UV cabinet that zaps Covid ‘could become fixture of UK homes’

A “disinfection” cabinet that zaps coronavirus could be this Christmas’s must-have gadget as manufacturers tap into demand for professional levels of hygiene in the home.

The UV cleaning cabinet, which resembles a microwave and costs GBP199, is one of a range of anti-coronavirus appliances being put on the market by the electrical brand Beko.

The appliance-maker thinks the metal box, which uses UV light, could become a fixture in British hallways. The device can be used to kill bacteria and viruses on the surfaces of personal effects such as keys, mobile phones, bags and toys.

The Hygiene Shield range, which also includes a fridge with a disinfection drawer and tumble dryer with a UV setting, was rushed into production after a poll of Beko customers in 31 countries found widespread concerns about domestic hygiene. The range is designed, it said, to provide consumers with “peace of mind that their homes are safe and clean”.

Hakan Bulgurlu, the chief executive of Arcelik, the Turkish conglomerate that owns Beko, said the company was fulfilling a “real consumer need” with the products that enabled them to achieve “professional levels of hygiene at home”.

“I think good hygiene practice is going to be one of the lasting impacts of coronavirus,” he said, echoing other major businesses such as Unilever which have pointed to a permanent increase in demand for soap and cleaning products supplies.

The online electrical goods retailer AO.com said there had been a huge increase in searches for terms such as “anti-bac” and “steam clean” on its website.

Sales of steam cleaning appliances have soared this year by 140%, compared with 2019, while demand for washing machines with 90C wash cycles and steam settings is up 87%, AO said.

“Consumers are extremely uncomfortable with coming back into their homes after they’ve been outside, whether it’s shopping, something being delivered, their clothing, their shoes, their keys, their phones,” said Bulgurlu. They were particularly worried that food packaging could be carrying the virus, he added.

“Everybody has a little table where they put keys, hats or spare change by the door. It’s probably not the most attractive thing to put there but as soon as you arrive home you can put your keys, wallet or mobile inside to be disinfected,” Bulgurlu said, referring to the UV cleaning cabinet.

At the start of the pandemic there was a lot of debate about the length of time coronavirus could survive on different surfaces. However, scientists have said this area of concern may have been overplayed, with a recent paper in the Lancet suggesting the chance of transmission via contaminated surfaces is “very small”.

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Some shoppers have been taking extra precautions, wiping down bottles and packets when they get home from the supermarket – and in some cases quarantining purchases for several days. With a separate disinfection drawer above the crisper, Beko says its new fridge will do some of that work disinfecting items in about 40 minutes.

The company said it was not cashing in on the pandemic with the range, as the new models were not much more expensive than the standard ones.

“Our intention here is not to be opportunistic but to provide a service to our customers,” said Bulgurlu. “This is a real need they have communicated to us. By including a feature which raises the cost of ownership by 5-10% it’s not like we’re making a lot of money here.”

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