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Ithaca College Cleans Up with Chemical-Free Ionator

 ITHACA, NY — With a pull of the trigger, cleaning up at Ithaca College is getting a whole lot more environmentally friendly. Since the start of 2011, the college’s facilities maintenance staff has been terminating germs with the Ionator. The spray bottles use ordinary tap water — given a small electrical charge by an attached battery pack — to both clean and disinfect surfaces.

“It sounds like something out of science fiction, but the science behind the Ionator is sound,” said Lisa Belokur, director of facilities services. “Ionized water has similar properties to traditional cleaning chemicals and soaps, breaking down dirt and lifting it off surfaces. The low-level electric field kills more than 99.9% of harmful germs.”

Instead of requiring a variety of chemical cleaners for different materials — glass, stainless steel, wood, tile and carpeting, for example — a simple spray bottle filled with water can take care of just about every spot-cleaning need. The Ionator can’t be used on large surfaces because it loses its effect within seconds after leaving the bottle.

“We’ve been able to shrink the number of chemical cleaners used on campus to a handful,” said Belokur. “That’s safer for both those who do the cleaning and for the rest of the campus community. And, of course, that means we aren’t putting as many chemicals into the environment.”

With rechargeable batteries and a lifespan of about eight years — the bottles themselves are also made out of recycled plastic — the Ionator is another step forward in the college’s “green” initiative. And since the only expenditure once a unit is purchased is the cost of the electricity to charge it and water to fill it, the payback time when compared to the cost of continuing to replenish supplies of cleaning chemicals is less than six months.

“We’ve purchased about two dozen units from Activion so far, and our goal is to outfit the whole campus,” said Belokur. “Our residence halls really put its cleaning properties to the test, and so far it’s passed with flying colors.

Also putting the Ionator to the test this past spring were students in an Environmental Science and Technology course, taught by assistant professor of environmental studies and sciences Anne Stork.

“We worked with facilities staff to design and implement our study, which compared the Ionator with the college’s current cleaner,” said Stork. “We found that it was as effective as the conventional cleaner in killing bacteria.”

While Ithaca College is not the first to use the product, Belokur says it is certainly on the leading edge. “I spoke at length about the Ionator at a meeting on campus of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the response was very enthusiastic. We’ve had inquiries from hospitals and other institutions who are interested in learning more about our experience.”

For more information, visit or contact Lisa Belokur at