Here’s what to look for in a good UV phone sanitizer

Technology

Ultraviolet light sanitizers for your phone have been around for years, but suddenly there is a lot of interest in them. They promise to kill the nasty germs and bacteria on your phones in minutes for a clean, healthy lifestyle.

Here’s what you need to know about their effectiveness (including against coronavirus) and what to look for if you buy one.

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“If you’re concerned about germs and bacteria you’re going to want to be sanitizing as often as possible,” started Tommy Galloway, director of new product categories at HoMedics, the company known for its massagers.

HoMedics UV-Clean Phone Sanitizer

The company recently introduced it’s portable UV-CLEAN Phone Sanitizer and it’s been an instant hit with customers.

“As opposed to the old UV-C bulbs, these are UV-C LED’s and they tend to be a lot faster,” explained Galloway of the $80 device.

The rechargeable device looks like a case: pop up the top, put your phone inside, zip it up and tap a button to activate. It takes just 30 seconds to “free your phone of household germs.”

“Our philosophy was the most effective sanitizer is the one you can use the most often,” said Galloway.

I would agree. I took the HoMedics device on a recent road trip and found myself using it to clean my phone daily. I liked how it worked fast, although you’ll need to bring an older style Micro-USB charging cable with you to recharge the case itself at some point during your travels.

CASETiFY UV Sanitizer

CASETiFY’s UV Sanitizer looks like a little suitcase for your phone. It also uses UV-C LED’s and promises to zap germs in three minutes.

One neat bonus feature: it doubles as a wireless charger for your phone. Lay your phone inside and it’s getting clean and charged.

I also like how Casetify uses the latest USB-C connection, which is the new standard for many devices.

Additionally, there are LEDs around all of the sides of your phone for maximum exposure: top and bottom, along with the sides.

Finally, the device I’ve been using for a few months now the PhoneSoap 3. Truth be told, I got it as a Christmas gift and never opened the box until, well, you know.

Now, it’s become a semi-daily routine to stick my phone in the box, which takes 10 minutes to clean a device. That’s longer than the other sanitizers I tested but the device uses the standard UV-C bulbs, which is probably why.

PhoneSoap UV Sanitizer

It sort of looks like a tiny tanning bed for your phone, with mirrors everywhere inside and lights on the top and bottom for maximum coverage.

The $80 device is regularly sold out and PhoneSoap pretty much invented the UV-sanitizing box for home use. They’ve been a mainstay at CES for years and I expect their booth to be quite popular at future shows.

Now that you know what these little boxes promise, the question is, should you spend your hard earned bucks on one?

To get that answer, I consulted Jim Malley, a professor at the University of New Hampshire. He’s been studying UV light for 30 years.

While I expected him to extoll the virtues of these little boxes, he started with this:

“We don’t have a lot of good data that people are getting sick from their phones,” something I’ve heard from several experts lately.

Still, Malley doesn’t question the effectiveness of UV-C light for this sort of application.

“It disrupts DNA or RNA so the organisms can’t reproduce – and if it can’t reproduce than it can’t infect a human,” explained Malley via a Zoom video conference call.

So it sounds like these boxes do what they say, but what about coronavirus? From many of the experts I’ve consulted with, it seems that these devices would eventually kill the organism, but current studies are still inconclusive on the topic. From what I understand, no one is completely sure just how many cleaning cycles you would need to perform to eradicate COVID-19, which is why none of these devices advertise effectiveness against it.

There are so many of these UV sterilizing devices popping up into the marketplace and Malley says if you buy, stay away from the wands. These are less effective since it’s tough to hold them in just the right spot for the perfect amount of time.

When it comes to boxes, look for one that has reflective surfaces inside and lights on all sides. Whatever you do, don’t look into the UV lights or even attempt to use them on your body.

Professor Jim Malley at the University of New Hampshire

Malley’s simple and effective solution: a 70 percent alcohol wipe or Clorox wipe on your device, which is approved by Apple.

“You can wipe the whole surface… you can get nooks and crannies, and since it’s alcohol it evaporates quickly so you don’t get your electronics wet,” concluded Malley.

Bottom line, it’s not wasted money to buy one of these boxes, but there are cheaper ways to maintain a clean phone. Personally, I like the peace of mind that comes with a sanitizing box and I regularly clean my devices using multiple methods.

One more thing to look for in a good U-V sanitizing box: independent test results published on the manufacturer’s website. They will tell you how many cycles the device takes to kill various organisms. If the company’s done their homework, chances are it’s a higher quality product.

NOW: Listen to the Rich on Tech podcast, where I talk about the tech news I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me!

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