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Being Prepared: A Better #Sanitizer

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Now more than ever, it's time for an hygiene upgrade. What if I told you there was a #sanitizer more powerful than bleach, safer to your body, NSF + FDA approved to even use on food, sustainable, space saving, and best of all, you'll not run out of it anytime soon?

Because if there's anything we've learned about this current COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we are not ready. As individuals, many of us have underestimated, even scoffed at the importance of careful and consistent hygiene and have been slow to adopt practices and habits that can protect both ourselves and each other from diseases and illnesses. As a country, we have not invested nearly enough in our health and safety, with not enough beds, supplies, ventilators, test kits, making it impossible to do even basic pandemic control measures like contact tracing (figuring out who's had contact with infected individuals), something that all the places that have been successful in controlling the outbreak have been able to do. If the haunting narratives recently published in the New York Times of what it's like living with and taking care of a sick loved one, as well as the devastating reality in Italy of a healthcare system that has been completely overrun by COVID-19 are not loud enough wake up calls, the cost we'll pay as a nation in the coming weeks, in our economic loss and more tragically, in American lives, will show us of that what we've been doing is not good enough. There are better ways to do things, better technologies that can help us try to get ahead of sicknesses, better systems we could have in place - we simply haven't been looking for them, haven't been willing to invest in them.

I only learned about this type of sanitizer about a year ago. But it wasn't until about a month ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic was exploding around the world and taking root in the US, with Purell and Clorox wipes commanding astronomical prices or just nowhere to be had, that I took another look. The more I researched, the more I realized this is something that needs to be shared, and made available, especially in these times.

Why so special? This type of sanitizer:

- Equals or outperforms the disinfectants for many of the products from popular brands like Purell, Lysol and Clorox at killing viruses

- Has been used for decades in commercial and industrial applications to sanitize surfaces of bacteria, viruses, molds, mildew, protozoa and spores

- Is government approved as no-rinse, organic sanitizer, FDA approved to be safe enough to use directly on food

- Is gentle on the body - does not cause skin irritation or noxious fumes that burns your eyes and lungs

- Can be produced in a handheld, rechargeable device that can continue to generate solution on demand, to up to 4000 liters of solution before needing to be replaced

- Is sustainable, with no chemical residues dumped into our oceans and soil, as well as eliminating the equivalent of hundreds of plastic bottles over its lifetime

Ladies and gents, meet aqueous ozone.

More Powerful than Chemicals

Aqueous ozone (not to be confused with gaseous ozone) is when ozone gas is dissolved into water. Ozone has stronger oxidizing capability than bleach, which is what allows it to be a powerful disinfectant, and aqueous ozone has the additional advantage of being effective at fairly low concentrations that very safe for humans.

How effective? Lets benchmark it against familiar household brands. Taken from EPA's List N of Disinfectants for use against COVID-19*:

Virus Type** -> Contact time in minutes to effectively eliminate virus

Norovirus/Norwalk Virus

- Lysol® Disinfectant Max Cover Mist -> 10 min

- Lysol® Disinfectant Spray -> 10 min

- PURELL Professional Surface Disinfectant Wipes -> 5 min

vs Aqueous Ozone -> 30 seconds


- Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach -> 10 min

- Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes -> 10 min

- Lysol Brand Heavy Duty Cleaner Disinfectant Concentrate -> 5 min

- Clorox Commercial Solutions® Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes -> 4 min

