UV Sanitizers are used in industrial settings – like research labs, factories and hospitals – in order to kill off germs, viruses and bacteria. The UV light bulbs radiate ultraviolet light that destroys their DNA.
A number of manufacturers have hit upon the bright idea of putting this technology into a compact, ultraportable form factor – UV Wands.
You might want to buy stock in these companies, as I’m sure that shares will rise after “Contagion” comes out!
Even if you aren’t facing an apocalyptic, SARS epidemic of some kind – there are plenty of useful applications for a UV Wand. Imagine the peace of mind you’d have when forced to spend the night at a friend’s house with dubious hygiene, or at a Motel 8 in Islamabad. You could UV Wand the pillow case and bed sheets with your portable UV Sanitizer and say goodbye to dust mites and other nasties.
Then, there’s that Day Care Centre where you drop the kids. Just thinking about where all those other toys have been can give you the heebie-jeebies. UV Wand them!
In fact, when you think about it, there are lots of things you’d probably want to UV Wand: public doorknobs, public baby changing stations, cinema seats and airplane headrests, cutting boards, other people’s hands when you shake them, the private parts of strangers… the list is endless, because germs are ALL AROUND US…
Paranoid now? Well, don’t be. Germs are an everyday fact of life. These products are preying on our fears and it’s easy to overhype the situation.
No doubt, these products are pretty cool – although, I’d hate to live in a world where people carry around their own disposable Hazmat suits and whip out portable UV Wands at a moment’s notice to disinfect everything that they come into contact with.
Before we get carried away, let’s do a reality check. First of all, how effective are these? Do UV Wands really work?
There are several different bands/frequencies of ultraviolet light. UV-C, which is used in these consumer units, is about the most benign form of UV there is. It’s unlikely to do much damage to anything, let alone bacteria. However, used under the right conditions – in an ideal situation – and it could kill germs.
The key point here is “ideal situation”. Any surface that has nooks, crannies or scratches (at a microscopic level) leave places for germs to hide – which means that they will escape death – so, you’ll need to use the UV Wand on perfectly flat surfaces. Something that is very hard to find in real life.
Also, for safety reasons, these wands will only work when pointed downwards – because any form of UV light can damage your eyes. This makes them hard to use on anything other than a horizontal surface. So, they aren’t going to kill germs that are out of reach, nor will they kill airborne germs – the primary source of colds and influenza contagion. The UV Sanitizers also tend to cut the light off after a period of time. This is because UV light can build up Ozone in the area, which is harmful to people’s lungs and have other detrimental effects to health. Don’t expose your skin to these lights either – that can be harmful. Look at what UV does to Pearl!
Given the above, you could kill germs and microbes on horizontal flat surfaces without blemishes and if you hold the light over the area in question for a really long time but not too long as to cause other side effects to yourself. Sheesh – this sounds like a lot to think about.
Even in ideal circumstances, it may not be enough. Manufacturers claim that their UV Wand products kill 99% (or, in some cases, 99.9%) of the microbes. As Scott says in this article, germs inhabit a small area in the millions. Even if you kill 99% of a million germs, that still leaves 10,000 that can infect you.
At the end of the day, the human immune system has learnt to respond to many kinds of infectious diseases caused by spores, germs, etc. We are probably making our lives worse – especially for our children – by over-sanitizing our environments and preventing ourselves from getting the immunities we need to protect ourselves. Even worse, as this article points out, the sanitizers we use aren’t necessarily re-absorbed by nature and can even be toxic to ourselves and our children.
There are good germs and bad germs. We are wise not to kill the good ones and to let the body learn to deal with the bad ones. Otherwise, a little soap and water, vinegar, lemon – these are natural disinfectants that can go along way.
Still, if you have a compromised immune system, have mouldy smells that aren’t washing out, or are just plain paranoid beyond consolation… here are a few UV Wands and portable UV Sanitizers that could bring you some peace of mind:
This unit has a rechargeable battery, so it is more portable. However, rechargeable UV Wands are reported to be pretty flaky. Batteries don’t always hold their charge well and they can die shortly after purchase. Reviews for Verilux, though, are strong – making it one of the best of the bunch.
This one uses regular AA batteries, making it easier to use on the road when you don’t have easy access to an electrical socket (for recharging).
Call me a non-believer but this thing looks way too small to do any serious air purification, especially for anything larger than a closet or Harry Potter’s bedroom. I think the Airfree product (below) would be more effective.
Okay, this isn’t a UV Wand but I put it here because I think it’s a good product and an alternative worth seriously considering – especially if you have a room to sanitise on a regular basis for an asthma sufferer, newborn, or a damp problem.
I bought one of the Platinum Airfree units and was a happy customer for many years. The Airfree unit uses convection to slowly draw in spores, microbes and other nasties from the air and then incinerates them at 400 degrees fahrenheit in the core of the unit. This is very good for combating mould.
Don’t know why the Onix model says it’s mobile… the Platinum model is meant to be kept in the same part of the room and not moved around.
The Onix claims to remove Ozone FROM the environment – apparently the reverse of what many of their competitors products do. This might factor into your decision, as Ozone is highly unhealthy.