Do you know your ultraviolet blacklight UVA from your germicidal UVC?
When buying Ultraviolet light bulbs, it’s important to know which type of light bulb is the right one for your needs.
At Lightbulbs Direct, we sell three different types of UV light bulb, and (here’s the important bit) one type is not suitable for all uses. A blacklight blue (BLB) light bulb won’t help you kill flies, just as a germicidal UV tube won’t help you detect forged bank notes. Once you’re aware of the different types of UV lamp and what they should be used for, picking one will be a lot easier.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know to buy UV light bulbs in confidence.
What is Ultraviolet (UV)?
It is often referred to as ultraviolet ‘light,’ but UV is a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths shorter than visible light and longer than X-rays.
All electromagnetic waves are measured in metres, but some wavelengths (like UV) are so small that they’re measured in nanometres (nm). You will often see product descriptions on Lightbulbs Direct reference the ‘nm’ range of the lamp because it directly affects what type of light bulb it is.
UV radiation falls into three categories depending on its wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC. The shorter the wavelength, the more energetic the radiation, and the more harmful it can be. Shorter wavelength radiation, however, is less able to penetrate human skin. The sun gives off the most harmful UVC rays, but they are not strong enough to penetrate the earth’s atmosphere (luckily for us).
The chart below shows the respective wavelengths (in nm) that different types of UV lamps produce, and where they fall on the UV spectrum. The three different types of UV light bulb available are Blacklight Blue (BLB), Blacklight (BL368), and Germicidal.
These are each meant for very different uses and, in the case of germicidal lights particularly, could be hazardous to your health if mixed up. With that in mind, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you determine which UV light bulb is the right one for you.
Blacklight Blue (BLB)
These are the type of ‘glow-in-the-dark’ light bulbs that most would associate with ultraviolet light. The wavelengths that these UV lamps emit are between 370–400nm, right on the border of visible light. Typical uses include:
- Anti-theft protection
- Nightclub lighting
- Detecting forged bank notes
- Carpet cleaning (to detect stains)
- UV nail lamps
- Scorpion detection!
BLB light bulbs are covered by a very dark blue or purple filter, and give off a purplish glow. Fluorescent tubes – either straight or turned into more compact shapes, like the example pictured – are the most common type but there are other lamp varieties available.
When using BLB lamps with ultra violet varnishes or paints, check the manufacturer’s guidelines on the correct lighting needed to activate their product.
While BLB light bulbs are not hazardous to your health in the same way that germicidal UVC light bulbs are, they should always be handled with care. Wear gloves when handling them to avoid contaminating the light bulb, and ensure they are disposed of safely. Avoid long exposure where possible.
See our guide for some more advice on the safe handling and disposal of light bulbs.
Blacklight lamps are not to be confused with the black light blue type described above. While they still fall into the same UVA bracket on the ultraviolet spectrum, the slightly shorter wavelengths (between 350-370nm) result in very different effects. Common uses for these light bulbs include:
- Bug zappers (the UV light attracts bugs)
They emit a mixture of ultraviolet and visible light and will appear to glow a luminous blue colour when operating.
Again, ensure these ultra violet light bulbs are handled and disposed of with care. Here’s that link again with more information about the safe handling and disposal of light bulbs.
These lamps have the shortest UV wavelengths (between 200-280nm) and as a result are potentially the most harmful. Accordingly, extra care should be taken when handling and using these types of UV lights.
The type of UV radiation these light bulbs emit targets the DNA of microorganisms, causing cell death or making reproduction impossible. They’re certainly not the type of light bulbs to be used in the home. They’re mainly used in professional and industrial environments in processes such as:
- Water treatment
- Food sanitation
Like blacklight UVA lamps, germicidal UVC lights are commonly sold as tubes, either straight or turned into more compact shapes. Unlike the UVA lamps, germicidal tubes are usually transparent.
Wear protective clothing when handling germicidal UVC lamps and keep them away from your skin and eyes. It is best to avoid prolonged exposure to the light when it is in operation.
Ultraviolet UVC Sterilization Box
For peace of mind we have introduced a new product to our range, the Ledvance LED UVC Sterilization Box.
