What do you think of when you hear the words “ultraviolet light”?

Most people picture the sun. Others may think of its use in tanning beds, nail curing systems, and more. Lucky for us (and unlucky for hard-to-kill bacteria), the use of UV light extends far beyond a tan.

Covering The Basics of UV Light

The sun produces a spectrum of UV light, including UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. Most people are familiar with UV-A and UV-B as the rays that penetrate the atmosphere and can give us sunburns. UV-C rays, on the other hand, rarely reach the earth’s surface as they are blocked by the ozone layer.

This means that most organisms aren’t naturally equipped to handle UV-C light. In the case of bacteria, viruses and spores, UV-C light penetrates and mutates DNA, inactivating these pathogens and preventing growth. It took years of honing in on this short-wavelength UV light to discover its disinfecting abilities.

The spectrum of UV light produced by the sun. [source]

Finsen’s Invention

Although it has taken some time for technology to adapt, UV has been around for a while. It was in the late 1800’s when scientists first discovered the germicidal properties of UV light. This provided the basis for Niels Finsen’s Nobel Prize in 1903, where he used “concentrated light radiation” to treat tuberculosis of the skin.

UV light being used as “sun therapy” for children in 1935. [source]

Finsen’s curative lamp invention was leveraged to sanitize drinking water for the first time at a municipal water supply facility in France in 1910. The first commercial tubular UV-C germicidal lamps began manufacturing in the 1930’s. In the decades that followed, more and more UV water treatment systems were deployed in commercial plants mainly across Europe, as well as in North America.

More Applications of UV-C Light

In the 1950’s, the use of UV-C light was extended into air handling systems. This technology was deployed mainly in hospitals, but also in facilities where contamination was a concern (food processing, pharmaceutical plants, animal labs, etc). It played an important role in controlling tuberculosis.

Overcoming Barriers

In the 1960’s, the growing popularity of UV light stalled. This was attributed to the discovery of more powerful drugs, chemicals and antibiotics.

However, over time, UV technology became more economical while concern regarding the environmental and human health impacts of chemical disinfectants began to grow. By the 1990’s, UV-C disinfection applications began to pick-up once again. And after 100 years of use in healthcare, another application for UV-C light came to the fore: environmental surface disinfection.

The Rise of UV Surface Disinfection

Full room UV sanitization systems began deploying in hospitals a little over 10 years ago. This provided a superior alternative to standard disinfection methods by:

  • reducing the use of harsh chemicals
  • eliminating the effect of human error
  • using a different form of disinfection that some pathogens are more susceptible to

As mobile solutions have become commonplace in healthcare (see: Apple’s healthcare branch), tabletop UV sanitizers for mobile equipment have begun entering the market. They provide many of the same advantages as full room UV-C disinfection,  providing a chemical-free and user-friendly way to quickly sanitize phones, tablets and other portable electronics.

If you perform a quick Google search, you can find a wide range of UV surface disinfection solutions available – ranging from cell phone sanitizers to toilet brush disinfection systems. Though prominent for over a century, UV germicidal disinfection continues to grow as a proven method for disinfection with no signs of slowing down.


To learn more about CleanSlate UV’s mobile device sanitizing solutions, and what makes CleanSlate UV the most effective tabletop UVC sanitizer available, please visit our website at www.cleanslateuv.com.

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