The Oxidizing Power of Ozone
“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” – Francis Bacon
Mr. Bacon’s wisdom rings increasingly true as the rapidly changing business environment becomes more challenging every day. Successful companies and industries are committed to the ongoing search for “new remedies” and innovation. The commercial laundry industry presents an excellent example of how application of technology can mitigate significant business burdens.
Commercial laundries face several important challenges stemming from the consumption of tremendous amounts of water, energy and chemicals. The industry is confronted with escalating utilities and labor costs, shrinking profit margins and increasingly stringent health and environmental requirements. To meet these challenges, many commercial laundries have turned to ozone to reduce costs while increasing quality, satisfaction and safety.
Ozone in Brief
Ozone, the triatomic form of oxygen, is a very powerful oxidizer with nearly twice the oxidizing potential of chlorine bleach. Ozone is formed naturally during lightning storms and by ultraviolet radiation in the upper atmosphere, and is produced commercially by corona discharge and other technologies.
First isolated and named in 1840, ozone was first applied commercially in municipal water treatment in France in 1893. Ozone was later used in food preservation and disinfection in the early 1900s. In 1970 the use of ozone in bottled water processing was initiated, and the FDA approved ozone for this purpose in 1982. In 1986 the U.S. EPA approved standards for the application of ozone. Ten years later, the USDA approved ozone for use as a disinfectant. Ozone was further approved for direct food contact in 2001.
Ozone is increasingly replacing traditional chemical oxidants in a variety of processes and industries around the world. Established commercial applications for ozone include municipal water treatment, bottled water, electronics manufacturing, food processing, cooling towers, groundwater remediation and many other applications.
One of the most successful applications of ozone technology is in commercial laundries that serve hospitals, hotels, correctional facilities, nursing homes, uniform services and professional laundry companies.
Benefits of Ozone Laundry Systems
Ozone has been successfully applied in commercial laundry for more than five years. Installations of ozone laundry systems are growing due to the
- Decreased water consumption
- Energy savings
- Lower labor costs
- Reduced consumption of detergent and other chemicals
- Faster cycle times
- Increased linen quality and durability
- Reduced linen inventory
- Safer working conditions
- Greater customer satisfaction
By cutting water temperature, rinse cycle and drying requirements, ozone laundry systems yield substantial energy savings. The oxidative potential of ozone is maximized in cold water. Cold ozonated water rapidly and thoroughly oxidizes dirt and body oils in light-soil applications such as hotel laundry. For such applications, hot water use can be slashed by up to 95%. Hot water may still be necessary to break down oils and grease in heavy-soil applications, and ozone facilitates this interaction.
Ozone also expands and opens fibers by lowering the surface tension of water, which accelerates the rinsing and preliminary drying steps. This provides laundry operators the choice of reducing dryer heat or shortening drying time. As energy costs soar, cutting hot water as well as rinsing and drying requirements is more and more valuable.
Ozone quickly and thoroughly destroys viruses, bacteria, cysts and organic materials. The oxidizing power of ozone substantially lowers laundry chemical demands and costs by eliminating the need for chemical oxidants and amplifying the effectiveness of detergents. As mentioned above, ozone can eliminate the need for detergent in lightly soiled laundry.
Ozone also improves the effectiveness of detergents by oxidizing the minerals that cause water hardness, thereby reducing overall surfactant use. Furthermore, ozone penetrates fabrics and opens fabric structures for deep cleaning, enhancing the effectiveness of detergents.
Decreased chemical storage and use also improves laundry work environments and safety.
Reductions in water consumption and cycle times are achieved in ozone laundry systems by reducing or eliminating detergent usage and improving rinse and extraction effectiveness. Detergent removal normally requires multiple rinse cycles for each load. Ozone expands and opens fabric fibers, accelerating the rinsing and preliminary drying steps, which yields fewer and shorter rinse cycles. Ozone also neutralizes detergents and lowers the surface tension of rinse water, increasing the effectiveness of rinse cycles. As a result, corresponding water use and laundry cycle times are greatly reduced.
The productivity of laundry workforce is amplified in ozone-enhanced laundries due to shorter laundry cycle times that yield more loads per shift. In addition, labor-intensive rewashes are decreased by the reduction of chemical residue and the superior cleaning power provided by ozone. The cold-water power of ozone can cut sorting time by allowing white linens to be washed with colored fabrics. Less chemical and mechanical stress on fabrics lowers lint production, which reduces the frequency of lint trap clearing and fire danger.
Fabric quality and color of fabrics can deteriorate from the combination of very hot water, chlorine bleach and chemical buildup on fabric. The natural gentle bleaching ability of ozone preserves white fabrics while leaving fabric colors undamaged. Reducing exposure to heat and detergent extends linen life, thereby reducing turnover inventory investment and storage.
Laundry operators gain unprecedented control over cycle times, water temperature, and labor, which can be leveraged to suit their business needs. As noted above, linen inventories may be reduced by the cycle time savings provided by ozone laundry systems. This effect is particularly pronounced in premium linens in the hotel industry. While high thread-count linens do provide improved guest experience and satisfaction, they are heavy and reduce the per-room efficiency of the laundry. The cycle time savings generated through the application of ozone can amplify per-room laundry efficiency and minimize costly inventory investments.
Choosing to Adapt
To paraphrase Francis Bacon, innovate or face the consequences. Many in the commercial laundry industry have chosen to adapt to the challenges of their business environment by applying ozone—a technology that’s been commercially available for more than a century—as a “new remedy” with great success.