Can UV Sanitizing Wands Kill the Coronavirus? Yes, But Here’s Why You Still Shouldn’t Buy One

Ultraviolet sanitizing wands are getting a lot of buzz right now.


We’re all searching for new and effective ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, and to that end, there has been a lot of buzz around ultraviolet sanitizing wands. Essentially flashlights that produce sanitizing UV-C blue light instead of the traditional white light, these devices theoretically disinfect at a distance for as long as you can power them. Unfortunately, the practical application is not that simple, and you should think twice before plunking down the hard-earned cash on one of these gadgets instead of traditional cleaning supplies.

UV light really is a disinfectant.

Yes! UV wands operate on the same scientifically sound principle as phone-sanitizing gadgets, like the ones made by PhoneSoap, shining a specific type of ultraviolet light — UV-C — that can kill microbes. UV-C light has been shown to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and has found use in industrial and healthcare settings. But beware: companies pushing UV disinfection technology were already running afoul of the FTC due to false claims, and that was before there was a pandemic on.

But wands are not very practical.

One of the big problems with UV wands is that the ultraviolet light takes time to do its work. Phone sanitizers, for example, require you to put your smartphone into tanning-bed-like box and then leave it there for a number of minutes. But if you want to use a wand to disinfect a table or piece of clothing, on the other hand, you’ll have to ensure that maintained exposure manually by waving the wand around yourself. Not only does that leave room for error, it’s also just a pain.

Worse, UVC is bad for your skin and eyes.

Wands aren’t just arduous to use — they also hold the potential for collateral damage. In addition to killing harmful germs and microbes, UVC light can also damage skin cells and your eyes, which is why the World Health Organization warns against using it to disinfect yourself. While devices that take the form of an internally-lit container can prevent this danger, wands lend themselves to the possibility of collateral damage.

You’re better off with traditional disinfectant.

Most of the popular UV sanitizing wands are going for between $70 and $150 online, money that will almost certainly be better spent on traditional cleaning supplies that are more reliable and less dangerous. UV light might be the default disinfectant of the future, but the future is not quite here yet.

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