Operational UVC veg sanitizer

DIY UVC Vegetable Sanitization in a cupboard or a bucket to prevent COVID

Hitanshu Gandhi    Updated
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Covid-19 has raised anxiety levels for everyone and we are all washing our veggies after learning that the virus can survive on surfaces for days. Fortunately there is a better way. We can use the UVC (far ultraviolet aka UV-C) lamp from our ubiquitous water purification machines to sanitize food. Please be aware that this is very damaging to your eyes so take utmost precautions. Proceed further at your own peril.

TL;DR recommendation

For those without a cupboard to spare, my current recommendation is to buy FIB-Sol UV-Mate (20% off with coupon code UVMCB001) with the Wipro timer plug. The timer is critical to prevent over-ripening of produce due to running UVC for too long.

UV Mate is frankly, a crude and expensive item but I love the workflow (please see the video on their page). Yes you can buy corona ovens from folks such as ZeroVir. But let’s face it – why would you pay 10-13k for a small fridge like device, when:

  • Why spend 13k when the disinfection value is done by a tubelight costing 350/-
  • Most of us do not have the space to spare for an activity that takes 10 min every couple of days. UV mate folds away very nicely
  • Its inconvenient putting things in and out of an oven. It is far easier to just put the vegetables/bags on the ground, and unfold the UV-Mate and Boom!

The next easy solution for bachelors is to buy UV sterilization bags for ~2-4k off e-commerce sites. Use better brands like TRU-V sanitization bag which use UVC lights from Philips or Osram, not some generic no name company. These are nice but it is a pain putting items in and out, which is the sole reason the UV-Mate wins.

My jugaad was done prior to this product being listed. Do note that you may need multiple runs to sanitize your entire lot. Why doesn’t someone sell this in flat pack self assembly format with a bigger size? Alas

The choice of the form factor depends upon the space you can devote. Regardless you should ensure that the UVC setup is complimented with a 10 to 15 min timer so that you can set it up and go do other things. Here is an example from WIPRO. You can buy cheaper 15 min versions as well.

A. Install a UVC tubelight (originally purchasable off AliExpress) in a cupboard as shown below

Purpose built UVC light sourced from AliExpress and mounted in a cupboard

Here’s a few examples from Amazon:

8″ Philips UVC tubelight

AC-DC Choke for UVC tubelight

You will also need 0.75″ plastic clamps from a woodwork or hardware shop to hold things in place.

Please check the prices before you buy. Just sharing that as a reference. I earn no commission from anyone – this is just me summarizing my conversations with multiple folks. Ideally Google up and speak with the merchant before you order, if you have any doubts.

If you could not source it, you simply need to call your friendly RO service engineer and ask them to give you the power supply, ballast and UVC tubelight complete with wiring and clamps. Speak to a good RO shop only. This set costed ~2650 from Kent whose tubelight is made in Poland by Philips. Another option is Osram. No point buying cheap.

To avoid the risk of inadvertent exposure, ideally you could include a pressure operated switch which switches off the light when the cabinet is opened.

B. Mount a UVC lamp in a bucket

If you do not have the luxury of a spare cupboard, you could use my setup below – I mounted the above setup on a 16×10″ chopping board. I will invert this into a Nestle or Amul milk packet crate. Currently it is mounted over a 17″ dia 5.5″ deep bucket. Ideally the bucket should be 8 to 12 inches deep.

UVC lamp mounted on chopping board using self tapping screws and 0.75″ clamps
Ballast and AC-24V DC converter mounted on the backside (facing towards the user). The power supply has no slots to screw it firmly so we used 3M double sided tape and zip ties.

Our veggies and purchases!
Let there be (UV) light. DO NOT operate like this.
How it is actually used, smothered by 3 layers of heavy towels and clothes. I will optimize this by next week.
Typical milk crate which I will finally use. Image via supplier on India mart