Disinfecting with UV light….. Does it work?

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.

Categories: environmental hazards, green living, health, healthy living blogs, household chemicals

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60 replies

  1. This technology does work. It is used in homes for hvac and water systems, in commercial buildings, medical offices, nursing homes, and hospitals even during surgery. It is also used during food prep to eliminate or limit chemicals and uv sanitation is used for small hand held equipment in salons, hospitals, doctors offices, etc. There are whole room portable unit used in hospitals, nursing homes, home, etc. However the intensities are highly variable – the old “you get what you pay for” is very true. If you buy a $12 wand that says you can use it throughout your home to sterilize from top to bottom – it probably isn’t even strong enough but will take forever. If you want to use the technology – it is best to call an expert to let them know what you want to accomplish, i.e., a portable unit to roll from room to room or a stationary in the ceiling unit or you just want a air cleaner with sanitizing. The proper units do sanitize air, water, and surfaces. It will kill bacteria, germs, molds, virus, fungi, etc. with the right intensity and placement. Relative to the cost of chemical use, it can be cost effectibe with bulb replacement based on hours used. Some units you replace bulb every year or every 12,000 hours of use – just depends. There is some maintenance to higher unit bulbs with clean cotton cloth and wipe down with alcohol. Now to ozone, ozone is great for wastewater plants as is UV but most sources do not recommend ozone generators or air filters that generate ozone (or anything that says oxgen etc) for indoor home use in that it does clean the air but adds a harmful element for those with allergies, lung issues, compromised immune systems, pnemonia susseptsbility, etc. Regular air cleaners or better whole house air filter/uvcleaners systems but not anything with ozone generation. KEEP in mind some of these including uv do generate ozone but it is a natural function and is minimum.

  2. I need more info on the uv light, please contact me ok

  3. Hello Everyone. I asked God for wisdom and he gives me ideas all the time. I started this movement with the Halo Vacuum of Carolina. I also was looking for something to use under my arms as a magic deodorant. Please keep me in mind if you need an idea consultant or would like to license some of our products.

  4. susan tell your sister to start rubbing hair conditioner on her feet twice a day the Oder will go away and it is great for dry skin i had the same thing

  5. Buy 2 do you can clean the other? !

  6. I use one on my wedding tackle. And it’s
    easier than pickle juice and a toothbrush,
    I wonder though if it would work as a mouth wash
    instead of gargling then I could stop buying pickles
    altogether and the thing would pay fir itself in 6 months.
    but I still use condoms of course.

    • Re: Kitchen sponge sanitizing, just the surface is correct but instead microwave for 45 seconds
      your sponge and your good to go.
      Re; Hotels and Saran Wrap, working on a cruise ship
      basically wash your hands often as your grabby. Mandatory for your health and everyone else’s as an employee in confined public. Often (entering or leaving areas) but not insanely. If you touch anything else in a hotel room ( light switch, faucet, flush, or even the guide or do not disturbed sight, table chair, doorknob…..) then grab your Baggie Enclosed Remote
      Your baggies no better than the remote it’s enclosing.
      Best defense wash your hands 20 seconds and
      Rinse the soap if it’s a bar.

  7. I use a LED UV Nail curing light – which is just the right size and they are only $8 ~ and use it to disinfect kitchen utensils and cutting boards. The open end (U-shaped ones) are easy to swipe over anything else: a really low cost alternative to the far-too expensive UV wands on the market.

  8. I can picture this at fast food restaurants where an automated light goes over every time a table leaves

  9. We have 15 of them for about 5 years in our Cleveland Hospital. We usually buy them from http://www.bacteriumlamps.com and they have been great on reliability in moving around the hospital for us. We clean and wipe surfaces and them bring in the 5 foot lamps two in each room for shadowing and 10 min all air and surfaces are clean. I has been cost effective and we have seen a reduction in illnesses within the hospital.

  10. I am looking for something to kill fungus in shoes, something less toxic to humans, animals and the environment than naphthalene (moth balls). This to go along with a regimen of medicinally treating toe fungus.

    • Several things come to mind, although I have to say I’ve never tried them myself…I know that fungus thrives in wet acidic conditions, so if you can keep your shoes dry and alkaline, that should help. Baking soda is a cheap and easy way to accomplish that. You can either sprinkle it right into the shoe, or make an insert by putting some baking soda into a piece of cloth and tying the ends up. You can also spray the inserts with a light mist of a solution of 3 parts distilled water, 1 part vodka or witchhazel, and 15 drops peppermint essential oil before placing them in the shoes. Leave them in your shoes when you’re not wearing them and it should freshen nicely. Coconut oil and tea tree oil are great anti-fungicides. There’s something about the fatty acid make up of the coconut oil that works on fungus…You could heat a small amount of coconut oil (1 tablespoon) to allow to liquify (you could do this with a hair dryer in a glass bowl) and then add about 5-10 drops of 100% pure tea tree oil and mix well. Allow to cool and use as an ointment. You’ll have to apply to the nail every day at least once or twice a day (I’ve heard) for it to work. Trim the nail back as far as you can. it takes a while to work…like weeks or months, but be patient! Good luck!

    • New fekn shoes!!!