Supplying reliable, simple and easy sterilisation thanks to the newest LED UVC technology.
UVC light helps destroy the DNA structure of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, helping to stop them from spreading.
The sterilization box makes use of the sterilizing properties of UVC light with a wavelength between 200 and 280 nanometers without the need for any chemistry or any poisonous compounds.
This sterilization container is best for the disinfection of objects including smartphones, glasses, pens or face masks, leaving you and your own home protected from the threat of contamination.
Simply insert an item inside the box and close it then set the sterilization time: 6 minutes for smooth surfaces such as of mobile phones or glasses,9 minutes for porous surfaces such as face masks.
Check out Ledvance’s own video to see the sterilization box in operation below.
If you’re still in doubt about what type of UV light bulb you need, please contact us for more information.
Please, what’s the difference between a germicidal UVC bulb with ozone and the one without ozone?
Germicidal UVC bulbs with ozone have an extra feature where the UVC radiation reacts with oxygen in the air to create ozone (O3). Ozone is a powerful oxidizer that can destroy microorganisms by breaking down their cell walls and disrupting their metabolism. This makes the germicidal UVC bulbs with ozone more effective in disinfecting larger areas, as the ozone can reach areas that the UVC radiation alone may not be able to reach.
Please note that ozone can be harmful to humans and animals in high concentrations, so it’s crucial to follow safety guidelines when using germicidal UVC bulbs with ozone.
Please does a 15W, 254nm germicidal E26 UVC bulb have the same penetrating effect as a T8 germicidal UVC bulb of the same specifications?
The penetrating effects of a UVC bulb is reliant on its power. So in theory 15W bulbs have the same penetrating effect. However, since an E26 UVC bulb is more compact than a T8 tube, it’s light is more concentrated, especially at close distances, so it has a higher penetrating effect up close. Over a large area, at distance, the penetrating effect is probably the same.
What is the best UV lamp for curing liquid acrylic? I need something powerful that will penetrate through the layers of translucent hardened plastic (as it cures), and as quickly as possible. Thanks
Do you sell 100w e27 screw in bulbs, black light blue??
Hi Colin, not 100W, highest we have as a 25W black-light blue.
What’s the best type to detect mold and pet stains?
You could try our handheld Mini Black Light – it has a wavelength of 300nm and 400nm which is in the range used by the forensic industry.
Hi I want a UVA bulb to help my indoor houseplants grow. Will one of your bulbs work for this please and if so which one?
No, we don’t currently sell specific lightbulbs designed for growing – but there are many suppliers on the internet who do. Perform a search for Grow Lights.
Hi, I need to purchase a UVA-340 lamp could you please direct me to where to find this
Hi, where do we get a 6KW light source with UVA/UVB for application in Drug Toxicity investigations on rats and mice please?
Are any of the bulbs ok for a parrot/bird room ?
Sorry, that is out of our field – I would seek guidance from a vet or similar professional.
If i want to build UV weathering test chamber, which uv light type should i used?
What uv lights would i need to illuminate the mineral willemite, (fluorescent rocks) i have the bLb lamps @17 watt and they dont bring all the color out?
Do you sell any uv light for hvac system? And if so would 2 up be suitable for say a 4 ton heat pump? Thanks
I have read that the UVC bulb light was safe to :see” as long as the bulb itself was not visible. The article said that the C wavelength does not bounce, it absorbs into the the surface it hits. Any idea if this was correct? Mike
Aluminum will reflect UV ranging from 250nm to 400nm. Almost everything else will not.
What is the right one for uvb?
UVB is specific to sun-tanning tubes. We don’t sell those – you may need to go to a specialist supplier.
I need a UVA 340 tube and the corresponding fixture for testing and it has to be less than 30 inches in length
I have purchased 25 watt uv bulb to replace a 15 watt bulb of the same size in my TMC 400. the dimensions are the same as the TMC 600. is it safe to fit
I’m not sure the bulb will fit – if it is a T8 tube type, then the wattage of the bulb is proportionate to the length. i.e. a 25w bulb is longer than a 15w.
