How Does Ozone Remove Odor?

Posted by Sannel Patel on September 10, 2009 under Ozone for Beginners | 26 Comments to Read

One common question that people have about using ozone is exactly how an ozone machine is able to remove odors from houses, cars, clothing, etc.  To help answer the question I figured it was worth a quick mention here.

Basically, ozone removes odor by destroying the molecules, bacteria, and spores that cause unpleasant smells.  Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive molecule and is very quick to chemically react with particles that it comes into contact with in the air and on surfaces.  The extra oxygen atom in the ozone attaches itself to other molecules, chemically changing their structure to create non-offensive molecules – eliminating the smell

How Ozone Breaks Down Odor

How Ozone Breaks Down Odor

When considering bacteria and spores the same process applies, with ozone attacking the outer shell of the cell causing it to break down.  When the outer shell degrades, the cell itself breaks apart and dies.

With this in mind, it makes sense that a situation with stronger odor (and more odor-causing  molecules or particles) requires more ozone to remove the smell  –  there needs to be enough ozone to react with all of the offensive molecules it encounters.  This requires either A) a longer ozone treatment  or B) higher concentrations of ozone (a larger ozone generator).  Check out this chart of common odors to see typical treatment times for common problems.

One common scenario involves people who have “tried everything” to get rid of a smell, but are still left with lingering scents that just don’t seem to go away.  One reason that ozone is effective in these situations is because, as a gas, ozone effectively “cleans” any place that air can go.  This includes air, walls, ceilings, ductwork, carpet fibers, gaps between floorboards, cracks in walls, and more.  Ozone is able to penetrate into these areas and destroy odors that it finds there.

So how does ozone get rid of smells?  It chemically breaks down odor-causing molecules in any area where air is allowed to flow.

  • Successful Deodorizing with Ozone : Ozone Journal said,

    […] you need to remember is that ozone breaks down odor at a molecular level, so over the course of an ozone treatment you need to produce enough ozone […]

  • Why Choose BioZone? | Ideal LifestyleIdeal Lifestyle said,

    […] Ozone attacks the outer shell of bacteria, causing it to break down. When the outer shell degrades, the cell itself breaks apart and dies. Ozone Journal […]

  • I, Cringely The nose knows - I, Cringely said,

    […] Ozone is used to treat intense odors in vehicles and homes. A $1000 ozone machine can turn a smoking hotel room into a non-smoking room in an hour. Use a big enough ozone machine and use it long enough and it can kill outright things like mold, mildew and bacteria. But you don’t use an ozone machine without a reason which told me the seller probably knew the car was stinky and hoped the ozone would do the job. […]

  • Dan said,

    This is the best explanation of how ozone works on the internet. My only question is if you’re using it for a vehicle, should you ozone first then get a detail, or get a detail and then run an ozone generator?

    Thanks for the post!

  • daniel said,


    It is best to do the cleaning first. Then, after you have removed the source of the odor, run the ozone generator to eliminate the smell.

  • Steven Thomas said,

    Very nice discussion of Ozone and the process by which it removes odors from a room. Discussion is of value to laypeople as well as semi-laypeople and would definitely improve even scientifically trainedl individuals a more compete notion of the workings on a molecular level.
    Steven J Thomas, PE, SE, SECB, DAV

  • Rochester's Real Estate Blog » Pet Odors Can Kill a Home Sale said,

    […] in a home for a few days has done wonders for taking quite a bit of the smell out. You can see how ozone removes odors by destroying the spores and bacteria that cause these tough to remove […]

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  • Max said,

    I just purchased an ozone machine and was curious if I could leave it turned on underneath the air conditioning vent to wear it pulls the ozone through the Air ducts. We purchased this home from a smoker that had the house for 13 years we got a lot of the smell out but when the house heats up from the sun we smell it. Any advice you have would be great thank you


    we would like to know does O3 works on odor containing capsaicin generated from red chilly processing plant ? If yes what should be ppm level ? The air qty in exhausr air is 18000 cmh from process.

  • Sandy said,

    I recently used an Ozone machine to get rid of a rotten potato smell in our pantry that happened while we were on vacation. It definatly worked but now there is quite a strong bleachy odor. Don’t get me wrong. It’s far better than the rotten potato odor but it’s just a bit overwhelming. How can I get rid of that smell now?

  • Jeff said,

    How much damage does ozone cause to desirable molecules during a deoderizing session in a car? Leather, cloth, plastic, etc? Maybe not immediately visible but increasing brittleness or decreasing surface durability?

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  • James Medders II said,

    Can u stay indoors while ozone machine is running?

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  • Benz CLS550 at Mercedes Laval by Car Inspected said,

    […] When we arrived at the dealer, the car was waiting for us at the service bay. The vehicle was in mint condition, as you can see from the video, the only thing that was not detectable from the pictures and video, is the smell. The previous owner used to smoke cigars in the car. Not one or two, a lot of cigars, the interior has absorbed the smell. In response to the findings, the dealer promised to perform an ozone treatment. here’s a link explaining briefly how Ozone treatment works. […]

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  • Troy Cline said,

    I am a professional odor remover, that is all that I do. For a car it takes high concentration two things to equal success, 1-high concentration of ozone and, 2-a good duration of time. You will need to rent a poweful ozone generator to accomplish this, you will also need to spray the headliner with a high tech enzyme. If you don’t want to do it yourself, I service only Southern California. I also do homes, a slightly different approach, but the same principle. 949-291-0952 Troy Cline

  • Brittnay said,

    wonderful layman tip because I was confused as hell when he brought this large machine into my apartment I really couldn’t understand how he was trying to explain it to moi!but now I know thanks

  • Brittnay said,

    also while waiting for odors to be removed u can place charcoal briquettes yes from the barbq pit r kids chalk that also will absorb odors for a bit.

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