Goggle Sanitation on the Cheap
August 26, 2012 1:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I build a UV sanitizing goggle cabinet?

I don't have a set of goggles for my classroom, and I'd like to get a class set, however, I would also need a sanitation/storage unit for the goggles.

My basic understanding of how they work is they simply just "cook" the goggles under UV light for 15 minutes.

To buy a professional one would cost around 500 dollars. My school is extremely poor and has almost no funding.

I figure, all it really is is a box with a UV lamp in it, and it got me wondering I can't just make one. I can get a metal box from OSH, and install the lamp at the top, and use wire racks for shelving. Maybe put in a timer.

My question is, will this work? Are there specific specs for the type of UV bulb I have to use? Anything that I'm missing? Thanks!
posted by Peregrin5 to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
I have no idea, but I imagine the characteristics of the light would matter. Back in the days when we used UV-erase EPROMS for firmware updates on copiers, our UV eraser broke. In a pinch (and, as this generation of tech was on the way out) I tried to save the cost of a new UV eraser, and brought in my Radio Shack black light from home. Maybe it was the low wattage of the bulb, maybe it was the wavelength of light produced, but it just would not reliably erase the EPROMS. Wound up buying a new eraser, and the very first time, the whole batch of chips I was having so much trouble with erased perfectly the first time.

I'd expect you'd be okay by finding out what bulb is used in the $500 cabinet, and make sure you incorporate that bulb into your design.
posted by xedrik at 1:25 PM on August 26, 2012

I assume you'd need a "germicidal UV" bulb? (That's the term they're sold under IIRC.) Shorter-wavelength UV than most other uses of UV bulbs. Xedrik's suggestion of finding out what kind of bulb the commercial cabinet uses is a good one— these bulbs have a finite lifespan so presumably you can look up replacement parts.

Other than that, I'd simply make sure that you have safety interlock switches on the cabinet to make sure the bulb can't be on while the cabinet is open, and keep an time-in-operation log so that you know when it's time to replace the bulb.
posted by hattifattener at 1:30 PM on August 26, 2012

Sellstrom makes such a cabinet, and lists the available replacement parts, among which are the bulb and ballast (the really critical parts to the build). Can't see where Sellstrom makes them available directly, but another vendor has the lamp and ballast.

For those two components alone, you're at $200.00, not counting the cabinet, wiring, switches, timer, racks, etc. As much as I like to tinker, this may be a case where it's actually cheaper to just buy the manufactured cabinet rather than building your own. Also consider that if this is going into a lab, or heck, any commercial building, home-built electrical appliances may not comply with insurance regulations; while the individual components may be, I doubt the home-built finished product would be UL listed, and could potentially be a liability, insurance-wise.
posted by xedrik at 1:39 PM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: Having said all that, have you considered applying directly to manufacturers or to local industry for donations or grants? As a student, in my sophomore year of high school, I helped start a computers & technology class, which our high school never had before. I and many other students wrote lots of letters to local businesses, equipment manufacturers, and so on, and got an amazing amount of donations. Bench power supplies, multimeters, oscilloscopes, electronics kits. One of the local refineries donated two pallets of working but surplused PCs and monitors. We got software licenses, cabling, you name it. For a tech fair at the mall (back before even dialup was widespread and wireless broadband was years away), Verizon donated a couple cellular modems and all the usage, free. It's out there, and having students doing the letter-writing seems to help. (For the Verizon thing, we invited a rep to come to class, and we gave them a 10-minute presentation with a Q&A period, and got a promise of two modems for our fair at the end. It was entirely student-driven.)

Check your applicable school regs, but as this is a cabinet for eyewear, perhaps you could ask local eyewear retailers or optometrists for donations in return for acknowledgment on the cabinet or a thank-you in the school newsletter or something? Companies love community PR. Call in the local newspaper and get them to do a writeup with a photo of the optometrist(s) shaking your hand in front of the newly-donated cabinet. They just eat this stuff up, and it's something that the optometrist can add to their portfolio to show their community involvement.
posted by xedrik at 1:49 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good ideas Xedrik. I'll definitely have that on my radar.
posted by Peregrin5 at 1:57 PM on August 26, 2012

Also, ad hoc built cabinets may have "dark areas" especially if there are several layers of goggles under the bulb or in corners that might not receive sufficient UV or insufficient UV from only 15 minutes of exposure.

Perhaps explore a lower tech solution? Sanitizing hand wipes with isopropyl alcohol will clean microbes off the goggles plus grimy kid sweat. Or fill a spray bottle with 70% isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) and spray/wipe down the goggles after use.
posted by porpoise at 1:59 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are asking for a way to sanitize the glasses, 15 minutes of UV is not going to do it. A biological safety cabinet has germicidal UV lights, but they need to be on a lot longer than 15 minutes to function properly, and even the overnight treatment is preceded by either 10% bleach or alcohol wipe down.

I have used, in my lab, a 10% bleach bath followed by water rinse and drying in a low temperature oven for cleaning, a less spectacular technology maybe, but cheaper and quicker. The sturdy plastic of goggles survives bleach well, but becomes brittle to prolonged exposure to UV.
posted by francesca too at 2:11 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Assuming you're talking about a K-12 school, this might be an excellent project to get funded through DonorsChoose. You could also get the goggles funded as part of the project.
posted by zachlipton at 3:28 PM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: What are you sanitizing them of? What is going to get on them that an alcohol wipe won't fix?
posted by gjc at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2012

Response by poster: @gjc: Nothing I don't think. The problem would be getting the time to wipe down the goggles or getting students to do it.

I can make it part of the procedure at the end of the day, but the standard treatment for goggles in every school I've been in has been to cook them in UV light for 15 minutes, so I was just going to go with that, because it didn't take up class time or my time.
posted by Peregrin5 at 6:59 PM on August 30, 2012

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