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Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules interact with another substance, like metal or even fresh fruit. When an apple slice is exposed to air, it turns brown. And when certain metals are left outdoors, they rust. Technically, oxidation is the loss of electrons. In the case of rust, the metal is oxidized, because the oxygen loses electrons.

Oxidation is only one half of an important chemical process called redox or reduction-oxidation. When two elements interact, electrons are lost in one element (oxidation) but gained in the other element (reduction). In simplest terms, redox is the process of exchanging electrons.

While it’s important to prevent oxidation, like rust, the process is not always a bad thing. In fact, a pool sanitation system depends on oxidation to do its work. The oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) measures the effectiveness of a disinfectant. The sanitation system of a pool is designed to inactivate microorganisms. When it’s working at optimal levels, the water is clean. When it’s not, the water will retain contaminants. Oxidizers remove electrons from the contaminants, making them inactive.

Common oxidizers include chlorine and potassium monopersulfate. The second is most often used to shock the pool, boosting everyday sanitation. In this process, the potassium monopersulfate converts combined chlorine back into free chlorine — all through the process of oxidation. In addition, ozonators are devices that introduce ozone into water. The ozone oxidizes the water, killing certain bacteria and viruses.