How Does UV-C Light Impact Material?
UV light technology has been an effective solution for professional disinfection since the 1900s. So, businesses in many industries such as water treatment plants, hospitals, and food manufacturers have been using it as a disinfectant.
Up until now, the public hasn’t used it widely though. However, the destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are changing that. They are bringing the public’s attention to the germicidal properties of UV light.
Scientists confirm that UV-C light has the right properties to kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. But, along with it, many wonder what effect UV-C light has on different materials such as plastic, metal, wood, and fabric. These materials often make up protective equipment like masks and other frequently used and disinfected surfaces. This includes counters, tables, handles, light switches, and more.
In this article, we’ll address these concerns and explain the aftermath of UV-C light on some of the most popular materials.
How UV-C Disinfection Works
Ultraviolet light consists of three bands: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. Out of the three, UV-C rays have the shortest wavelength (ranging between 200 and 280 nm). Therefore, they produce the strongest and the most dangerous radiation. It’s also the only band that has the properties and the ability required to kill bacteria, mold, viruses, and fungi effectively.
Ultraviolet light has properties that allow it to break chemical bonds and instigate cellular mutations. For example, a tan and sunburn are, in simple terms, chemical changes in the cells.
These changes occur to protect the more important parts of cells from the harmful effects of UV radiation by the sun. Therefore, a tan isn’t actually healthy. In objects, you can also notice visible changes from prolonged exposure to the sun. For instance, they start fading and do not appear as bright as they used to.
UV-C rays are significantly more potent than UV-A and UV-B rays which is why they can kill pathogens. Luckily, the Earth’s atmosphere blocks most of them, protecting humans and other living organisms.
However, UV-C disinfection products use an artificial source of UV-C light. It doesn’t pass through enough of the atmosphere to be filtered out.
Despite its effective capacity to disinfect, UV-C light has a major drawback. Since it can destroy DNA, it can be harmful to humans and other living organisms. Without protective equipment such as gloves and goggles while disinfecting with UV light, it can cause skin cancer, eye diseases, and other health conditions.
The Consequences of UV-C Light Exposure on Different Kinds of Material
UV-C rays can affect materials both on a physical and chemical level. With excessive exposure to UV radiation, materials can lose their strength, become less flexible, fade in color, and crack. Some types of material are more susceptible to UV-C than others.
UV-C light can affect many synthetic and natural polymers, including neoprene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and most types of rubber. However, not all materials are harmed. Metal, ceramic, and some types of glass are generally UV-resistant.
Let’s have a look at how some of the most common materials react when they get exposed to UV-C light.
Many pure plastics cannot absorb UV radiation. However, most items don’t consist of its pure version. The presence of catalyst residues and other impurities, such as sodium and oxygen, makes them absorb UV radiation. This leads to the breaking of polymer bonds, causing degradation.
As UV light deteriorates this material, you’ll notice a change in color on its surface. It will start to have a chalky appearance. Moreover, UV energy absorbed by impure forms of it excites the molecules in it, which creates free radicals. As a result, they can be damaging to your health.
Ceramic products have a high bond strength, making them chemically inert. Due to this, they can serve as strong electrical insulators. They can also withstand extreme temperatures. Because of these reasons, ceramics are entirely unaffected by UV exposure.
Unfortunately, UV radiation can destroy wood fibers and lignin. It’s not just the color that starts fading. The process renders them less resilient and more prone to sloughing off, warping, cupping, and cracking.
With prolonged exposure to UV-C light, you can harm wooden objects such as furniture. Since many furniture items also have elements that consist of textile, keep in mind that UV-C light can also damage fabric.
Metals are unaffected by UV-C rays. This is because metals are good conductors of electricity and heat. Since UV rays cannot penetrate their surface, metals simply reflect them.
Keep that in mind as you disinfect objects that have metal in them. Directed at polished metal surfaces, UV-C rays can reflect back at you, possibly causing harm. Unpolished metal surfaces are much safer. The reflection is going to diffuse the strength of UV-C rays. This will make them less dangerous compared to specular reflections which is when light is reflected into only one outgoing direction.
The majority of commercially-made items such as window panes, bottles, classes consist of soda-lime glass. Most UV-C rays will not pass through it. That’s because glass will absorb it. Despite this, glass is a durable material and won’t experience any considerable consequences.
Should You Use UV-C Cleansers To Disinfect Material?
Absolutely. UV-C disinfection is effective, environmentally friendly, and quick. The UV-C disinfection process takes only a few seconds. While it will affect different forms of material, it won’t destroy them immediately! Keep in mind that other disinfectants such as bleach can also degrade materials.
Because UV-C radiation is rather aggressive, it can reduce product lifetime. Even more so if you use it incorrectly. Therefore, we recommend using UV-C cleansers only for the duration necessary for disinfection to occur. With adequate UV protection, of course. It will slow down deterioration as well as prevent unnecessary damage.
So, our answer is, yes! You should use UV-C cleansers to disinfect different kinds of material.