In this article: We'll review our top pick wand and box style UV light sanitizers and tell you why we think each of them works, and why they aren't a scam.
- What is UV Light, Anyway?
- The Dangers and Limitations of UV-C Light
- Does UV-C Light Kill Covid-19?
- Best UV-C Light Products You Can Buy for Your Home or Car
The coronavirus pandemic has been raging across the planet for over a year now. Its impact can be felt by almost everyone in one way or another. One of the outcomes of COVID has been a renewed focus and attention on sanitation, cleanliness and general health. This revised focus has also led to a dramatic increase in the number of products on the market advertising incredible ways to eliminate viruses, germs, and bacteria using Ultraviolet Light (UV). Some false, while others quite helpful.
Before you run out and buy one of these seemingly miraculous products, it’s important to understand how UV light works, what the limitations of the technology are, and how to avoid wasting your hard-earned money on gimmicky junk that doesn’t do what it says.
We know we are an automotive and marine audio blog, but we got in touch with some of our friends who know the truth about UV light, and they shared some wisdom we thought would helpful and important to pass along. Today’s article will give you the facts about UV sanitization and we will show you some products that are the most likely to help you stay healthy.
What is UV Light, Anyway?
Ultraviolet light is one of the invisible light spectrums occurring naturally from the rays of the sun. Science identifies three types of UV light, called UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. Each type is identified by a specific range of light wavelengths. UV-C light is the shortest UV wave and is generated between 200 and 280 nanometers (nm).
You are probably familiar with UV-A & B, because many products we use all the time are designed to block those wavelengths of light to protect our skin. UV-A and B are known to cause color fading, cracking of vinyl, plastic, and leather, and damage to eyes and skin from too much exposure. Common products in the automotive industry include window tint, car polish and waxes, ceramic coating, and sunglasses designed to block or reduce UV light.
We don’t have to worry about UV-C light because it can’t penetrate the earth’s atmosphere. The ozone layer blocks and absorbs UV-C light, which is a good thing, because UV-C light can kill. That specific trait has been used to eliminate viruses, bacteria, and mold for over 100 years, but it’s really only in the age of coronavirus that the technology has come to the front of discussions and highlighted in products that are being marketed.
UV-C light has long been used to sanitize surgical rooms and medical equipment, but it is rarely used outside the medical field. Many organizations have begun looking at ways to use UV-C light to sanitize things like busses, warehouses, and other areas where lots of people could easily be exposed to viral infection. Only in the last year have products intended to be used by the average person at home popped up for sale.
The Dangers and Limitations of UV-C Light
The most important thing you need to know about UV-C light is that it is dangerous to humans. It causes cancer and will destroy the tissue in your eyes if you look at the bulb. UV-C light works to kill viruses and bacteria because it breaks the bonds that hold DNA and RNA together and prevents reproduction. That same power is why UV-C light is dangerous and why we don’t have UV-C lights in our homes to keep us from getting sick. In fact, UV-C light is considered so dangerous that no product intended for home use can be certified by any of the US government agencies responsible for ensuring safe products.
When you start shopping for UV-C sanitizing products, you’ll see many manufacturers claim their product is EPA certified. Unfortunately, the laws in our country allow manufacturers to use vague, semi-false claims like this to sell products. What the EPA does is register companies that make products that are sold with labels claiming effectiveness at killing pests, viruses, bacteria, mold, and many other things. An EPA number does not mean the product works or that it is safe, only that the company who makes the product is registered with the EPA.
Do UV-C Products Work?
Here is the thing – we know UV-C light kills viruses and bacteria, but because there are few regulations, many products advertised as producing UV-C light don’t actually work. The big reason is that the light bulbs that produce UV-C light are expensive and are power consuming. In order for UV-C light to be useful for killing viruses, the wavelength must be within a narrow band. Some viruses are affected by shorter or longer wavelengths, so even if a bulb produces UV-C light, it may not be in the correct spectrum to be effective.
UV-C light also takes time to work. It isn’t an instantaneous process, but many of the products out there make the claim that their product kills in as little as five to ten seconds. That may be true when sanitizing for certain bacteria or viruses, but not all. In order for UV-C light to be effective, the light needs to be intense enough, in the proper spectrum, and applied for the correct amount of time.
Testing UV-C Products at Home
The lack of regulations means that products can be sold claiming to be effective, even when they are not. To make it worse, it’s difficult for the average person to tell if the product they are using produces UV-C light, or if the light is in the correct spectrum or intensity. We can get a good idea of whether the product produces UV-C light using an inexpensive, reusable UV-C light test card. These cards make it easy to test the intensity and presence of UV-C light.
