• Chris Dowler, FMP

COVID-19: UV-C Wands

With the anticipated return to occupancy – at least in some form – everyone is looking for a panacea to address the disinfection part of the equation. Many are looking at UV wands to fill that role. Unfortunately, through marketing which may not be portraying the efficacy of the product accurately, and a lack of deep dive to educate themselves by fully understanding the capabilities of the wands, many well-meaning people are jumping on the wand bandwagon.

Some facts.

Neither WHO, the CDC, nor the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommends using UV wands as a means to disinfect against the coronavirus.

Ultraviolet light is divided into three spectrums – UV-A (which causes sunburns), UV-B (sunburns, premature aging of skin), and UV-C (skin cancer and corneal damage). Wands use UV-C for disinfection.

Proper use.

Because commercial structures fall under federal occupational safety and health regulations, proper use of wands begins first with proper training of users.

It also includes proper notification of the wand’s use including properly securing the facility and signage while disinfection is taking place.

And proper personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used – nitrile gloves, tightly woven and closed clothing, UV glasses, and UV face shield.

Yes, you can purchase and use these wands at home without these safeguards, but because the wands are used in a commercial environment different rules apply.

Finally, to be effective, the wand generally must be held about 2” above the surface to be disinfected for a minimum of 20 seconds. Times and distance are dependent on the irradiance factor. Few wand manufacturers provide this data. This is not a “wave and go” use which is what many purchasers presume.

To make matters worse, the wands are best for flat surfaces – the more ornate detail of furniture does not lend itself to effective UV-C wand disinfection.

By the way, UV rays in general will degrade paint and polyurethane, and cause yellowing of plastics.

At the end of the day the wands best serve a means to “check the box” if that is what you are looking for; but they also lend themselves to creating a false sense of security for staff, visitors, and customers who enter your facilities.

Maintenance Minute is a weekly quick tip on improving facilities,

produced by Dowler Construction Services. For more information contact us at Dowler@DowlerConstruction.com.


Chris Dowler, FMP

Founder and Owner

Dowler Construction Services

a strategic facility solutions firm

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