Best UV light sanitizers for your smartphone and other devices 2020

How do ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizing devices work — and how do they clean tech devices? Two germ-expert MDs weigh in.
Image: Larq Phonesoap
We asked MDs how ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizing devices work and how to best shop for one.LARQ; Phone soap
By Jessica Migala

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From one-minute cleaning hacks to exhaustive cleaning guides, we often share ideas on how to best stay clean in a fast-moving world. There are better times to clean different appliances in your home and priorities on what to clean with just a few minutes. And, of course, there are specific ways to best keep your skin clean, whether it's oily, acne-prone, or otherwise. Yet, one device can often get neglected during our daily hygiene and cleanliness routines: Our phones, which we put through the ringer every day.

  • You’re constantly scrolling through it — eating, resting in between sweaty sets at the gym and so on
  • Maybe your kids are grabbing it with less-than-clean hands
  • Or maybe you're whipping up dinner (hello, raw chicken), following a Pinterest recipe.

There’s a lot of microbes hanging around on your stuff.

What are ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizers?

“Unlike the average American, our tech devices don’t take a shower each day,” says Michael Schmidt, PhD, a professor with the department of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. “We take a shower to remove the microbes affiliated with our skin. The only thing that microbes like better than human skin is plastic and glass,” he explained. In other words, microbes are attracted to your smartphone, your earbuds, your tablet and other products you likely use everyday.

Until recently, your best option was to use a microfiber cloth — or an alternative — to physically wipe these microbes away. Recently, companies have been releasing products equipped with ultraviolet (UV) light to sanitize products (or themselves). These UV light sanitizers promise to rid your tech and other household items of germs that might make you sick.

How do UV light sanitizers work?

On the UV light spectrum there are UV-A, B, and C lights. Only the UV-C light can kill germs, says Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor in the department of pathology at New York University Langone Medical Center.

“This light has a range of effectiveness, which interferes and destroys the nucleic acids of bacteria and other microbes,” Tierno explained, adding that the range of light can also disrupt proteins in the microbes by killing certain amino acids. They work best on smooth surfaces and have limitations, Tierno advised.

“UV-C penetrates superficially, and the light can’t get into nooks and crannies,” he explained. That includes things like buttons or phone cases, which are lined with crevices. If a germ is encased within a food particle, for example, the UV light won’t be able to get at it.

“These kill microbes quickly," Michael Schmidt said. "But when your device comes out, it’s only as safe as its last encounter." In other words, using the UV light sanitizer doesn't license you to get dirty and ignore possible new germs on the phone.

UV light sanitizers to shop in 2020

If you're considering grabbing a UV light sanitizer or a product that uses UV lights, here are some uses you'll likely get out of it:

  • These sanitizers can really shine if multiple people are around your tech devices through the day — as in an office, for example.
  • They make for a quick clean for your tech after your kids (or grandkids) had their way with it
  • And they can be helpful after a day out hiking, gardening, running and so on or a day in cooking, cleaning or playing around with your pets.

Beyond UV-sanitizing devices that clean your tech, there are also products that use UV light to clean what's inside them, like water bottles that self-clean. (Because you know you don’t wash your water bottle as often as you should.) These also employ UV-C light to rid germs and viruses on their interior.

1. PhoneSoap 3 UV Smartphone Sanitizer & Universal Charger

Claiming to kill 99.99 percent of bacteria and germs in five minutes, the very highly-rated PhoneSoap 3 can charge whatever device you drop into it via USB-A or USB-C. It's a solid addition to any office, too. In the recently released, PhoneSoap Pro, the device itself has been redesigned to be larger so it can fit bigger smartphones, their cases, and accessories like AirPods.

2. HomeSoap UV Sanitizer

The larger HomeSoap product can fit tablets and other items like remote controls and game controllers. Built-in USB ports allow you to charge the devices up while it cleans them, and it has an on/off switch, giving you more control over the process. For any family whose many hands come together from different places, the HomeSoap can act as a gatekeeper to reduce germs and bacteria in the house.

3. LARQ Bottle

Just like tech device sanitizer, LARQ's bottlecap is equipped with UV-C LED lights that are designed to purify up to 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses in your water. The bottle is set to self-clean every two hours so you can just move through your day knowing your water is getting a zap of UV-C every once in a while. Its double-wall vacuum insulation keeps cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours, adding to its value the foundation of an all-day water bottle.

4. BrigthINWD UV Light Mini Sanitizer Travel Wand

This travel-ready handheld UV-C light comes in wand form, allowing you to wave it over your target in places like hotel rooms — or bedding, hair brushes, bathroom counters and so on. The company claims it kills 99.9 percent of bacteria, like the others. Since UV-C light might harm your eyes, this wand has an automatic shut-off when overturned to keep your sight safe.

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