efficiently eliminate odors in delicate and moisture-sensitive items, much to the dismay of some chemical manufacturers. Its further advantages of being clear and colorless, along with having very little residual odor at the right concentration make it a great choice for many of our specialty restoration cleaning needs. It should be noted, however, that some heavy odor situations might still require an additional step for complete deodorization, since we always like to leave your contents smelling not only fresh, but slightly more fragrant than before, without all the mess of a heavy downpour.