Christian Zollner, a materials scientist at UCSB, quoted on effectiveness of UVC

UV Light Wands Are Supposed to Kill Viruses. But Do They Really Work?

Sellers claim that hand-held UV-C light wands sanitize surfaces, but many are underpowered and others are fakes. Here’s what you need to know.

By Jeanne Erdmann, Discover Magazine

August 3, 2020 7:45 PM

Magic Wand? Not Really, Nope!

During the H1N1 influence pandemic of 2009, microbiologists warned that the distance and duration that a wand is held from an infected surface are both critical. But the surface itself matters, too. Smooth surfaces like marble and glass are easier to disinfect than wood or cloth.   

In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission went after two companies marketing UV disinfectant devices because of false claims about eliminating foot fungus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureusE. coli and Salmonella.

UV-C’s germicidal powers depend on the dose — how much optical energy the source delivers, the distance from the source and time of exposure, says Christian Zollner, a materials scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Plus, most of the wands use LEDs, which are less efficient for disinfection, says Zollner.