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The efficacy of a good face mask has been well-proven to help prevent the spread of the Covid, but as cases continue to persist across the country, people are looking for other methods to help contain the virus. From shoe covers to HEPA air purifiers, the rise of protective gear and equipment has been well-documented. The latest item that people are stocking up on: UV sanitizers.
According to the FDA, a strong source of UV light could help reduce harmful germs and bacteria on surfaces (think everything from furniture to bedding) and help disinfect high-touch items, like your cell phone, wallet and keys. Here’s what you need to know about how UV light works against Covid.
Does UV Light Kill the Coronavirus?
Everyone from hospital workers to office janitors have been using UV light for years to help sterilize objects and surfaces. Now, the FDA says certain forms of UV light could be effective against the coronavirus.
According to the agency, UVC radiation is a “known disinfectant for air, water, and nonporous surfaces” and “UVC radiation has effectively been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis.” New research says UVC radiation may now also be effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes coronavirus.
Keep in mind, research into how UV light works against Covid is still on-going, and the agency cautions that UVC “cannot inactivate a virus or bacterium if it is not directly exposed to UVC.” In other words, the virus or bacterium will not be inactivated if it is covered, whether by dust or soil, or say, under a phone case, groove or crack.
And while the CDC refers to UV sanitizers as an “alternative disinfection method,” they note that there are a ton of new UV sanitizing devices on the market which the agency has not had time to properly vet and review just yet. When shopping for the best UV sanitizer to use for Covid, you’ll want to carefully read over the manufacturer’s claims and offerings before deciding on the best UV sanitizing device for you.
How Do UV Sanitizers Work?
The best UV sanitizers work by using direct rays of UV light to kill germs and bacteria. When it comes to using UV light against the coronavirus, the FDA says UV light works to quickly destroy the outer protein coating of the virus, which then knocks out the virus’ effectiveness.
UV sanitizers come in various forms, from UV sanitizing wands, to sanitizing cases, to UVC lamps (often called “germicidal” lamps). The type of UV sanitizer you choose will depend on what you’re trying to disinfect and the amount of space you have available. We’ve rounded up some of the best UV sanitizing devices below.
As mentioned earlier, a good UV sanitizer will only work through direct exposure. So UVC radiation can only inactivate a virus if the virus is directly exposed to the UV rays. The effectiveness of an UV sanitizer also depends on the dose and duration of the device. As the FDA says, most UVC lamps sold for home use are of low dose, “so it may take longer exposure to a given surface area to potentially provide effective inactivation of a bacteria or virus.”
UVA vs. UVB vs. UVC Rays
A final note: it’s important to discern the difference between the different types of UV rays. The effectiveness of UVA vs. UVB vs. UVC rays will vary when it comes to fighting the coronavirus.
According to the FDA, UVA or UVB rays (the kind of ultraviolet rays you get from the sun, for example), aren’t as effective as UVC rays. As you’re probably well-aware, UVA and UVB rays are also more harmful to humans, since prolonged exposure can lead to skin damage, aging and risks of cancer (it’s the reason why dermatologists always recommend wearing a good sunscreen).
When it comes to inactivating viruses, UV sanitizers using UVC rays are the best choice for now.
What Are the Best UV Sanitizers?
If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your home germ-free, we’ve rounded up some top-rated UV sanitizers available online. We’ve reviewed these picks based on ease of use, efficacy and availability. While the best UV sanitizers may not be able to guarantee the elimination of the coronavirus, these popular UV devices are still a good idea to keep around for your coronavirus prevention kit at home, at the office or in your car.
1. UV Light Sanitizing Wand
This top-rated sanitizing wand is from Bonafide Masks, a company that has pivoted to providing N95 masks, face shields, and other PPE during the current pandemic. The family-owned company recently introduced this UV light sanitizing wand, which promises to eliminate 99.99% of germs, viruses and bacteria on surfaces.
To use, simply wave the wand a few inches over the surface you want to disinfect. Using the power of UVC light, the wand helps to kill germs without the use of harsh chemicals or cleaners. We’ve used a UVC wand on everything from keyboards to couches to stuffed animals. This sanitizing wand conveniently folds in half too, making it great for the home, but also to keep in your car or desk drawer (say, if you need to quickly disinfect your face mask after grocery or coffee run).
A rechargeable lithium ion battery provides up to 50 minutes of use on a single charge. This set includes a pair of safety glasses and a storage pouch.
2. Bruun 36W Disinfection Lamp
UVC lamps are often called “germicidal” lamps thanks to their ability to kill germs. German home accessories brand, Bruun, says this lamp is “99.9% effective” at getting rid of bacteria and mold. The powerful UVC lamp can also help to eliminate odors.
This UV lamp stands 18 inches tall and is capable of disinfecting an area up of more than 500 square feet. Its open design means it has a 360-degree range; there are no “dead zones” here.
Control the UV light lamp using the included remote, which lets you set the lamp on a timer too. A built-in safety switch automatically turns the lamp off if it’s been on for too long. A child-lock design prevents kids from opening up the lamp (the UVC light is not hazardous but you still want to avoid any prolonged exposure. Our tip: set the lamp to turn on while you’re out of the room).
3. HoMedics UV Clean Sanitizer Bag
One of the most commonly-touched surfaces is our cell phone, and studies have shown that some phone screens and cases can carry more bacteria than a toilet seat (yes, really). That’s why we’ve been using this UV sanitizer pouch from HoMedics to help disinfect our devices multiple times a day. The company says the greeting card-sized pouch uses powerful UV-C LED light to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria and eliminate viruses ten times faster than ordinary wipes alone.
To use: unzip the pouch and place your phone on the cleaning dock inside. The built-in UV lights disinfect all sides of your phone without the use of liquids or harmful chemicals. The phone is fully sanitized in less than 60 seconds. In addition to phones, the HoMedics Portable Sanitizer can be used on things like keys, jewelry, glasses, remote controls, a deck of cards, and other small accessories. It’s also safe enough to use on grooming and skincare items, like a comb or makeup brushes.
The included lithium ion battery is rechargeable and gets you up to 70 uses on a single charge.
Want a more powerful option? This PhoneSoap Pro is one of the most popular sanitizing devices on the market, and the company says their latest version kills 99.99% of bacteria in just five minutes. With a larger sanitizing bay than previous models, large phones and thick accessories fit comfortably too. Purchase: $119, available at PhoneSoap.com.
4. PhoneSoap HomeSoap
Need to sanitize larger devices? Pick up the HomeSoap, which has enough space to disinfect everything from your remote controls to gaming consoles to a full-sized tablet. We like using it to disinfect our face masks too. The unit harnesses the germ-killing power of two large, UV-C lights, while a reflective inner surface allows the light to surround whatever items are inside the box.
PhoneSoap says the UVC sanitizer kills 99.99% of germs in about ten minutes or less. It does this completely using UVC light, with no heat or liquids that could damage your items. The unit measures 151.34 x 283.28 x 380.76mm — about the size of a medium shoebox.