Image credit: of Georgia Institute of Technology

Can Ozone Gas Clean PPE for Re-use? GT Study Says It Can

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With the coronavirus looking like it’s going to be part of our world for some time – especially considering the recent spikes in states like Florida, which just set a new single-day high for confirmed cases in the country – PPE is going to continue to be in high demand.

Everyone will need to wear masks, and healthcare workers, emergency services personnel, foodservice workers, and others will need to have a supply of other PPE, as well – things like gowns, gloves, face shields, etc.

But not only is supply limited, the costs can quickly skyrocket.  What if we could effectively clean some of these items so they can be re-used? 

Georgia Tech researchers may have a solution:  Ozone.  

Testing has shown that the gas, made of three oxygen atoms, can inactivate viruses on PPE without damaging them, except masks.  The problem with masks is that, while it did not impact the N95 filtration material of the masks, the chemical did damage the elastic bands that secure the masks on wearers’ heads. The image above (credit: Georgia Tech) shows a researcher putting items into an ozone disinfection chamber.

M.G. Finn, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, didn’t think there was any reason the tests would not be successful.  Ozone can be easily produced and is already used for disinfecting wastewater and sanitizing drinking water, food items, and other goods.  Ozone chambers are commercially available from many vendors.

“Ozone is one of the friendliest and cleanest ways of deactivating viruses and killing most any pathogen,” said M.G. Finn, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who led the study. “It does not leave a residue; it’s easy to generate from atmospheric air, and it’s easy to use from an equipment perspective.”

M.G. Finn, chair, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry , Georgia Tech

To date, though most disinfecting efforts have been focused on UV-C lighting, which has also been used in healthcare settings for years.  But the Georgia Tech research suggests that oxidization to a significant extent can be effective in inactivating viruses – though the study did not specifically test effectiveness against COVID-19. 

“The protocol we set up reports very sensitively on whether or not the virus could reproduce, and we found that the ozone was very successful in rendering them harmless,” Finn said. “Oxidizing biological samples to a significant extent is enough to inactivate a virus. Either the genetic material or the outer shell of the virus would be damaged enough that it could no longer infect a host cell.”


As the pandemic continues, healthcare providers and others will look for alternatives to single-use PPE.  This study suggests many of the items could be cleaned effectively for re-use, which could not only save on costs, but would make new equipment more readily available to others who need it.