We first heard regarding the disinfecting powers of UV-C light (ultraviolet light with a wavelength between 200 and 280 nanometers — and the same light that results in sunburn and skin-cell mutation in humans) while talking to certified sex coach Gigi Engle about the best rabbit and bullet vibrators you can purchase online. Engle utilizes a UV-light sterilization pouch to clean her sex toys of bacteria that could result in yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. According to her, UV light is much more convenient than soap and water. “You just need to wipe off your toys and pop them in the pouch, and you’re done,” she says.
That made us wonder: If ultraviolet light is better than soap at washing sex toys, what else might it be useful for cleaning? To discover, we talked to four medical specialists (and one Strategist staffer who swears by her UV-light-blasting water bottle). Eric Lee, a St. Louis–based physician, says that “UV light, the kind used in most common devices on the market to clean household objects, has been shown to be effective in laboratory studies at eliminating bacteria on computer screens, toothbrushes, and other objects. It has also been shown to impact viruses in similar ways that it affects bacteria.”
Does UV Light Kill Coronavirus?
According to Alex Berezow, a microbiologist who has written on the subject, “UV light is lethal to bacteria and viruses due to its high frequency that scrambles and damages their nuclear material. When it damages the DNA (or RNA) code of these pathogens, it also leads to lethal mutations that prevent them from reproducing correctly.” (As we all attempt to protect ourselves from unnecessary coronavirus exposure, we also asked if the existing technology was effective against it. While our specialists say there have not been conclusive tests indicating that UV light can kill the coronavirus, Berezow says, “ UV light kills everything : bacteria, fungi, viruses. It should kill coronavirus.” We know for sure that it is effective against other viruses such as the flu.)
Does UV Light Destroy Harmful Bacteria?
With their advice in mind, we found many types of equipment that use UV light to destroy a lot of dangerous bacteria and viruses from MRSA to E. coli. One of them is a UV-light-emitting robot that quite factually zaps operating rooms clean of all pathogens. According to CNBC, the manufacturers of these robots, Danish corporation UVD Robots and Texas-based Xenex Disinfection Services, believe that they are effective at destroying the coronavirus and have sent shipments of the disinfecting devices to Italy and East Asia in an attempt to stop the further spread in hotels and hospitals. Additionally, Boeing has designed a prototype for a self-cleaning airplane bathroom that uses UV light to disinfect after every use.
The Effectiveness of UV Sterilizer Boxes
Outside of those industrial uses, there are many portable UV sanitizing boxes, wands, and water bottles that claim to destroy 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses on phones, toothbrushes, pacifiers, and a number of other surfaces. Note that, while none have been proven to kill the coronavirus, a lot of them have been put through rigorous third-party lab testing to support their claims. And just in case we require saying it, UV light should never be employed on the skin or any other component of the body. Also, you should be careful not to look at it when employing a UV-light device to clean objects or surfaces.