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Hydroxyl vs Ozone Generators - What’s the Difference?

Posted by Tom McArdle on 4/15/20

In the restoration world, odor removal is something we deal with every day. Ozone and hydroxyl generators are the two main options to get the job done. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides, and we’re going to talk about them here. 

Before we dive in, let’s remember that both hydroxyl and ozone generators will remove odors from spaces, they will just do it differently. 

Ozone Generators

Ozone generators produce a gas called “ozone” to deodorize airborne particles in a residential or commercial area. Ozone is the main element in the ozone layer and it's composed of three oxygen molecules. This third molecule can easily detach and reattach to other substances, changing its properties. In the case of restoration companies, it will deodorize the air. 

How Does It Work?

Ozone breaks apart oxygen molecules in two ways. 

  1. Corona discharge that splits normal oxygen and creates single oxygen atoms. These atoms will then form ozone, after attaching to an O2 atom. 
  2. Ultraviolet light will split O2 into individual oxygen atoms, similar to how ozone is create in the upper atmosphere. This process is not as efficient as corona discharge. 

Once the oxygen molecules are set, the generator neutralizes the odors by oxidation. It permanently alters the molecular structure of the odor molecule, which leaves it odorless instead of masking the odor.

The thing about ozone generators is that they cannot be used on all surfaces, or around people and animals. The process isn’t safe to be around, which can be frustrating if a client needs to be in the space while restoration is happening. 

Hydroxyl Generators

Hydroxyl generators use UV radiation (the same as the sun!) to naturally clean and deodorize indoor environments. Using high energy UV lights and multiple wavelengths, hydroxyl radicals are created when these elements react with the oxygen and water vapor in the air.  

hydroxyl-generatorsMillions of hydroxyls are created per cubic centimeter during this process. Each hydroxyl generator on the market today works just a little differently than the next. 

How Do They Work?

Hydroxyl generators are different depending on the type you’re using. The main purpose of course, is to eliminate odors and break down volatile organic compounds in indoor environments. This is done by the hydroxyl radicals dismantling the structure at a molecular level of the odors in the environment. 

A chain reaction occurs, creating other radicals and hydroxyls faster than odor molecules can reproduce - which keeps the air clean and fresh. The best part of a hydroxyl generator is you simply plug it in and turn it on - no spraying, wiping, or fogging. 

Hydroxyl generators are also safe on surfaces. They can be used while people and pets are in the space being deodorized - making it safe at all times. 

Ozone vs Hydroxyl Generators

Now that we’ve seen both sides, let’s compare the two.

  1. Hydroxyl generators are safe for pets and people. Restoration work does not have to stop while the process runs, which saves time and money!
  2. Hydroxyl does not leave behind any chemical smells. 
  3. Hydroxyl can be used in wet areas to get rid of the odors. If ozone machines are used in damp areas, it can bleach materials. 
  4. Ozone generators are not safe to use on rubber or leather. 
  5. You must use ozone machines without anyone in the room, and cannot return to the space for at least an hour after the ozone machine has completed its run. 
  6. Hydroxyl generators are great on a variety of odors.

Over all, ozone and hydroxyl generators will deodorize a restoration project. However, hydroxyl generators do provide more options and less of a threat of damage to certain materials. 

If you haven’t used a hydroxyl generator yet, at Odorox® Hydroxyl Group, we’re ready to show you what you’re missing! We have machines for projects of all sizes, tips and tutorials on how to use them, as well as emergency sales 24/7. Call us today and visit our website for more information.  

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Topics: Ask the Expert