- Lysol Brand Cling & Fresh Toilet Bowl Cleaner -> 30 Seconds

vs Aqueous Ozone -> less than 10 seconds

Hepatitis A Virus

- Clorox Commercial Solutions® Clorox® Disinfecting Spray -> 10 min

- Lysol Brand Lime & Rust Toilet Bowl Cleaner -> 10 min

- CloroxPro™ Clorox® Germicidal Bleach -> 5 min

- Clorox Healthcare® Bleach Germicidal Cleaner Spray -> 1 min

vs Aqueous Ozone -> less than 10 seconds


- Clorox Commercial Solutions® Clorox® Disinfecting Spray -> 10 min

- Lysol Brand Power Plus Toilet Bowl Cleaner -> 10 min

- Lysol Brand Lime & Rust Toilet Bowl Cleaner -> 10 min

- Clorox Clean Up Cleaner + Bleach -> 5 min

- CloroxPro™ Clorox® Germicidal Bleach -> 5 min

- Lysol Bathroom Cleaner -> 5 min

- Clorox Healthcare® Bleach Germicidal Cleaner Spray -> 1 min

vs Aqueous Ozone -> less than 10 seconds***

Feline Calicivirus

- Clorox Commercial Solutions® Clorox® Disinfecting Spray -> 10 min

vs Aqueous Ozone -> 30 seconds

As you can see, there is a dizzying array of variously branded products, including wipes, sprays, toilet bowl cleaners, which all vary in virucidal performance. The one constant is that aqueous ozone consistently has superior effectiveness, across multiple strains of viruses. See this easy summary of the pathogen "kill sheet" on Aqueous Ozone by 3rd party published scientific studies, as well as certifications from NSF, Green Clean Institute, EPA, FDA, and USDA.

Indeed, this technology has been known and in use in specific commercial and industrial settings for decades as a potent broad spectrum disinfectant capable of handling viruses, bacteria, yeast, molds, spores and protozoa.

Does such powerful germ-killing killing capability come at a cost to health? We've all been subject to the fumes of cleaners like chlorine and ammonia. Even alcohol produces fumes in large quantity, not to mention the irritation to skin and eyes.

Safe for Us, Safe for the Environment

Aqueous ozone is ozone (O3) dissolved into water, and is an extremely potent oxidizing agent because the extra oxygen molecule is an unstable molecule that readily reacts microbes, bacteria, viruses etc to inactivate them. What's left is O2, which is just normal oxygen, and water. If left alone, the instability means that aqueous ozone will revert back to just oxygen and normal water in 15-30 minutes.

That is what allows it to be NSF Whitelisted as a "no-rinse cleaner and sanitizer", which may sound pretty good as you're contemplating making dinner on the same countertop you just sanitized earlier with, say, ammonium laden toilet bowl cleaner. A study from Food Science & Technology International even found that treatment with aqueous ozone solutions removed roughly twice as much pesticides on potatoes than using water alone. Given that aqueous ozone is FDA approved to be used directly on foods without worrying about residues (because it reverts back to normal water and oxygen), it can be sprayed directly to clean fruits and produce to remove pesticides, as well as help protect yourself from periodic viral and bacterial contaminations like salmonella (the most recent spinach recall was less than 2 months ago), or these days, the possibility that someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19 might just have handled your groceries or your Amazon package.

Even outside the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak, those with young children or pets, or skin allergies, might be concerned with bleach or other chemical residue exposure from regular use in the home. In the context of a pandemic, where more frequent cleaning/sanitizing of our hands and high-touch surfaces or objects may be necessary, this is doubly true. Some people try to avoid chemicals by using natural remedies that have unproven or inferior germicidal capability and instead run the risk of their family getting sick. With aqueous ozone there is simply no compromise needed. The ability to effectively kill bacteria, viruses, mold, fungi, spores, protozoa and remove pesticides on even fruits and vegetables without harsh chemicals that leave a toxic residue provides additional peace of mind that other disinfectants can't offer.

A study published in Journal of Hospital Infection found this type of solution slightly more effective than 85% alcohol-based rub, but without causing the irritation ("burning/dryness") that 20% of participants experienced with the alcohol rub. (Breidablik HJ, Lysebo DE, Johannessen L, Skare Å, Andersen JR, KleivenOT, Ozonized water as an alternative to alcohol-based hand disinfection, Journal of Hospital Infection)

Hear what University of Wisconsin has to say about the results, and what Ball State University has to say about the health and environmental benefits.

It is important to note here the difference between aqueous ozone, and gaseous ozone. Gaseous ozone also has germicidal properties, but unlike aqueous ozone, at the concentrations necessary for it to be effective as an airborne germicide, it would also be a respiratory irritant. So do not attempt to use ozone gas generator, just like you wouldn't try to sanitize a room's surfaces with bleach fumes. Stick to using the liquid aqueous ozone.

Always Prepared, Never "Out of Stock"

If you didn't care about the potent, broad spectrum germicidal properties, the absence of chemicals that can irritate skin, eyes, or cause poisoning if ingested, or the ability to use on food to remove contaminants like bacteria, viruses and pesticides, you might be fine sticking with traditional disinfectants... except that right now, in the middle of a global public health crisis, disinfectants are in short supply. Sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, alcohol were one of the first products to be sold out in the run on supplies, and first to see prices skyrocket.

