Sterilization at home

Written by: Harry Mullen MBA, CRCST, CIS, CHL, CER

If you’re like me, you have been recently thinking about ways to sanitizing your home even more. I live and breath sanitization. It has been my world since 1988. I would say that I have become an expert in the commercial space of sanitization, being I have held many positions in Sterile Processing. As a Sterile Processing Technician your focus is to sterilize surgical equipment, so patient’s are safe. As an educator, my job has been to enrich the perspective of my students and medical partners that deal with patients health and safety. 

So with the recent pandemic, I have been reading about how people outside the hospital, have begun to sterilize their homes outside conventional spray chemicals like Clorox and Lysol. My daughter recently purchased a UV light phone sanitizer, which got me thinking, “do these actually work?” So, I did what most of you would do and I Googled it. To my surprise there was a lot of information that helped support the use of these UV lights to clear more than just your phone.

Remember, this is information I’ve discovered online and for use outside the hospital. Here is some information I’ve found. 

Hospital facilities have been embracing ultraviolet (UV) lights as a cleaning tool for years, using large, industrial-grade machines to decontaminate rooms. 

Now, smaller versions of UV sanitation lights are available to consumers looking to clean their personal products at home.

UV light has three wavelength categories: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C light is a short-wavelength, ultraviolet light that breaks apart germ DNA, leaving it unable to function or reproduce. In other words, UV-C light is germicidal (UV-A and UV-B light are not). UV-C can even neutralize “superbugs” that have developed a resistance to antibiotics.

Can UV light be used to kill germs at home?

UVC lights available to consumers come in various forms, boxes, bottles, and covered wands. Each has its own set of instructions for how to use the light to kill germs, with specifics on things like how long the sanitation takes and, in the case of wands, how close it has to be to the object you’re trying to sanitize. Larger box-shaped versions fit tablets, gadgets, bottles, whatever you can fit inside.  

One really interesting study in 2008, tested the efficacy of a toothbrush sanitizer that claims to rid your toothbrush of disease-forming germs. The study found that, compared to a toothbrush that had not been treated with ultraviolet light, the UV light got rid of 86% more colony-forming units of bacteria. These bacteria can cause strep throat, digestive problems, and a number of other illnesses. 

Sanitizing wands allow you to wave UVC light over anything you might want to disinfect, including counters, bedding, and steering wheels. The wands can be used anywhere, claim to work within seconds, and are often marketed to travelers concerned about things like hotel room sanitation. 

In a 2014 study, reported from the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), tested the efficacy/effectiveness of these portable wands and found that they killed 100% of common bacteria within five seconds and inactivated 90% of spore-forming bacteria, which are harder to kill, within 40 seconds. 

UVC light can purify water also, when used correctly. Companies that sell UVC devices and UVC bottles claim to rid 99.99% of the bacteria and viruses from water. Such products are typically valuable to hikers and travelers to remote areas, both of whom more commonly encounter un-purified water sources. 

UVC air purifiers are designed to use short-wave ultraviolet light to inactivate airborne pathogens and microorganisms like mold, bacteria and viruses. Light air purifiers are generally a combination of a forced air system and another filter (like a HEPA filter). As a result, the UV light of the air purifier acts together with other processes to clean the air. Ambient, in-house air is forced through the unit and ventilated through a chamber with bulbs emitting light within the UV-C frequency. The UV lamp is usually placed downstream of a filter in a portable air purifier. Various factors such as the type of UV lamp, humidity and temperature can affect its performance.

Here are some interesting products I’ve found.

Now these are only a few of the items your can buy online. Remember to check the product reviews. If you end of purchasing any of these let me know. I am very curious about what is out there.

I hope this article gets you thinking about the ways we all can keep viruses out of our homes.