If you’re out of hand sanitizer, cleaning sprays, and even the household products you can make your own sanitizers with (read: rubbing alcohol), there’s another option to consider: UVC light, a little-known, relatively new way to reduce the number of germs on surfaces in your home. But if you’ve ever seen those travel-sized disinfecting wands and felt skeptical about their efficacy, you’re not alone. There’s only one type of UV light that’s actually effective when it comes to killing germs.
Does UV light work as a sanitizer?: According to scientists, UVC light is the only kind of light that can reliably kill germs, and is sometimes used in hospitals for sanitizing in tandem with chemical cleaners to further reduce germs, especially ones that are drug-resistant. Note that chemical cleaners are more effective overall than UVC light sterilizers in terms of the percentage of germs they eradicate—UVC sanitizers don’t kill quite as many germs as do chemicals like alcohol. Meanwhile, UVA and UVB light are totally ineffective in killing germs.
Is it safe?: UVC light should be kept away from skin and eyes because it can damage them and any other cells it comes into contact with, which is also how it kills microbes. Many UVC sanitizers have child-safe locks, don’t work when pointed upward/towards the user, or only function to sanitize items in an enclosed space within the product in order to keep the UVC light contained. According to Colombia University’s Center for Radiological Research: “In short, exposure to far-UVC light is safe for people, but potentially lethal for viruses.” You can read more about how to shop for UVC-sanitizing products here and here.
With safety and effectiveness in mind, here are some different types of UVC products to consider if you want to invest in a sanitizer that, unlike wipes and sprays, won’t run out any time soon.
Sanitizing UV wands are often touted as a travel must-have to spot-clean places like dirty hotel rooms, but they’re also good for use at home as long as you purchase one that explicitly says it uses UVC rays (not UVA or UVB). Many travel versions of UV-sanitizing wands don’t specify the types of UV rays they use, and could be duping you into buying something ineffective. Options that do use UVC rays and are still affordable sell out often; the clarelife UV Lamp for Home was available at time of publication, but does sell out. You can search Amazon for UV-sanitizing wands here—just be sure to independently check the product specifications, which should say that the product uses UVC light.
UV Light Sterilizer Boxes
The safest type of UVC sanitizer is one that allows you to place items inside a closed space where the light will be used, which shields you from any accidental exposure. There are lots of options of this kind out there, from small sterilizers made for baby items like pacifiers, including the Munchkin Portable UV Sterilizer, to larger options like the 59S UV Sanitation Box. Both of these products specify UVC use.
UV-Sanitizing Water Bottles
One of the first ways that UVC rays were used for sanitizing was in water, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of UV-sanitizing water bottles out there. Amazon recommends the CrazyCap UV Water Purifier Cap, which can double as a surface sterilizer that utilizes UVC. LARQ water bottles are a slightly more expensive, cult-favorite UVC-sanitizing option that are beloved for their functionality and minimalist style.
One of the best-known UVC sanitizers was launched on the television show Shark Tank. PhoneSoap safely sanitizes smartphones and other small items like keys, credit cards, and smartwatches. It doubles as a universal phone charger, and comes in various sizes so it can clean all phone sizes. The newest and largest PhoneSoap product, HomeSoap, launches soon.
UV-Light Air Purifiers
Far-UVC light has been proven effective on airborne illnesses like the flu, and can accordingly be used in air purifiers and humidifiers. Again, only spring for UVC options, like the AZEUS HEPA Filter Air Cleaner.
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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.
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This story originally appeared on our sister site smartertravel.com.