Washing Your Hands With 20,000 Volts

These last few weeks we’ve all been reminded about the importance of washing our hands. It’s not complicated: you just need soap, water, and about 30 seconds worth of effort. In a pinch you can even use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. But what if there was an even better way of killing bacteria and germs on our hands? One that’s easy, fast, and doesn’t even require you to touch anything. There might be, if you’ve got a high voltage generator laying around.

In his latest video, [Jay Bowles] proposes a novel concept: using the ozone generated by high-voltage corona discharge for rapid and complete hand sterilization. He explains that there’s plenty of research demonstrating the effectiveness of ozone gas a decontamination agent, and since it’s produced in abundance by coronal discharge, the high-voltage generators of the sort he experiments with could double as visually striking hand sanitizers.

Looking to test this theory, [Jay] sets up an experiment using agar plates. He inoculates half of the plates with swabs that he rubbed on his unwashed hands, and then repeats the process after passing his hands over the high-voltage generator for about 15 seconds. The plates were then stored at a relatively constant 23°C (75°F), thanks to the use of his microwave as a makeshift incubator. After 48 hours, the difference between the two sets of plates is pretty striking.

Despite what appears to be the nearly complete eradication of bacteria on his hands after exposing them to the ozone generator, [Jay] is quick to point out that he’s not trying to give out any medical advice with this video. This simple experiment doesn’t cover all forms of bacteria, and he doesn’t have the facilities to test the method against viruses. The safest thing you can do right now is follow the guidelines from agencies like the CDC and just wash your hands the old fashioned way; but the concept outlined here certainly looks worthy of further discussion and experimentation.

Regular viewers of his channel may notice that the device in this video as actually a modified version of the hardware he used to experiment with electrophotography last year.

32 thoughts on “Washing Your Hands With 20,000 Volts

    1. Yes and no, you can not grow something like a cornavirus in a regular agar petri dish the same way you would for instance salmonella or other common pathogens, a bacteria can grow on multiple surfaces, a virus is not technically alive and can not multiply without the interaction of a living cell. If you were to have live cells on the petri dish and exposed those cells to a virus that would multiply in it that specific type of cell, for instance live epithelial cells from lung tissue for coronavirus, you would be able to multiply and detect the virus, but detecting the virus would require that you set up a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to confirm the presence of that specific virus, that on its own is not a trivial task in a home lab, the virus is only about 80 to 120 nm in size so your average microscope would not show it.

    2. The article says he doesn’t have the facilities to test it on viruses, and that’s probably why. In theory he could culture the dish with bacteria, cover his hands in bacteriophages and run the experiment thataway, but that would only test the susceptibility of one kind of virus.

      Logic would suggest that the ozone should kill the viruses too, but that’s not something that this experiment can prove.

  1. You need a fairly high concentration of ozone left for a little but to be effective. It’s hard to do this without exceeding osha limits for ozone exposure. This is effectively the same as washing your hands with bleach if done well. I’ll stick to soap and water.

  2. Give me good old fashioned soap, warm water and perfectly clean small hand towels that are placed straight in the washing machine and washed on 90 degrees no second use till washed

  3. About a month ago, I’ve build a sterilization unit out of the old printer box. Had four 185 nm UV lights positioned in it to cover most angles and added the aluminum foil later to increase coverage with reflection.
    In this wavelength, UV lights do generate fair amount of ozone, so we are using it outdoors to treat mail, parcels and groceries.

  4. Striking results. So is the mechanism solely due to the ozone, or does the voltage play a role.
    Maybe flood the box with a non-oxygen gas and see how that effects the results? (Not propane😉)

  5. An ozone generator, fitted inside a gasketed box might be an ideal fixture for sterilizing masks. The masks could be suspended by hooks from the inside of the lid, or from the walls. A slow fan or agitator inside could assure homogeneity in the ozone distribution.

  6. Ozone generator fitted to a humidifier (not the heated kind) filled with hydrogen peroxide. Seriously mean free radicals! A method for sterilization of surgery suite. Don’t know how long you need to wait before it is safe to re enter the room though.

  7. Bad idea.
    Your skin is covered in commensal (friendly, innocuous) bacteria that cause colonisation resistance for harmful bacteria and fungi. Removing those leave the fertile meadows of your skin wide open for all the nasties to settle in.

    And how the hell do you use a microwave as an incubator?
    How do you set it to 23 degrees (too cold for culturing bacteria quickly, use 37 degrees) and leave it on for 48 hours?
    And how does the radiation not kill the bacteria?

  8. I work for a company using ozone to treat millions of gallons of water. My co-workers and I have stood in rooms for hours with super high levels of ozone. All it does is make you cough until you leave the room to get fresh air. No one has ever died from ozone. I’m completely healthy, all of my co-workers are healthy. The only time we worry is with people that have asthma or lung issues like copd. Everyone is over reacting.

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