Does UV-C Light Kill Covid-19?
The simple(ish) answer is probably. UV-C light has proven to be an effective killer of similar viruses like MERS and SARS, but there is only limited information on effectiveness against COVID-19. It’s likely that it’s effective at killing COVID, but until science demonstrates the proper wavelength and intensity of UV-C light, all we can do is hope for the best from at-home products.
The best information out there right now regarding the use of UV-C light to kill covid-19 indicates that the technology is effective. Unfortunately, the devices that have worked are large and expensive robotic designs impractical for sanitizing at home. They produce UV-C light at 254 nm, a frequency accepted to kill 99.9% of pathogens.
Best UV-C Light Products You Can Buy for Your Home or Car
We are going to show you some products that are likely to work for killing bacteria and viruses. Many of which are portable enough to bring along with you in your car!
These first few products are wands that produce UV-C light. As noted above, these are not “magic” wands at all, and they should be used safely and appropriately for effectiveness. UV-C devices should never be used on skin or on pets, and you should never look at the light bulbs. You can’t see UV light, anyway. The light you see from these products is UV-A light to indicate that it is on.
Looking for other accessories for your car? Check out these lists!
CTC, Inc. Portable Wand Quick Review
The portable wand from CTC, Inc. has been lab-tested to produce UV-C light that is effective at killing most viruses and bacteria. The wand produces UV-C between 260 and 280 nm spectrum. It uses a built-in 2000 mAh rechargeable battery to provide up to 2 hours of use. It has a safety feature that prevents the unit from operating in any position except horizontal, facing down. It also has a child safety feature to prevent your kids from playing with it.
The manufacturer recommends 20-30 seconds of exposure from one to two inches away to kill viruses and bacteria. A distance of one to two inches must be maintained in order for the light to be effective. The manufacturer is registered with the EPA, but as above, that doesn’t mean it works. When operated on a test card, all indications are that it produces the rated UV-C light spectrum.
Why We Think It Works
This is one of the more affordable products on the list that has lab-tested results demonstrating its effectiveness. The manufacturer doesn’t make any outlandish claims, and the device has shown effective light spectrum in testing on a light card. It’s worth a shot for the price.
Sanitech UV-C Portable Sanitizer Quick Review
Chicago, IL-based Sanitech is a leader in personal sanitizing products. Every Sanitech product, including this portable wand, are tested in ISO-certified microbiology labs in the US. Test results are even posted on the company’s website. Results show a 99.9% effectiveness at killing E. Coli, Salmonella, and L. Monocytogenes.
It uses a medical-grade UV-C bulb, but the manufacturer does not provide spectrum information. Lab testing indicates that it is around 260 nm in order to be as effective as it is. It’s simple to use- just lift the head and it turns on. Hover the light over the object you want to sanitize and that’s all there is to it.
The Sanitech portable sanitizer is rechargeable via USB-C. It has a thirty-day money back guarantee, and the bulb is guaranteed to operate for 5,000 hours. It’s only available through the manufacturer, though, so beware of imitations- there are a lot of them out there.
Why We Think it Works
ISO-certified lab testing is pretty hard to beat. Even though the manufacturer doesn’t provide spectrum info, we think the light is effective at killing viruses and bacteria. You should probably use it for longer than the five to ten seconds the manufacturer states to make sure you are disinfecting things.
Wanderclean UV-C Quick Review
Here is a product developed as a result of the Coronavirus. Wanderclean began building tested and proven UV-C sanitizing products in 2020 after seeing the rampant flood of cheap, ineffective products on the market. The WanderClean device uses a 2,600 mAh battery to produce UV-C light at an intensity that is four times stronger than other designs.
This is another product that is rigorously tested in microbiology labs in the US. It produces UV-C light at 257.3 nm, so it’s ideal for killing bacteria and viruses. It has a child safety feature to prevent accidental use and it only turns on when pointed down. It has a money back guarantee and includes a one-year warranty.
Why We Think it Works
The Wanderclean carries a US patent. The manufacturer claims that it is lab tested but doesn’t provide results online. Still, we think the Wanderclean is a great product for easily sanitizing your car or belongings. We like its portability and long, 2-and-a-half hour run time. The manufacturer doesn’t make bogus claims about how quickly it works, either so that’s a sign the product is legitimate.
