Are UV housings for disinfecting smartphones effective? Know everything

You hesitate to buy a UV sterilizer box for your smartphone? In this file, we explain everything about UV treatment, its effectiveness, but also its disadvantages. It is also a question of chemical alternatives and their effect on the oleophobic treatment of smartphone glass.

Credit: Phonesoap

With the coronavirus pandemic it is clear that we pay much more attention to the cleanliness of our everyday objects. Often handled, like keys, for example, smartphones are real nests for viruses and bacteria. However, cleaning them effectively is not that simple, especially because of the oleophobic coating applied by manufacturers to the screen glass. The coating is damaged very quickly in the event of chemical cleaning.

This is why we have seen in recent months an attractive alternative: disinfecting smartphones with UV rays. Many manufacturers like Phonesoap and others offer smartphone-sized cases containing a UV lamp. The idea is to forget the smartphone there for a few minutes to kill all the bacteria and viruses that are on the glass.

Over 150 years ago, scientists discovered that the sun’s rays could effectively kill microorganisms. Later it was discovered that the responsible for this effect are certain UV rays. Three main types of UV rays are emitted by the sun: UVA, UVB and UVC. Most UVA is filtered by the ozone layer. UVB rays are absorbed by the skin and allow us to synthesize vitamin D.

As for UVCs, they are the most dangerous. They are indeed very energetic and penetrate deeply into the skin causing burns and sometimes cancer because these rays are capable of damaging DNA. Special lamps exist to generate different parts of the UV spectrum. And UVC lamps have long been used for disinfection in various industrial applications.

UV rays
Credit: Unsplash

For example, tap water is, among other things, treated with powerful UV rays to kill all the germs it contains. For a long time, powerful and expensive mercury lamps were required to generate UV rays capable of reliably killing germs in the various applications of this treatment.

But recently LEDs can replace them advantageously. These LEDs are virtually monochromatic which allows the use of more precise UV wavelengths for more efficiency. They consume very little energy and have a practically unlimited lifespan.

Is disinfecting your smartphone with UV rays really effective?

Against COVID-19, precise studies are still lacking, but we can cite several scientific papers, in particular a study by the American Academy of Sciences which demonstrated the effectiveness of UV rays against coronaviruses responsible for the MERS epidemic.

Several hospitals use UV rays to disinfect certain equipment. Airlines, hotels, and even your hairdresser use UV rays for their disinfection. The method is therefore considered effective. But of course, everything depends on the power of the treatment and the duration of exposure.

To give you an idea, one of the solutions used by airlines is a robot that contains UV lamps and can disinfect an entire plane in about ten minutes. A study from ClearSlate, a manufacturer of UV disinfection boxes, shows thatit is possible to kill 99.978% of bacteriophages MS2, analogous to other viruses, within 20 seconds of exposure.

Is it better to disinfect your smartphone with UV rays or chemicals?


This is in our opinion the most interesting question. On the one hand, wipes and other chemical treatments damage the oleophobic coating which gives a soft feeling when touching the glass of the smartphone. The other UV rays also have a deleterious effect on materials. Most chemical cleaning methods involve using alcohol or an alcohol-based solution.

Be careful, because alcohol quickly dissolves the oil-repellent coating. So if you clean your smartphone often, the glass will quickly change its appearance, becoming more sensitive to fingerprints and less soft to the touch. UV rays have a little less harmful effects, but be careful not to forget your smartphone in a UV disinfection box: prolonged exposure to UVC degrades plastics.

UVC also degrades organic compounds in OLED screens, but again it’s all about exposure time. In general, the disinfection offered by UV boxes does not involve exposing the device to UVC rays for more than a few minutes. It is therefore a fairly safe solution for your device. Finally, beware of what you buy. Some manufacturers like Phonesoap or ClearSlate accompany their products with studies, and have been the subject of independent tests.

But that’s not the case with all the brands you’ll find on Amazon and other platforms. Without professional equipment you will not be able to know precisely what is the wavelength emitted by the light source, while it is this which makes the device really effective, or not.

Can we repair the oleophobic treatment that covers the glass of smartphones?

We wanted to emphasize this point: if you have damaged the oleophobic coating of your smartphone, do not panic ! It is very easy to remove the rest of the coating with a little isopropyl alcohol. The oleophobic product can be bought on the internet – the vials generally cost around fifteen euros and can be used many times.

To reapply it, just put a few drops on the screen and wipe with a microfiber cloth. The operation does not take more than a few minutes. When we know this, we are probably a little less afraid of damaging the oleophobic coating of our smartphone. Effective alternatives in UV housings cost around 80 €.

COVID-19 smartphone

Conclusion: UV disinfection is rather effective, but …

If you hesitate to buy a UV disinfection box for your smartphone because you have doubts about the effectiveness of this type of disinfection, think again: if the device contains the right lamp, with the right wavelength and you respect the exposure time, this type of accessory should kill most of the germs on the surface of the glass of the smartphone.

However, you must learn about the device you want to buy. Pay particular attention to those that have been independently tested. There are doubts that this type of disinfection can completely replace disinfection with wipes.. This type of case is bulky, and we imagine it more to stay at the entrance of your home near your keys, or next to the place where you usually charge the smartphone.

Also read: Smartphone – coronavirus can survive for up to 96 hours

Everything seems to point to it as a form of complementary cleaning of wipes or other chemical cleaning. As for the fear of damaging the oleophobic coating of your smartphone, as we show above, it is relatively trivial to replace this treatment of the screen glass. Have you purchased a UV disinfection box? What are your feedback? Share your opinion in the comments of this dossier.

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