It's still possible to find a questionable 1 liter bottle of Ethyl Alcohol for about $60:

Even half liters of alcohols containing methanol, which is highly poisonous and can be absorbed through the skin, are "#1 Bestsellers" right now going for $24 a bottle.

In many cases, anything labelled capable of killing germs, including toilet bowl cleaners, are all simply "Out of Stock" and cannot be had:

But it doesn't have to be like that. If you value the convenience and peace of mind of having a renewable supply of skin-safe, food-safe, extremely powerful broad spectrum disinfectant always ready at home, and never want to worry about how empty the shelves are in the supermarket, or how everything is out of stock online, aqueous ozone is your solution (no pun intended).

Because aqueous ozone reverts back to water within 15-30 minutes, it cannot be stored - instead, a device generates it on demand. And the ingredients required are extremely simple - cold water, oxygen from the air, and electricity to run the device. All should be readily available even if you're sick or quarantined at home and don't want to step foot out of your house, whether to stay healthy yourself or to "flatten the curve" for others. Because really, is it the smartest thing to do to crowd into a packed supermarket or Costco during an infectious diseases outbreak?

Most models that have been around the market are large capacity solution generators for institutional/commercial use, or in commercial production lines. But there are a few new generation models that are now available, that are compact, portable and incredibly suited for personal and home use. The most convenient home-use type of technology today, including the model that we've started to carry, is a spray bottle device takes normal cold tap water and using the built-in system, creates an ozone solution that is sprayed out to be used immediately and directly to disinfect and sanitize surfaces (say, your counters, cutting boards, even your gym shoes that are getting funky).

In today's COVID-19 pandemic, it can also be sprayed on cloths and towels to wipe and sanitize hi-touch surfaces like your cell phone, keys, laptop, lights switches, door knobs and handles. You can use it as liberally and as frequently as you want, without need to ration it for fear you'll run out.

There is an upfront cost of $250-$500 depending on the exact model. Over the long run though, the unit is capable of generating some 3000-4000 liters of sanitizing solution, making the average cost per liter just a little over $1, which is a good investment, especially considering that a liter of alcohol is currently going for $60 (or is not available at all). That's not even considering all the other advantages it has over alcohol, bleach and all the other traditional disinfectants. Whether you want to protect the planet or your family from toxic chemicals, whether you believe in being sustainable and want to stop buying bottle after bottle, or are minimalist and want to save space, whether you want a disinfectant versatile and gentle enough to use all the time, or something powerful and readily available in times of crises, or just want a good value, this simply checks all the boxes.


We are lucky that COVID-19 is not a particularly hardy virus. Viruses are generally categorized as small un-enveloped, large un-enveloped, and enveloped, with small un-enveloped viruses like rotaviruses being the hardest to kill, and enveloped viruses like coronaviruses being the easiest. If the next novel virus outbreak is a hardier virus like rotaviruses or noroviruses, which can sicken people not just from hand-to-mouth transmission but also through contaminated food and water, and can actually stay active on surfaces for weeks if not sanitized, would we be ready? Studies have shown that "touching a surface can sweep up millions of viral particles in just a few seconds" and that on average, people touch their face around 16 times an hour, often unconsciously. Even "wimpy" viruses like coronaviruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 3 - 9 days. Extend that time to weeks, and suddenly the risk infection spread from a sick worker at Amazon or a factory that handles hundreds or thousands of items a day, to be shipped all over the country, is amplified many times over.

Unquestionably, the government needs to do more. But we should as individual members take to heart what we personally can and should do to improve our chances of staying healthy. This is true even after this outbreak is over, because complacency and overconfidence is what got us here in the first place.


* The EPA specifically notes their list is not exhaustive, and that "there may be additional disinfectants that meet the criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2" but are not listed. Aqueous ozone is a good example as usually it is sold as a device and not as a solution.

** The viruses listed are all un-enveloped viruses, a class of viruses which are harder to kill than coronaviruses, which are classed as enveloped viruses. For a clear explanation why that criterion is used, see here. That is also why alcohol is not a common ingredient on that list, because it takes longer contact times to kill these hardier viruses, and alcohol evaporates quickly.

*** Herbold K., Flehmig B., Botzenhart K. (1989) Comparison of ozone inactivation, in flowing water, of hepatitis A virus, poliovirus 1, and indicator organisms. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 55:2949–2953.

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