  11. I was curious of how it might work on kitchen sponges. They are such a source of bacteria. Could you wave a wand over both sides? Or is there a maximum depth that it will penetrate. Thanks.

  12. What a waste of money. Bacteria is everywhere, outside and inside you, on your clothes, surfaces, water etc. etc. etc.
    Good practice with washing hands/keeping surfaces clean with a disinfectant spray is all that’s needed.
    If your really worried about this kind of thing its maybe time to see a councilor.. it’s not normal.

    • I think it depends on what you are cleaning and what you are concerned about. I used an old ice cube tray that had been in my cupboard for a year and hadn’t been used. When I did use it, no matter how much I scrubbed it, it still made ice that tasted of mould from a previous problem area in the kitchen. BUT after I used the UV after scrubbing it down, the mould taste had gone. So its not always a question of every day to day cleaning, but something that has its own special usages. Some good can come out of having different tools for different problems around the house.

    • Also, Nick: I became interested in UV because it seems to be one of the few techniques effective against the resistant bacteria in hospitals. As they protect themselves with a plastic like shield so scrubbing with the usual desinfectants do not work at all.

  13. I want to get one since I saw it on Dr. Oz but I want to get the best one and I’m not sure of the brandname or where to buy it. Please help. Thx.

    • You can probably just search it. Since I did my research I decided not to get one. Thanks for reading!

    • Dont get a travel wand unless you just use it for travel. They are lower powered and take more time then a good domestic wand. pureliving is a good brand. Also the large area UVC wands are supposed to be good, but they come with a price tag. They really do work on dust mites on your bed linen

  14. I was thinking for use over the kitty litter to kill virus especially the corona virus that can cause FIP

  15. You are not trying to kill off all the germs in one cleaning session. You are trying to kill some, but most of them will have a reduced or impaired ability to reproduce. With frequent use, it cuts the sizes of the colonies down a lot and eventually leaves the area as clean as a whistle. When I have used regular liquid cleaners, they only got up some of the germs, The proof was in the smell of the germs being killed when I passed the UVC wand over the area after I had used a chemical cleaner. the area felt much cleaner AFTER I had used the wand and not before. But you have to use the thing regularly and make sure the batteries are full otherwise the light intensity is diminished thus reducing the power of the device. UVC cleaning is good, I had a mould problem once and the mould actually got into the atomizers of my electronic cigarette. Holding the light over the open atomizer mouth for 20 seconds destroyed the mould and make esmoking good again with no bad tastes. Even quick UVC cleaning can stop bad smells from your furnishings. I had a water leak once that sprayed the sofa and made it smell like a drain. I did relatively quick passes with the UVC and the smell went. It isn’t a “break-fix” solution, you still need regular cleaning products, but just not as much if you do regular UVC cleaning to keep the colonies down. Although it can be hard concentrating on keeping the wand at a decent distance, and it can be hard on the back at times, using the wand can make carpets much less smelly after they have been walked on by people in bare feet. You can also put them in your shoes for five minutes to completely deodorize them of shoe odor after long walks in the country.
    You can also use it n your toothbrushes if you fear contamination from bathroom bacteria. it makes the toothbrush taste good again. Very useful when on holiday or visiting.
    Also, for us people who have dust mite allergies, using the wand on the top of the lower bed sheet and the underside of the upper bed sheet (I know it takes 7 – 15 minutes, but its worth it) stops you from feeling itchy in bed at night and thus makes it more likely that you will have a good night sleep.
    Using UVC is a different skill set to that of regular cleaning, and its no miracle, but its one of the best devices for what it is good for. No you cant cure stains with it, and you need different speeds of sweep for different kinds of cleaning, but it sure does its job.

  16. What about colors of bed sheets, clothing, furniture fabrics? Don’t they discolor faster using this device?

    • I would think not because you only use if for a few minutes at a time not hours like as if it were sitting in the sun. There are better ways to disinfect clothes and sheets than using this. (peroxide in the laundry, vinegar) My understanding of the device is that it’s for hard surfaces…counter tops, keyboards etc….things that you couldn’t wash easily.
      Thanks for the question!

  17. I just paid $1 for one of these at a garage sale. I think I’ll start using it on my keyboards, phones, cutting boards, etc. Can’t hurt, right?

  18. Hmm..how interested! I’ve never heard of this thing before..gosh technology these days..seriously?? lol What’s next?

    I would have to agree with you, I will stick with soap + water or hand sanitizer.

  19. I agree with you. Will also stick with my cleaning aids.

  20. thanks for mentioning the ozone problem. bad for people with lung issues, and also bad for children and the elderly.

    I’ve been seeing more and more UV lights in restaurant prep stations and other food-handling facilities.

    Though not hand-held, I believe there are some large-scale systems that kill air-borne germs? HVAC kinds of things?

    • From what I have read, the industrial types of UV sterilization are extremely high powered. UV light sterilization is used routinely in hospitals, and yes, in HVAC systems, although the air purification systems that are for sale for home use that use UV light, I read over and over are not effective.
      Thanks for your comment!

  21. How interesting! I have never seen such a product. I know that touching everything in public seems filthy. I wonder how this works, with battery?


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