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What is a UVC light? How do they destroy germs?

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Source: Phone Soap

We charge and use our phone every day but how often would we clean it? Since the Coronavirus pandemic there has been an increase in alternative methods to bleach and disinfectants to clean your device such as UVC sanitizers. The question is though – can UVC lamps (a.k.a. ultraviolet-C lamps) inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus?  

Probably the reason why consumers are seeking these alternative methods is it seems they would be easier to work with when you have parts that can’t be doused with liquids, like bleach.  

However, most consumers are not aware devices may not work or be safe to use when they’re disinfected to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There’s a huge need for COVID-19 education, but there’s a gap in credible sources.

We here at Catalyst are committed to spending the time and effort educating consumers on the fast-evolving world related to viruses and disinfection.

What exactly is a UVC light and what is its function?  

UVC is the radiation from the highest energy portion of the UV spectrum (100-280 nm)1.

Basically, it comes naturally from the sun, filtered by the ozone layer; but, it can also be created by artificial sources used in industry, commerce and recreation2.

UVC radiation has been employed to disinfect things such as:

  • drinking water
  • air
  • titanium implants
  • contact lenses, among other things3

For this reason, UVC lamps are often called "germicidal" lamps, meaning that it kills germs. The range of 200–270 nm is known as the “germicidal UVC spectrum”4, because it is strongly absorbed by the nucleic acids and disrupting the DNA of a microorganism; and, therefore, is the most lethal range of radiation for microbes.5

Source: David Gray Online

How does UVC destroy germs?

UVC is electromagnetic radiation that works to inactivate germs and microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, yeast, molds, or protozoa. It does this by damaging their genomic material (their DNA or RNA).

Specifically, in viruses, viral inactivation works by altering the surface chemistry of a virus, making it unable to infect new cells. Many viruses contain lipid or protein coats that can be inactivated by chemical alteration, heat processing, solvents, etc.

UVC inactivation of viruses works by destroying the outer protein coating. This further damages the genetic material in the nucleus of the cell, or nucleic acids in the virus, which damages the DNA of the microorganism6,7.This makes the virus unable to replicate itself and infect new host cells, effectively killing the virus’ ability to spread.

UVC radiation has several potential applications, but unfortunately its effectiveness against germs is influenced by many factors like:

  • organic matter e.g. blood, body fluids, tissue
  • type of suspension, surface (e.g. porous or non-porous, flat or curved)
  • temperature
  • type of microorganism
  • UV intensity, which is affected by distance and dirty tubes and output3.

Currently, UV-C lamps are becoming more popular than ever, however it is critical to understand if they eliminate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Are UVC devices safe to use when disinfecting my device?

The answer in short is no.

In general, direct exposure to UVC light is not proven to be safe and further studies are needed. According to the FDA, UVC lamps that are used for disinfection purposes may pose health and safety risks to you, depending on the UVC wavelength, dose, and duration when you are directly exposed to radiation from the device.8

What is the safest method to disinfect your device?

You should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using an EPA-registered disinfectant on the EPA List N. The EPA List N is a comprehensive list that the EPA expects for all products on it to kill the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) when used according to the label directions.9

Source: Budd Group


Can I clean my device in a Catalyst case with approved disinfectants on the EPA List N?

Yes! Catalyst Total Protection Waterproof Cases have been tested to sustain repeated disinfection with 70% isopropyl alcohol and 70% ethanol. These have proven to work against similar coronaviruses like SARS and MERS by a study by the Journal of Hospital Infection.10

Check out how to clean your phone case with our Total Protection range safely here.


Want to learn more?

There are a lot of details and considerations when learning about alternative disinfection methods such as UVC lamps. To learn more about this check out our full whitepaper ‘Can UVC Lamps inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus?’ here


  1. WHO, UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection, and Coronavirus., World Health Organisation, (2020).
  1. Medical Devices (2020).
  1. Miscellaneous Inactivating Agents: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities. Miscellaneous Inactivating Agents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008).
  1. Irving, D. et al. A comparison study of the degradative effects and safety implications of UVC and 405 nm germicidal light sources for endoscope storage. Polymer Degradation and Stability 133, 249-254, doi: Irving, D. et al. (2016).
  1. Gurzadyan, G. G., Görner, H. & Schulte-Frohlinde, D. Ultraviolet (193, 216 and 254 nm) photoinactivation of Escherichia coli strains with different repair deficiencies. Radiat Res 141, 244-251 (1995).
  1. Chang, J. C. et al. UV inactivation of pathogenic and indicator microorganisms. Appl Environ Microbiol 49, 1361-1365, doi:10.1128/aem.49.6.1361-1365.1985 Chang, J. C. et al. (1985).
  1. Dai, T., Vrahas, M. S., Murray, C. K. & Hamblin, M. R. Ultraviolet C irradiation: an alternative antimicrobial approach to localized infections? Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther 10, 185-195, doi:10.1586/eri.11.166 (2012).
  1. FDA, UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection and Coronavirus,, S. Food and Drug Administration (2020).
  1. List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) USA Environmental Protection Agency (2020).
  1. The Journal of Hospital Infection. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents, Healthcare Infection Society (2020).


B2B catalyst catalyst case Catalyst Lifestyle consumer technology coronavirus covid covid-19 disinfect disinfection EPA approved disinfectants EPA List N phone hygiene PPE SARS-CoV-2 total protection Total Protection Case UVC UVC light washable cases Waterproof phone case

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