Wands work fine for surfaces, but they do take time to use and they’re kind of tiresome when you are sanitizing things you use all the time. These UV boxes work really easily, all you do is put your stuff inside and turn them on. These are ideal for throwing in your car too – you can put keys, wallets, phones, and even your facemask in some of these when you get back into your car or truck after going to the bank or grocery store.
PhoneSoap 3 Quick Review
You might not think about how filthy your phone actually gets very often but consider the number of times each day you set it on a counter or drop it on the floor and you realize how gross it is. The PhoneSoap 3 was designed specifically for using UV-C light to sanitize your phone. It fits large phones like the Samsung S10+ and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
It uses two medical-grade UV-C bulbs and a reflective surface to provide 360-degree sanitization. Your phone rests on a mesh screen in the box and UV-C light sterilizes your phone. The box is designed to clean phones, but it works on anything that fits. Toss in your keys and your credit cards and blast away the germs you’ve likely picked up.
Why We Think It Works
This one has a great track record with users and testers alike. The PhoneSoap 3 has been featured on TV on shows like Shark Tank and Good Morning America, so it’s had lots of exposure. We really like this device for on-the-go phone cleaning that’s backed up by real-world testing.
Cahot Sanitize Box Quick Review
Here is another great solution for cleaning your filthy phone, along with a lot of other stuff. The Cahot box fits big phones up to 6.5”x3.5” and it’s 2” deep. You can put a lot of things in here, like keys and wallets. It’s big enough to fit glasses and face masks also.
The box uses 8 UV-C LED diodes to sanitize your stuff. The lid is magnetic, and it automatically turns off when the lid is removed. The design makes this one much safer because there is no risk of exposure to the potentially harmful UV-C light. The manufacturer recommends at least three minutes to sanitize, and many users flip their devices over to ensure 360-degree cleaning.
Why We Think It Works
Even though there is no lab testing or proof this device works, we think it’s a worthy buy. It’s been tested by buyers using the UV-C light test cards and it checked out with a high intensity of UV-C light in the 260 to 280 nm spectrum. We think this is an affordable way to sanitize lots of things you should keep clean.
Doctor's Choice Sanitizer Quick Review
Here is a device that is a little less portable, but you can sanitize a tablet in it. The large size also makes it easy to sanitize CPAP machines, glasses, face masks, and lots of other items. This is a great way to sanitize your kid’s toys, the remote control, your cell phone charger, and lots of other items.
Doctors Choice brought together engineers and physicians to develop the box. It produces UV-C light between 260 and 285 nm. It’s powered by a USB cord and sanitizes your stuff in three minutes. The box is made of a UV-blocking material and automatically turns off when the lid is opened.
Babily Sanitizer Box Quick Review
When you’ve got a family, you are going to have lots of items that need sanitizing. The Babily box is the perfect solution for efficiently cleaning large, bulky objects in only 11 minutes. It uses a UV-C light bar on the lid that produces UV-C light at the optimal 253.7 nm to eliminate 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.
This is a great option for sanitizing water bottles and baby bottles. It has a feature to dry bottles at 120 degrees to speed up sanitization. The inside is 9.5”x7.5”x6.5”, so it fits lots of large items. The box is easy to use, too. It has four functions and has settings for 11, 16, and 21 minutes. When the lid opens, the unit automatically shuts off, so it’s safe for your whole family.
Why We Think It Works
The Babily unit was designed specifically for sanitizing baby equipment, so it’s been proven to work. The bulb is a medical-grade unit that provides the ideal frequency, so we know that it will sanitize. The reflective metal interior is high-quality, and we are confident that this sanitizing box will work to keep your family safe.
The products here are a small sample of what’s out there, but these ones all stand the best chance of protecting you and your family from viruses and bacteria. Many wands out there are garbage, so do your research before buying any of the inexpensive models. Since you can’t see UV light, it’s easy for products to claim they work when they don’t. A lack of regulation means these unscrupulous companies can advertise however they want.
When you use a wand in your car, you should target areas like door handles, seats, and cup holders. Most of the wands only work when nearly horizontal, so some areas are particularly hard to reach. The nice thing about using UV to clean your items is the lack of residue. As a bonus, UV light that kills bacteria will also destroy odors in your car.
Using a UV light to sanitize your stuff is a great way to stay healthy, even beyond the coronavirus epidemic. If anything, these trying times have hopefully taught us that keeping our items clean is important.