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Is UVC Better Than Chemical Disinfectants?

Is UVC Better Than Chemical Disinfectants?

UV disinfection complements the weaknesses of traditional chemical cleaning by reducing airborne disease transmission, the toxicity of chemical residue, and the occurrence of resistant microorganisms. Because UV uses light to disinfect, it can be applied to a greater variety of non-porous surfaces and even the air. UV air and surface disinfection systems can reduce the irritation from spray cleaners and even make cleaners safer to use by neutralizing toxicity. UV leaves no chemical residue that facilitates superbug growth and is even effective against chemical and antibiotic resistant microorganisms.

UV Strength #1: UV disinfects areas that are challenging to clean with liquid cleaner, such as the air

Read the label of your household cleaner and it will tell you how long the disinfectant needs to be left on the surface to effectively disinfect. Also consider that you will inevitably miss spots and some surfaces are unsafe to spray or wipe with liquid chemical cleaners (such as keyboards, POS systems, and other electronics). Surface disinfectants are also limited to, well, surfaces. Spraying and wiping down surfaces is to prevent the spread of disease transmission, but it does not adequately tackle the issue of airborne diseases.

Given that most of our efforts to control viruses and bacteria focus on cleaning surfaces, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to airborne transmission. Certain diseases can spread when a person with the infection coughs, sneezes, or talks. This disperses nasal and throat secretions into the air which can either hang in the air or land on other people or surfaces. A disease is airborne when you can catch it simply by breathing. While research has come a long way in developing vaccines to eradicate and prevent many of these diseases from spreading, some are still pervasive in the community, households, or workplaces (Read: 10 Airborne Diseases in Canada).

A solution to this issue has been the innovation of UV air disinfection technology. This has been used since the mid-20th century as an invaluable method of preventing hospital acquired infections.

UV air purifiers such as UV CAN’s  Cosmos Wall Mount use a HEPA and activated carbon ion filter to trap and filter particles and harmful pathogens. It then disinfects the air using 5 high-strength germicidal UVC lamps to inactivate 99.99% of viruses and bacteria. Cosmos Wall Mount disinfects at a rate of 35,300 ft³ per hour effectively disinfecting large office spaces, open concept rooms, boardrooms, waiting rooms, or reception areas, etc.

While chemical cleaners can effectively sanitize surfaces when used properly, UV air purification and disinfection solutions are suited to preventing indoor airborne transmission.

UV Strength #2: UV leaves no irritating residue behind while reducing the toxicity of chemical residue

Benzalkonium chloride (BAK) is an ingredient used in most surface cleaners to fight against fungi, bacteria, and viruses (e.g. SARS-CoV and SARS-Cov-2). While it is effective against pathogens, it is toxic to the eyes and skin. High levels of BAK residue are especially detrimental to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and birds. Research at the University of Waterloo found that UVC could completely neutralize the toxicity of BAK, making it less risky for human health and the environment.

They used a BAK solution depth of 1.7 mm, and concentrations of 0.005% and 0.01%. The ingredient’s toxicity was completely neutralized after a UVC dose of 2093 mJ/cm2 and 8374 mJ/ cm2 respectively.

Because BAK is so widely used as a disinfectant in healthcare and food processing industries, adding in a UV disinfection process could both protect workers from the chemical residue as well as deactivate stubborn pathogens. Because BAK is being used in household and workplace settings more than ever due to the pandemic, there is a greater need for research and application of UV.

The increased exposure and use of BAK can also lead to benzalkonium chloride contact dermatitis. Anyone’s skin can start to get irritated due to the ingredient, people with a compromised skin barrier (such as eczema) or healthcare workers are at greater risk. After contact with the chemical, the affected skin may become red, itchy, dry, or scaly, or even blister and peel in severe cases.

While many BAK cleaners come as disposable wipes, cleaning sprays are popular due to how convenient they are. However, this creates an indoor air quality and ventilation issue as chemicals are being sprayed in the air. UV CAN’s Tulip 2 and Cosmos Wall Mount  UV air purifiers are equipped with a HEPA filter that traps airborne particles, and activated carbon ion filter that eliminates odors. Germicidal UVC lights inactivate (aka, “kill”) viruses and bacteria, reducing their concentration in the air indoors. In addition, the UVC lights will help to neutralize the toxicity of spray cleaner in the air, making them safer to use. Investing in a UV air purifier also improves indoor ventilation which can reduce irritation from the smell and toxic ingredients in spray cleaners.

Tulip 2 UV Air Purifier

 Cosmos Wall Mount UV Air Purifier

Tulip 2 is the best portable air purifier for your home or your desk in the office as it disinfects and purifiers the air at a rate of 2,472 to 3,885 ft³ per hour.

Cosmos Wall Mount disinfects at a rate of 35,300 ft³ per hour making it best for your large office space, boardroom, waiting room,  or reception area.


UV Strength #3: UV effectively deactivates even antibiotic and chemical resistant microorganisms

Many cleaning products are marketed as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial.” Overusing these products as well as over-prescribing antibiotics may contribute to more resilient strains of bacteria.

The cleaning products might kill most of the bacteria, but some may survive due to being more resistant. Then, the remaining bacteria lives on to reproduce and multiply into more of the resistant strain of bacteria. This can create a new and especially dangerous strain that is resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants.

While the growth of these strains is a problem in healthcare settings, antibacterial residue (such as triclosan) can enter and accumulate in the environment, leading to antibiotic resistance.

UVC light solves the issues here: It can be used directly on surfaces after traditional disinfectants to prevent the reproduction of resistant microorganisms and it leaves no residue that accumulates in the environment. UV light is still effective against a variety of chemical and antibiotic resistant microorganisms when applied at a high enough dose.

Some well-known examples of harmful microorganisms that are resistant to chemical disinfectants are the protozoa called Cryptosporidium and Giardia. They contaminate drinking water in Canada and can withstand chlorine-based disinfectants. Therefore, our drinking water must go through a filtration and UV light disinfection process to reduce numbers of protozoa.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are known to give patients in healthcare settings severe or life-threatening infections. These staph bacteria are also resistant to other common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. However, studies show a UV dose of 6164 mJ/cm2 will effectively kill off 99.99% of MRSA. It is recommended to apply an even higher dose to lower the risk further.


UV air and surface disinfection is an incredibly effective addition to existing cleaning procedures. A glaring weakness that chemical cleaners have is that they are limited in their capability to completely disinfect all surfaces and they are not effective at preventing airborne transmission of diseases. UV light can be applied to a variety of non-porous surfaces and even has air disinfection applications. Also, chemical cleaners are not always safe to use because they can cause irritation to skin and eyes and some of the ingredients are toxic to humans and the environment. A UV air disinfection system can better ventilate a room after using chemicals, and even neutralize the toxicity of some ingredients like BAK. The residue left over from chemical cleaners can make certain microorganisms resistant to it over time, but UV leaves no such residue and can even prevent the reproduction of superbugs.

Be sure to check out UV CAN’s best air purifiers: Tulip 2 and Cosmos Wall Mount for the air in your indoor space. Click here to see our product solutions for surface disinfection.

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