Manual vs. Autonomous UV-C Disinfection — Which is Better?

by | Dec 1, 2021 | Articles, Disinfection

Manual vs. Autonomous UV-C Disinfection -- Which is Better?

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizations across all industries have taken a more active interest in disinfection solutions to keep their customers and employees safe. One of the solutions that has gained the most attention is UV light disinfection using the specific UV-C band of wavelengths. When exploring UV disinfection solutions, businesses now have the option of selecting between manual and autonomous systems. Here’s what all business owners should know about the differences between these solutions and how utilizing an autonomous solution can improve efficacy and workflow while decreasing costs.

A Brief Primer on UV-C Disinfection

Germicidal UV Range
Spectrum UV

Before comparing manual and autonomous UV light solutions, it’s important to understand the mechanism behind UV-C disinfection. UV-C is a range of UV light with wavelengths between 200-270 nm. Certain wavelengths within this range, particularly 254 nm, are able to inactivate microorganisms by destroying the molecular bonds in DNA and RNA. This broad mechanism of action allows UV-C radiation to inactivate a wide range of pathogens, including many that are resistant to common chemical disinfectants.

Manual UV-C Cleaning

Stationary UV Disinfection Products

Manual UV-C disinfection typically takes two forms. The most familiar is the overhead germicidal lamp, a light fixture that produces UV-C radiation These fixtures can be used for general disinfection, though their static nature prevents them from cleaning surfaces that are not in direct line of sight. For more targeted manual cleaning, handheld UV-C lamps are used. leaning staff use these lamps to deep-clean rooms and facilities, shining them on hard-to-reach surfaces.

There are, however, some notable issues with manual UV-C cleaning. First and foremost is the considerable labor required for cleaning specialists with handheld UV-C devices to disinfect several spaces per day in a commercial setting. While germicidal lamps provide passive cleaning, the more labor-intensive handheld devices are needed to complement them and disinfect more thoroughly. Overhead lamps are also inapplicable in many non-healthcare commercial settings. In the hospitality industry, for example, it would be impractical to install overhead germicidal lamps in places frequented by guests or customers.

There are very real safety concerns associated with manual UV-C cleaning solutions. In healthcare settings, great care must be taken to limit exposure to UV-C associated with disinfection procedures. Protective suits offer workers safety from the effects of UV-C but also add to the already high cost of manual disinfection.

Furthermore, accidents with UV-C radiation can produce considerable acute symptoms. A 2006 incident in which 26 medical students were exposed to UV-C radiation for 90 minutes due to a timer error on overhead germicidal lamps provided researchers an opportunity to explore the effects of high UV-C exposure. All students involved in the incident developed photokeratitis, better known as snow blindness. This condition lasted up to four days, and the students experienced significant, albeit temporary, skin damage. While no lasting effects were identified, the acute symptoms from high-dose exposure in this unusual incident underline the dangers of direct UV-C exposure in humans.

Autonomous UV-C Cleaning

OhmniClean UV-C Disinfection Robot

Autonomous UV-C cleaning relies on self-propelled cleaning robots to disinfect surfaces within a space or facility. One of the primary benefits of a UV light robot compared with manual UV disinfection is the savings in labor costs. The OhmniClean robot, for instance, is capable of cleaning spaces of up to 3,000 square feet in under 15 minutes with minimal human input. In fact, a single human operator can effectively oversee a small fleet of autonomous disinfecting robots. As a result, autonomous solutions drastically reduce labor costs and free up human professionals for other tasks.

Robotic solutions maximize the effectiveness of UV-C disinfection when compared with static and manual solutions. Like all light, the intensity of UV-C is governed by an inverse square relationship with the distance from the light source to an object. Autonomous systems bring the UV-C light source as close as possible to the surfaces being cleaned, thus maximizing the dose of UV-C and producing optimal inactivation. The ability to move and target surfaces within a space also allows a UV disinfection robot to clean surfaces that would otherwise be blocked from the light source by other objects.

Moreover, reducing the risk of human error that can arise from the use of manual disinfection is a key advantage of autonomous solutions. According to an article published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control, “manual cleaning and disinfection is variable because efficacy hugely depends on individuals and their motivation…Despite best practice recommendations, manual cleaning in each hospital is based on local protocols, training, understanding, renewal and staff turnover of cleaning staff, as well as the control and the inspection of their performance.” There are so many factors at play when humans must reproduce operational protocols the same way each time. Inevitably, human error will lead to suboptimal UV-C disinfection over time.

Finally, a disinfecting robot largely eliminates the risk of accidental exposure to UV-C radiation. Since there is no requirement for a human to be in the room with the UV-C light source while cleaning is occurring, the chances of exposure are substantially reduced. This fact also reduces the cost of protective equipment, further contributing to the long-term economy of robotic UV cleaning solutions.

In short, autonomous solutions offer a host of advantages compared to manual UV-C disinfection. From lower labor costs to reducation in human error to increased safety for human operators, the benefits are difficult to ignore. 

About OhmniClean UV-C Disinfection Robot

Designed by OhmniLabs, OhmniClean™ is an autonomous solution that combines UV disinfection with robotics intelligence for more reliable, thorough, and cost-effective disinfection. OhmniClean is fully autonomous so no manual intervention necessary. The robot navigates itself in complex environments, eliminating the risk of shadowing and reducing cycle time for disinfection. 

OhmniClean also features unlimited uptime with instant-swap battery technology. Experience the full utility of a mobile UV-C disinfection solution and disinfect with full availability by simply swapping out the batteries. 

For videos and more information on OhmniClean’s features and specifications, please visit the OhmniClean webpage.

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