Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod Review: Is It Worth It?
Manufactured by Rayvio, Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod is a patented, portable sterilizer that promises to kill 99.9% of germs and viruses in 60 seconds.
But instead of toxic mercury like traditional methods, Ellie’s TRUVIOLET technology uses microchip-based LEDs to safely destroy a wide range of microbes, including those that are antibiotic and chemical resistant. This is why the company calls it the most “advanced and effective digital UV LED technology developed.”
Ellie’s Pod is made from BPA-free, environmentally friendly plastic and features four LED modules on the inside (two on top, two on bottom), along with a two-bottle capacity.
You’ll also find an electroplated rotating shelf that makes it great for pacifiers, teethers, toothbrushes, and breast pump accessories. You can purify water for mixing formula, and can even use it on kitchen utensils and sponges, cosmetics, retainers and mouth guards, remote controls, mobiles phones, and keys and fobs.
And all of this without boiling, steaming or worrying about melting plastic.
Since Ellie only weighs a couple of pounds and is about the size of a lunchbox, right now, you’re probably imagining all the different ways this little device could help make your day easier. But is it worth the wait? Are there other options you should consider?
Let’s start helping you find some answers by taking a closer look at Ellie’s details.
Is the Ellie UV Sanitizer Easy to Use?
On the inside, Ellie’s chamber is coated with easy-to-clean, food-safe aluminum, which works to bounce the bacteria-busting UV rays multiple times in numerous directions and maximize the surface area of whatever’s being sterilized.
First, the company recommends using a wet wipe or water to remove any dirt or debris on the objects. If you’re using a baby bottle (the website claims it’s compatible with most popular baby bottles on the market, although they recommend Philips Avent, NUK, and MAM brands for best results), place it upside down with the opening facing the LED.
The nipple can go on the shelf, while pacifiers and anything else can go on the bottom. Just remember not to overfill the Ellie case with too many items at once.
Finally, close the door and make sure it’s locked (Ellie won’t operate unless the door is secure) and press the one-touch button at the top. In 60 seconds, everything is sterilized and while you wait, you can view what’s going on inside through the UV-filtered window.
Ellie’s rechargeable Lithium-ion battery with micro-USB charging interface is designed to last one week on a single charge, assuming 20 uses each day. The website indicates that each LED will last about 100,000 uses—that’s more than 13 years if used every day, 20 times per day.
Ellie is water resistant, which means that it can be wiped with a wet cloth. However, it should never be placed under running water and it is not dishwasher safe.
The Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod was designed to accommodate a wide variety of items, from bottles and toys to toothbrushes and lip balm. Image credit: Ellie
But once you’ve pressed the button on top, exactly how does the Ellie Pod sterilize the items inside? Let’s take a quick trip down to the microscopic level.
How Does Ellie’s TRUVIOLET UV Technology Kill Germs & Viruses?
Within the electromagnetic spectrum, there are many different wavelengths of radiation. Some of these wavelengths (between 390 to 700 nm) are visible to the human eye, while many more are not.
UV radiation (the same kind emitted from the sun that can damage skin cells) is mostly invisible to the human eye, since its spectrum falls between 10 nm and 400 nm.
Now, ultraviolet radiation that falls between 100 nm and 290 nm is known as UVC light, and is especially damaging to living organisms. This is the same spectrum used by the Ellie Sterilizing Pod (specifically, between 275 nm and 285 nm).
Interviewed in a Scientific American article, Anne Rammelsberg, a chemistry professor at Millikin University, states that this UVC light:
“… kills cells by damaging their DNA. The light initiates a reaction between two molecules of thymine, one of the bases that make up DNA.”
This reaction damages the cell’s DNA so that its essential processes no longer function properly, and it therefore dies.
The TRUVIOLET technology used in the Ellie Sterilizing Pod emits a very specific wavelength of UV radiation, between 275 nm and 285 nm, that’s been shown to kill 99.9999% of bacteria and viruses. Image credit: Ellie
Now, the germicidal benefits related to UV light are well known, and it’s been used in this manner for decades. However, most UV bulbs that emit this spectrum of light utilize a mercury arc, making them fragile and potentially toxic if damaged.
Comparatively, Ellie’s microchip-based LEDs use a rugged core semiconductor process that promises mercury- and- lead-free operation, long life, much smaller size, and robust operation.
