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What’s a UV light sanitizer, how is it different from other sterilizers, and should you get one?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. A magic wand was my favorite toy until I found out the bitter truth: it’s not the wand that produces magic, it is just a trick and illusion. Many years later, I have discovered a real magic wand – UV light sanitizer.

Well, maybe it’s not magical, but it’s close enough. You just turn the light on and in a matter of seconds it kills pretty much all viruses and bacteria. UV sanitizers can purify air and water, and disinfect and sanitize tools and workspaces.

How UV Sanitizers Kill Bacteria, Viruses and Other Germs

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a part of the sunlight spectrum. It is shortwave radiation. Thus it’s invisible to the human eye. There are three kinds of UV light: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C light. The first two kinds cause skin aging, sunburns, as well as vitamin D production (UV-B). UV-C light is almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer of our atmosphere, so it reaches the surface in insignificant amounts.

Nevertheless, in the late 19th century, scientists discovered that this shortwave radiation can irradiate germs and bacteria. The technology has been improving ever since, and today we use UV-C light for disinfecting and sanitizing purposes.

While UV-C light is known to be germicidal, it is also harmful to our skin and eyes. That’s because UV-C light damages the DNA of exposed cells. Depending on the exposure time, it inactivates or kills almost all germs and bacteria. It is a highly effective method. Hospitals routinely use UV light to decontaminate rooms. 

No chemicals, no vapors left behind, just a simple light killing all the bacteria. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Well, there’s always a caveat. It doesn’t work well on rough surfaces such as clothes. Actually, even a microscopic unevenness is enough for bacteria and viruses to hide and avoid UV rays. That’s why you’ll see advertising about killing 99.99 germs. Still, it is more than enough to sanitize and clean air, water, and items such as phones, toothbrushes, pacifiers, etc.

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What You Can Use It For?

UV lights are available in various forms such as lamps, wands, boxes, and more. UV-C light kills bacteria, so it has a wide range of possibilities since bacteria are everywhere. These gadgets are pretty much magical, but they can be harmful, so you should be careful and follow the instructions (more on that later on).

So, typically, there are three ways of using it: purifying air, purifying water, and decontaminating pretty much any item that doesn’t have a rough surface

Air Purifiers

UV-C air purifiers remove or eliminate indoor pollutants. The principle is the same as for any UV device, it irradiates germs and bacteria. It is popular to purify the air in houses or to remove unpleasant odors.

These purifiers help but they aren’t 100% efficient. Simply, it’s hard to control air. All air in the room needs to go through the device to eliminate germs. However, some germs need to be exposed for longer periods to be destroyed. So, it won’t sterilize your room, but it will eliminate most of the germs.

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Water Purifiers

Water purifiers can destroy 99.99% of harmful microorganisms in the water. No chemicals, no odors, or changing taste, UV systems are used more and more to purify water. Especially because they are way more efficient than your “traditional”, filter-based water purifier. Some cities use it for drinking water, while others use it to treat wastewater. 

These devices are gaining popularity with preppers, hikers, and wilderness enthusiasts. Obviously, it’s a simple way to get safe water from different sources on outdoor adventures.

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Device Sanitizers

Device UV sanitizers can be used for a variety of household items that we regularly use but don’t clean as often. There’s something peculiar about our hygiene habits. We take a shower every day to stay clean and keep the germs away.

But while our skin attracts microorganisms, plastic and glass attract them even more. Our phones are by far the dirtiest places in our homes. That’s why you need UV magic. It’s not the only way but it’s the simplest and most effective method to keep our gadgets bacteria and viruses-free.

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How to Choose One

UV light sanitizers are very efficient in killing bacteria so it shouldn’t be too difficult to choose one. All of them emit UV-C light but not all of them are the same. You can’t really produce low-quality UV light, but these products differ in wavelengths and purposes. So, it is crucial to decide what you need it for, before purchasing a UV device.

If you’re looking for an air freshener, avoid UV lamps that produce ozone as a side effect. Ozone is good in the atmosphere but not in your house. It can affect your lungs and immune system. 

However, ozone enhances sanitizing effects and it is desired for purifying water. But, there’s a caveat there, too. While a UV lamp kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in water, it can’t eliminate heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

So for purifying water purposes it is best to choose UV systems that combine UV light and reverse osmosis systems for complete purification. If you need it for your hiking trips you can be fine with basic models. It’s highly unlikely that mountain streams contain chemicals or heavy metals. So, getting rid of bacteria and viruses is enough to make it safe to drink.

As for cleaning your phone and your gadgets, you need to pay attention to how close the device has to be to the item you’re cleaning, and how long it takes to sanitize it.

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Safety Comes First

These gadgets are pretty easy to use. You just wave your magic wand long enough and the germs will be gone. Still, you have to follow the instructions to make sure that the treatment will work. Almost every device has its own set of instructions depending on dosage and specific wavelength. You don’t have to learn all the science behind it, just stick to the manual.

Another reason for extra caution is the fact that UV-C light is harmful. You should never look at it or try it on your skin. It can make burns in a matter of seconds.


UV light sanitizers are magical gadgets, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the simplest way to get rid of almost all microbes as long as you use them properly. They literally kill 99.99% of common bacteria in a matter of seconds.

Some viruses and rare bacteria types need longer exposures of around one minute or more to be destroyed. So, these devices won’t sterilize your tech, tables, and working surfaces, but you’re not preparing for surgery. If it’s good enough for hospitals and laboratories, then it’s certainly good enough for your home as well.

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