UV Lights Illuminating Bacteria in a Kitchen: What Would We See?

Using UV lights to see bacteria.

We’ve all seen those reality TV shows that feature UV lights as evidence. You know the drill: Two hazmat-suited agents with a blacklight will enter a hotel room, turn off the lights, turn on their blacklight and gasp. The camera pivots to the floor, and we see a large glowing splotch. Suddenly, the case is blown wide open: We know that blood or some other bodily fluid was spilled in that room.

But, here’s the thing: Do we? What do UV lights actually do — and can we trust them?

More worryingly: What would a UV light tell you if you used one in your kitchen?

What is a UV Light? What Does it Show?

A UV light or ultraviolet light or, sometimes, a ‘blacklight’ is a type of device that emits very long-wave light. In the presence of UV light, some materials ‘fluoresce’—or give off visible light themselves when in a very dark environment.

Crime shows tend to use UV lights because bodily fluids are chief among the types of substances that give off a lot of fluorescence under UV light. Whether it’s blood or saliva, sometimes knowing that specific bodily substances are present at a crime scene can constitute a crack in the case.

Knowing that these fluids are present can also help people track down bacteria and keep their homes clean. Some of these bodily fluids “can transmit certain sickness-causing bacteria and viruses,” so realizing that they are present and taking steps to clean the contaminated area thoroughly can only be a good thing for your home.

Unfortunately, backlights cannot illuminate bacteria and viruses themselves—only materials that contain these types of microbes. However, this might be enough to illuminate your kitchen because bodily fluids aren’t the only thing that can fluoresce.

What Would a UV Light Show in Your Kitchen?

In your kitchen, the principal use of a blacklight would be to find invisible spills or caked-on residue that you forgot about or only cleaned up most of the way. While this may not seem as dramatic as a crime scene, remember that even a tiny speck of food residue could be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Here are just some of the spills and foods that would fluoresce under UV light:

Liquid spills. Club soda, lemon juice, various types of cooking oil, olive oil and milk

Toiletry stains. Toothpaste, particularly toothpaste with whiteners

Food stains. Eggshell, egg white, honey, pineapple, ketchup, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, banana, lettuce, peppers, squash and energy drinks

Several of these substances likely aren’t great for the integrity of your kitchen counters. Additionally, if they’ve been sitting out on your counter for even a matter of hours, they’ve probably caused entire colonies of harmful bacteria to form.

The takeaway? If your kitchen glows under a blacklight, it’s probably time to make some upgrades to your cleaning routine. Fortunately, we’ve got some recommendations for you.

Keep Your Kitchen So Clean, It’ll Look Great Under a Blacklight

If you’re anything like us, you already have a cleaning routine that you practice regularly. You wipe down your countertops with a trusted cleaner. You clean up spills when they happen.

However, you might also wonder, once you’re done, if you’ve cleaned enough. You might think about these UV light pictures and wonder if your kitchen’s germ-free enough. You might need a solution that will help you know, for once and for all, that your kitchen is completely spotless, so you can relax when the day is done.

Fortunately, you can go the extra mile without having to do much extra work. If you’re in need of a long-term solution to prevent future germ growth, use a multi-action disinfectant antimicrobial to ensure that your home is germ-free. Use it the way it’s directed and you shouldn’t have to worry about even your highest-touch surfaces—no matter what type of light you’re shining on them!


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