Together, Ellie claims their sanitizing pod has been proven to be effective at 6-log rates (99.9999%) for killing germs at the DNA level, including E. coli, Salmonella, Staph, and Listeria, along with antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA that can cause hospital-acquired infections (HAI).
This is one of the reasons the manufacturer, Rayvio, claims it represents the “dawn of the Microchip of Health” that can “change the world in 60 seconds.
How Much Does the Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod Cost?
Available in Pure White, Slate Grey, Arctic Blue, and Ultra Violet colors, the Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod is currently priced at $103 through the company’s Indiegogo campaign (retail price will eventually be $129).
You can also purchase a travel sleeve (carrying case) for $23. Expected delivery is September 2017.
As long as the campaign is still in progress, Indiegogo allows backers to request refunds within 10 days of their order. Once this time has passed or once the campaign has ended, no refunds are available.
If you have a question for the Ellie team, whether regarding pricing or anything else, they can be reached at (510) 575-9900 or via their online contact form.
What Can We Learn from Ellie Sterilizing Pod Customer Reviews?
Ellie’s initial Indiegogo campaign ended in January 2017 after raising more than $137K. According to several recent comments there, it appears the initial April delivery date has been pushed back to September, as the company decided to go with a different manufacturer.
While Ellie certainly appears to be a legitimate company, delays are a very common occurrence among crowdfunding campaigns, so we don’t think it necessarily signifies anything negative. Unsurprisingly, many backers expressed their dissatisfaction, although Dr. Yitao Liao, Ellie’s developer, responded to many in an effort to ease concerns.
Since it hadn’t been released yet, we didn’t encounter any hands-on feedback. We also found very little feedback on tech-oriented sites, with the exception of CNET.
Overall, while they found Ellie’s tech compelling, they wondered if most parents will have room for the lunchbox-sized device in what's probably an already overcrowded diaper bag.
Also, they wondered if it’s worth the high price and if it will ‘rob’ children of beneficial bacteria that can produce well-rounded gut microbiota and boost the immune system.
End the end, they noted, “Personally, I’d like to see empirical evidence supporting its use before shelling out cash on a device like the Ellie, or recommending anyone else do so.”
With this said, Ellie was selected by the Editors of Women’s Health for an Editor’s Choice Award at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The LED technology featured in Ellie was developed by Dr. Yitao Liao, who envisions its use in far broader applications. He even noted on their website, “The fact that 3.4 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases, is one of the driving forces behind our technology.”
Previously, Dr. Liao earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Boston University, where he developed the core technology behind Ellie during his thesis.
Rayvio’s Ellie vs. Other UV-Based Sterilizing Devices
While you’ll find many other ultraviolet sanitizer and sterilizers out there—everything from laboratory-grade equipment that costs thousands of dollars, to handheld UV wands and device-specific products like Phonesoap and Tabletsoap—the vast majority use the standard mercury-based bulbs to deliver UVC light.
At the time of our research, the only other portable sterilizer we encountered was Cleanty, a $59 small, handheld device that can be ‘scanned’ over just about any surface and promises to last a month on a single charge.
Compared to Ellie, a potential advantage is that Cleanty could be used on a variety of surfaces, instead of only those that can fit in a box. But, this also means that it could inadvertently be applied to the skin (remember, the human eye can’t see most of the UV spectrum).
Finally, it should at least be mentioned that, while you’d certainly need a fair amount of knowledge to build your own, you could find UVC spectrum LEDs for sale online for as little as $5. In fact, you could purchase the very same LEDs used in Ellie directly through Rayvio, although no prices were listed on their website.
Our Final Thoughts About the Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod
Even at its eventual retail price of $129, Ellie isn’t a whole lot more expensive than traditional steam-based sanitizing and sterilizing devices, although it’s certainly much more portable and requires no water.
But when it comes down to it, can price you put a price on good health? Probably not.
The ultimate question is this, though: Sure, if Ellie works as advertised, it could be a lifesaver for busy parents. But when it comes down to it, are you promoting good health—or at least preventing poor health—with Ellie?
While Rayvio is clearly a legitimate company with some seemingly groundbreaking technology to its name, as mentioned in the CNET article earlier, we think consumers would like to see empirical evidence supporting its use.
In this regard, we reached out to both Ellie and Rayvio for additional information and will update this article as soon as a response is received.