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Contributed by OptiSolve.

Black lights, also known as ultraviolet lights (UV), are often used in professional cleaning to help detect if hidden pathogens are present on walls, high-touch areas, ledges, furniture, and scores of other surfaces. The lights cause materials such as bacteria, urine, seminal fluids and blood, to "fluoresce," so that the naked eye can detect them.

Typically, UV lights are used to test surfaces especially when there is a disease outbreak or any sudden increase in occurrences of a specific disease at a particular time or place. However, while many facility managers and cleaning professionals are familiar with UV lights, they often do not know how to use one.

According to Brad Evans with OptiSolve, some of the key steps to using a UV system include the following:

1. Select a professional-grade UV light system that emits UV rays in extended frequencies — 100 to 400 nanometers (400 nanometers are the equivalent of about 1.6 inches) — to detect bacteria on surfaces.

2. Clear the test area. In some cases, this may include cleaning the area first with an all-purpose cleaner. "However, do not sanitize or disinfect the test area, that can skew the results," said Evans.

3. If checking surfaces on furniture or appliances, move them so that those areas are easily accessible before UV testing begins.

4. Put on UV-protecting glasses or goggles.

5. Turn off all lights in the test area. The test areas need to be as dark as possible for the UV light to expose bacteria.

6. If testing an entire room, start in one corner and move around the room from there, hovering over surfaces suspected of being contaminated. In most cases, bacteria and other contaminants will illuminate under the UV light, according to Evans.

Because using UV lights is a fairly involved process, managers and cleaning professionals should know they have other options when concerns mount about hidden pathogens on surfaces. For instance, many healthcare and food service locations now use imaging technologies to make the invisible visible, helping to eliminate many of the steps discussed here.