Do UV sanitizers kill germs and viruses?

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Keep every surface in your home clean — even your phone. (Photo: Phonesoap)
Keep every surface in your home clean — even your phone. (Photo: Phonesoap)

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new cleaning methods to the general public and put a bounty on conventional cleaners you once took for granted (bleach wipes, anyone?). And, while UV sanitizing products have been around for years, they’re suddenly seeing a resurgence thanks to widespread shortages in disinfectant sprays and wipes.

These sanitizers harness the power of UV light to help tackle common germs and bacteria. They specifically use UV-A or UV-C light to produce a germicidal effect, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.

While the devices aren’t FDA approved to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the FDA issued guidance in March stating that the organization does not plan to object to UV sanitizing devices being marketed for their ability to tackle viruses, as long as they meet FDA standards. “FDA believes that certain sterilizers, disinfectant devices, and air purifiers falling within the scope of this guidance may help reduce this risk of viral exposure based on our current understanding of these devices and SARS-CoV-2,” the guidance says.

Traditionally, UV light has been used to sterilize objects in laboratory settings, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “We’ve been doing this for years,” he says. UV light works to damage the DNA of bacteria, and the DNA or RNA of viruses, he explains.

As for UV light’s ability to take out SARS-CoV-2, that hasn’t been studied enough yet, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. However, Watkins says, “it might help and it definitely won’t hurt,” adding that UV light may be “especially useful on high touch surfaces.”

Again, UV light hasn’t been proven yet to be an effective sanitizer of SARS-CoV-2, but it also hasn’t been studied widely. If you want to hedge your bets, or are looking for an alternative way to clean objects around your home, here are some good options to check out.

PhoneSoap Wireless Charger


PhoneSoap Wireless Charger
PhoneSoap Wireless Charger


Get the power of wireless charging and a UV sanitizer in one go. The PhoneSoap Wireless Charger kills 99.99% of germs on your whatever you put inside. While the machine is designed for phones, PhoneSoap explicitly states that the box will sanitize “anything that fits inside.” So, this could be handy for your keys, wallet, and anything else you regularly take out in public. To use it, put your gear inside, turn on the machine, and the sanitizing should be done in about 10 minutes (a blue indicator on top will let you know when it’s all set).

Larq Insulated Self-Cleaning Water Bottle


Larq Insulated Self-Cleaning Water Bottle
Larq Insulated Self-Cleaning Water Bottle

This water bottle uses UV-C LED technology to both purify your water and clean those hard-to-reach inner parts of your bottle. Larq’s bottle works fast: Just push the special sanitizing button, and your bottle will be cleaned in 60 seconds. The sanitizing option also re-activates every two hours to keep your bottle fresh and clean. One charge will last you up to a month, but you can easily recharge with a USB cable. In addition to its sanitizing superpowers, the bottle’s double-wall vacuum also keeps your drink cold for 24 hours and hot for 12.

HoMedics UV-Clean Portable Sanitizer


HoMedics UV-Clean Portable Sanitizer
HoMedics UV-Clean Portable Sanitizer


HoMedics has built a name for itself in the UV sanitizing market, and this portable sanitizer doesn’t disappoint. About the size of a makeup case, the sanitizer can clean whatever you can fit inside—your phone, sunglasses, toothbrush, watch... . If it fits, it can be sanitized. The sanitizer tackles up to 99.9% of germs, and it works fast: In just one minute, your stuff will be cleaned and ready to use.

Sharper Image Travel UV Sanitizing Wand


Sharper Image Travel UV Sanitizing Wand
Sharper Image Travel UV Sanitizing Wand

Sharper Image’s UV wand uses UV-C light to quickly take out germs that can cause colds and infections. In laboratory tests, it destroyed more than 99.9% of E. coli. The wand has a built-in timer for easy use and an automatic shut-off for when the job is done. To use it, hold the wand one to two inches away from the surface and gradually move the wand over the area you want to sanitize. Keep the wand over each area for five to 10 seconds before moving on to the next. A nice feature: The wand has a built-in safety switch that will automatically turn the UV-C light off if the device is turned upward to help protect you and your eyes from burns.

59S UV LED Sanitizer


59S UV LED Sanitizer
59S UV LED Sanitizer


59S’ UV LED Sanitizer is basically a small box that quickly and easily cleans whatever you can fit inside. The sterilizer emits UV-C light through eight different LEDs, cleaning your things in three minutes. Once the disinfection is done, the sanitizer automatically shuts off. Voice prompts let you know when the machine is sanitizing and when it’s complete, so there’s no need to hover.

Verilux CleanWave Portable Sanitizing Travel Wand


Verilux CleanWave Portable Sanitizing Travel Wand
Verilux CleanWave Portable Sanitizing Travel Wand


The CleanWave uses UV-C light technology to kill more than 99% of bacteria and germs in seconds. To use it, hold the wand face down on a surface—not on an angle—and hold it no more than a half inch away from what you want to sanitize. You can use it over your keyboard, remote control, door knobs, and faucets, or toss it in your bag to use on the shopping carts at the grocery store. The want also comes with an automatic safety shut-off feature.

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