They bulbs are the same dimension just 15 watt or 25 watt
OK – so I think the difference is that the 15W is classed as High Efficiency (HE) and the 25W as High Output (HO) – it is our understanding that these two types of tube are not interchangeable as the ballast in the fitting will have been designed for use with only one type HE or HO. I think in your case it is best to stick to 15W.
If I have a gel nails curing unit (365nm) I use for curing UV resin. I need to have bulbs emitting 368nm for photopolymerization, can I get bulbs that fit the same unit? I am in the US. Do you ship?
Is ther a national or international standard for a CFL UVC bulb?
Do you have any light emits only UVB radiation? I am intended to use with supplementation of UVB light for layer production.
Can I use uv lamps to control mold infestation
You can use shortwave UV light (known as UV-C or germicidal) for this purpose. However, this type of light is very dangerous and has negative health implications if used incorrectly. Please read our other guide Can I use Germicidal Lighting to Prevent Coronavirus which explains the dangers.
I need to activate a bleaching process that we have traditionally used the sun to complete. What is the best type of light? Thank you!
I bought hair lightener spray. It’s activated by sunlight. We don’t have much sunlight these days. What type of bulb would duplicate the sun exposure to have the lightener develop?
Hi Tracy, I would contact the manufacturers of the hair product for advice as I wouldn’t like to recommend a product that is not suitable. Maybe they can recommend a Kelvin temperature (K) or UV wavelength range in nano-metres (nm)?
which would work best on photosensitive PCBs
Sorry Bill, we are not really well-informed on that subject.
I was wondering if any of your products generate UV light centered around 340 nm wavelenght?
Most of our Ultraviolet UV Light Bulbs emit light between 300-460nm.
What kind of bulb would be used for psorasis?
Does the length of a uvc bulb matter if they are the same power?
Can I grow a plant using a UV light?
As germicidal UVC light is dangerous to be exposed to eyes or skin, so dangerous in fact, that I suspect any handheld UVC germicidal lamp could be fake and only contain a standard disco-type UV light source that has no germicidal properties at all. The only type of germicidal apparatus that should be used needs to be fully enclosed and allow not light to escape.
is UVC light bulb is good for sanitation and to kill for corona Viruses and any other harmful microbe element? what is the precaution before we use UVC light, because UVC germicidal lamp is already sold in the market
Hi Omar, UVC light is indeed good for this purpose – HOWEVER! UVC light cannot be exposed to human skin as it is dangerous and these types of lightbulbs can only be used in specifically designed sanitation or air purification units. DO NOT install these lights outside of such equipment.
Can I use those lamps in sneaker cleaning? If yes, then which one?
It would be used as a sole whitening method with cleaning product Sole restorer Tarrago.
What uv light to cure liquid acrylic?
Did you find the answer to this? I am also looking
Hi. We have installed 12 no. UVs for a fish pond. As soon as we start up, all the bulbs are flickering at random intervals. These UVs has got electronic ballasts and there is no voltage drop as well. Can someone advise the reason. Supplier said I need to replace all the ballasts and the bulbs as both might have been damaged. Before replacing would like to know the cause.
Hello, I’m looking for broad wavelength UVB fluorescent replacements for a project. Do you sell these? I need 600mm and 1200mm, with two-prong pins.
Hi Luke, no we don’t stock UVB type, only UVA. Unfortunately, we also don’t supply to Australia.
what is the wave length of non Fluorescent coated tube
This article only refers to fluorescent based technology, not sure what question you are asking when referring to ‘non fluorescent’?
Can party black lights with uv wave length 405 be used to kill Corona Virus?
No, standard UVA black lights have no germicidal properties at all. Germicidal lamps have a specific wavelength of 253.7nm – the best and only process for killing COVID we can advise is good personal hygiene and cleaning surfaces and devices with anti-bacterial cleaners. Read our guide “Can I use Germicidal lighting to protect against Coronavirus” for further information on the topic.
I was thinking of making something, using UVC LEDs. What would the range of light be, to kill any pathogens? Or how close would a pathogen be by the LED before its killed?
Do you sell the LED types?
