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Disinfecting with UV light….. Does it work?

Posted Nov 17 2011 5:58pm

I started looking at these ultraviolet light disinfectant wands because they looked pretty cool.  I liked the idea that I could kill bacteria without the use of bleach and other harmful sprays and liquids. (see my household chemical post here )

I also could see myself waving this magic light around like Luke Skywalker killing bacteria with every pass.

UV disinfectant

May the force be with you.

These hand held wands when passed slowly over a surface, kills (allegedly) 99.9% of bacteria and viruses on the surface.  They come in different sizes…larger for larger surfaces…about 20 inches of light area…smaller for travel.

I got very excited (it doesn’t take much) when I saw the travel size because I HATE touching stuff in a hotel room.   I usually bring a zip lock baggie and immediately bag the remote,  turn the bedspread inside out and try not to touch the phone.  I thought, “Great! I can just wave my magic wand and kill everything!”

But like anything that seems too good to be true, it may be.

Ultraviolet light has been used for over 100 years in water disinfection, and we have one on our pond filtration to take care of the algae.  The technology uses UV-C rays (not like what comes out of a black light) that damage the structure of bacteria, virus and mold cells.  But it isn’t as easy to disinfect all surfaces.

The surface must be exposed to the UV light at a height of 1-2 inches for a 2-10 seconds for it to be effective.  This is assuming that the surface is flat.  If you are trying to disinfect a phone or a remote, the light won’t get into the little nooks and crannies, and you won’t get full disinfection to the whole item.   It seems the more number of passes, the more it is effective.

A report done by a lab (paid by the manufacturer) stated that on a hard (flat) surface the UV light wand killed 99.98% of the H1N1 virus.  But it wasn’t tested on irregular surfaces.
Guardian Technologies is one of the manufacturers of these magic wands.  They claim their wand kills 99% of all viruses and bacteria. (considering there is usually over 1 million bacteria in a colony, that still leaves 10,000…just saying)

This little vacuum has a UV light attached for extra cleaning

The good:

  • they are lightweight and easy to use
  • relatively inexpensive ($39-150.00 USD)
  • no need for chemical cleaners
  • kills germs that cause odor as well
  • kills bacteria, viruses, mold, dust mites
The bad:

  •  the UV light is dangerous and can burn you if exposed for a few minutes
  • the more powerful ones can emit ozone which is bad for people with lung issues and bad for the environment
  • there are conflicting reports on efficacy…some say 99% and some say 78% .
  • does not kill air born germs
  • it would take you a long time to clean your house 20 inches at a time

I think I’ll stick with my castile soap and vinegar.


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