Dear Omar

Not All Germ-Killing Gadgets Kill the Coronavirus

I saw the light, but I can’t tell if it’s keeping me safe

Omar L. Gallaga
Published in
4 min readFeb 17, 2021
Illustration source: PhoneSoap

Welcome to Dear Omar, a weekly Debugger column from tech expert Omar L. Gallaga answering all the gadget and technology questions you were afraid to ask.

It’s been almost a year since we became obsessed with germs, with viruses, with our filthy hand-washing habits, suddenly unacceptable when Covid-19 came knocking.

I wonder sometimes if we’ll forget that helpless feeling we had circa April–May 2020, when so much early uncertainty about the workings of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, led to extreme changes in behavior. We scrubbed saltine boxes that we brought home from the grocery store and sprayed every delivered package with sanitizer, afraid that every new foreign object introduced to our home environment was trying to kill us.

At the time, we were all wishing for some kind of magic wand that could kill the coronavirus, but we’ve since learned that it’s not so much about zapping the virus as it is about good hygiene practices, distancing, and limiting contact with other people, not contaminated pizza boxes and tainted countertops.

Sanitizing lamp. Photo: OttLite Wellness Series

Nevertheless, many of us still wonder if there’s a good case to be made for products that use light to kill germs and viruses. PhoneSoap, for instance, had the right product for the right zeitgeist moment with its gadgets that use UV light to eliminate these threats. Most of PhoneSoap’s products look like small safes for your valuables or stylish coffins for your smartphones, complete with charging.

I bought into the hype myself, purchasing a similar model from Tzumi called the Ion UV Sanitizer for my mom as a Christmas gift.

This was bolstered by some reporting I did as hospitals in Texas were finding new ways to deal with SARS-CoV-2. In the case of some hospitals, including Midland Health, UV-light rooms were set up to disinfect personal protective equipment (PPE) so health care workers could reuse masks and other gear.



Omar L. Gallaga

Tech culture writer and podcaster, now freelancing in Texas. Bylines: Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, NPR, Wired, Texas Monthly. Here for all your wordy needs.