Ozone Generator Machine: Do They Really Work?

Ozone generator machines are popular tools to remove odors, pollutants, and viruses. But what does the science say about the effectiveness of ozone machines?

The biggest downside of using an ozone generator is that ozone is harmful to humans! But hey, maybe ozone could be useful in an empty room? Scientists have tested this. Here’s what they found.

1. Do Ozone Generators Remove Particles?

Researchers found no effect of an ozone machine on particulates.

Ozone effectiveness removing particles/covid

What’s worse, ozone generators can actually create particles in the air. This can happen if there are scents in the air, like from cleaning products or air fresheners.

ozone creates dangerous particles

Here’s what happened when researchers at the University of Texas put an ozone generator in a room. They ran it for a while, and then they opened up some Pine Sol. The ozone reacted with the Pine Sol to create air pollution particles.

Ozone creates ultrafine particles

2. Can Ozone Remove Harmful Chemical Gases?

OK, ozone is a harmful gas, but maybe it can remove other chemical gases? Researchers tested this by putting new carpet in a stainless steel test chamber. The carpet put out chemicals into the air, like formaldehyde and styrene.

Then they turned on an ozone generator. Some chemicals went down (like styrene), and some chemicals went up (formaldehyde). The net effect was that these sorts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) went up.

Ozone increases VOCs

So ozone actually made VOCs worse (for the curious, ozone itself is not a VOC).

3. Can Ozone Generators Remove Odors?

The hardest question to test is whether ozone generators remove smells. This is harder to test because smells are harder to measure. Most researchers just ask human volunteers to use their noses and rate the smells. I feel bad for the people who had to test the effectiveness of carbon filters by sniffing farts.

Ozone machine for odors

But farts are just a side story here. Does ozone reduce smells? Back in the 1930s, researchers made a room really smelly with body odor, filled it with ozone, and then sent people in to rate how smelly it was (described here).

The ozone didn’t help. The only way the ozone worked was when the smell of the ozone itself was so strong that people couldn’t smell the body odor anymore. Those results suggest ozone is not effective at removing odors.

Are Ozone Generator Machines Effective?

Besides being directly harmful to humans, these peer-reviewed studies have found no benefit of using ozone to reduce particles, gases, or odors.

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P.S. If ozone doesn’t work, what does?

HEPA filters are great at capturing particles, even tiny nanoparticles. For example, that earlier study of ozone generators also tested HEPA filters, and they did reduce particles:

HEPA filter versus ozone machine

HEPA filters don’t remove gases, but activated carbon filters can remove chemical gases like formaldehyde.

Activated carbon filters remove VOCs

And remember that study of farts? Activated carbon helped reduce the fart smell! So carbon works for farts too.

Recommendation: If you are looking to remove fart smells and dangerous particles, I recommend using a HEPA air purifier with an additional activated carbon filter such as the Sqair Chemical Warfare.

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