No, we do not sell UVC LEDs as they are not effective. LED’s do not produce they correct wavelength of light for UVC light. Either way, we would very strongly advise you not to make your own device for this purpose and instead purchase a properly certified device. UVC light is extremely damaging to the skin and eyes.
Cheers for that, I’ll take on board what you’ve said 👍
Hello there….I am Evangelinn and I am interested in using UV-C LIGHT TO KILLS POSIBLE GERMS AROUND MY HOME….WHICH PRODUCT WILL RECOMMEND FOR ME ?
Sorry, we cannot recommend any product, we only stock replacement light bulbs. I suggest you search for a specialist in “UV light disinfection for the home” – and I would be wary of buying any products off of Amazon as you need to guarantee safety of all UVC products. Exposure to UVC light is extremely dangerous to humans.
I’m interested in sterilizing a room and was wondering if you had a desk top version that could be set on a timer and turned on during the night, when no-one was present.
No,sorry. We do not stock anything like that.
can i use a black light bulb to clean a N95 mask
No, blacklight UVA is for UV lighting effects only, such as used in clubs or discos.
I have a UVC bulb and I was testing it to see if I can adapt it to perfom sterilization practices but I connect it to a power source and couldn’t see any effect. I was wearing Safety goggles from Uvex that absorb 99.9% of UVA and UVB but then I thought that because the UVC light is beyond the wavelength of the human eye I wouldn’t know if the bulb was working or not? Is there any way to rig up a sensor or any way to determine if the bulb is working? Pardon my lack of knowledge on this topic. Thanks in advance.
Sorry Barry, that is beyond our knowledge too. However, one thing to say is that UV-C is not only dangerous to eyes, but also dangerous if exposed to skin too. We would not recommend tampering with equipment or using these light bulbs outside of a commercially manufactured fully sealed filtration or sterilisation unit.
Generally the UVC lights include a secondary element within the bulb that will make the lamp appear as a blue glow when turned on (Very obvious when lit). However you are correct in that if it was only UVC light, it would be invisible.
will the 56t5/blb kill the corona virus? if not bub can use its;s place will?
Sorry, we cannot recommend you use UVC light bulbs for this purpose. They are very dangerous to handle. Please read our guide for help in how to keep your home clean.
Are UVC tubes compatible with fittings for fluorescent tubes? Or is the starter different?
UVC tubes cannot be used in standard fluorescent fittings as a standard fitting is not sealed or enclosed and will allow the UVC light to be exposed.
Purchased UVC LIGHT TO PLACE IN AIRVENT RETURN FOR HOME.WILLBE VISIBLE THROUGH FLOOR VENT GRATE.IS THIS DANGEROUS IF ANYONE LOOKS DOWN INTO VENT.HAVE PEYS ALSO .
All exposure to UV-C light is dangerous, and UV-C lights should only be used in a completely sealed unit.
Hi how do I know that something being marketed as UVC is actually a plain UV bulb? Been scouring the web – can’t find anything. Please help!!!
UVC has a wavelength of light between 200-280nm, please check the packaging or manufacturers specifications. All our germicidal light bulbs have their wavelength of light clearly marked in the product description on our product listing pages.
You can get a test card on Amazon. It should supply these functions: Show that the light is nominally in the ultraviolet range, and isn’t just a colored light, specifically show when the light is in the UV-C range, and should have a scale to show the light’s intensity. They aren’t expensive, and they last forever. I carry mine in my wallet.
Where can I find fittings for some of these tubes? I would like to build a decontamination box. Are these only for water purification systems? T8 18” wemlite, for example. Thank you.
Sorry, we only sell the replacement bulbs and do not supply the decontamination equipment.
can I use uvc in fridge to ensure food stay fresh and germ free to eat ?
Absolutely not! – UVC is damaging to organic matter and should only be used in controlled apparatus for which it is designed.
Where can I get these U V blind or tublights
If you are in the UK, you can buy here UV Tubes and Lights
Which ones are the UV-C bulbs and can you please state the wavelength?
Our UV-C bulbs have UVC in their product name, plus you can check the description for more detailed information.