It Came in the Mail
An occasional look at products the travel industry insists we need.
WHAT: Sanitizing travel wand
AIMED AT: Germ-phobic travelers
HOW MUCH: $59.95
BUT DOES IT WORK? Theoretically, yes. The Verilux UVC Wand's ultraviolet light, when waved slowly over and just inches away from such surfaces as hotel bedding, drinking glasses, sink faucets and other germ-gathering sites, eliminates bacteria and viruses by messing with their DNA, rendering them unable to reproduce.
The 10-inch wand weighs 8.6 ounces when loaded with four AA batteries. (A pocket version due out in a couple of months is the size of a cellphone and weighs three ounces fully loaded; its batteries will be rechargeable.)
UVC light is widely used in hospitals and other settings to sterilize instruments. Verilux President Nicholas Harman notes that, unlike sanitizing gels, wipes and the like, ultraviolet light provides chemical-free disinfecting, so it doesn't contribute to bad bugs' developing resistance to stuff we use to kill them. Plus, this method produces no residue to enter the water supply.
But a thorough job takes time; you'll still be waving your wand while everyone else is down at the pool. And University of Illinois microbiologist Abigail Salyers says icky germs can't live for long once they're out of contact with a human being, so there's probably not much to sanitize, anyway. Still worried? Bring your own pillowcase and call it a night, Salyers suggests. Or run a hot hair dryer over the bedspread: "The heat and drying are more effective than UV light if you want to get everything," including microorganisms not affected by UVC light.
-- Jennifer Huget