Tuesday, August 29, 2023
ILLUMICIDE by SterileLight disinfects everyday objects in three minutes using UVC LED.
By Arlene Michlin Bronstein for The National Business Post
January 25, 2021
It was all about the light.
Kathy Schnetz, a former runway model for Marc Jacobs and a 25-year veteran of the medical world, was hard at work in 2016 trying to find solutions to the ubiquitous problem of bacterial contamination. She realized, long before COVID-19 made us all so painfully aware, that harmful, infectious microbes are lurking everywhere — on our hands, our faces, our doorknobs, and our clothes — ready to wreak harm, and possibly death, from even passing contact.
At the time, Schnetz was focused on the bacterial dangers posed by the cosmetic counters at department stores and beauty salons. Though no one willingly shares his or her toothbrush, the same can’t be said for the brushes and samples at makeup displays from Moscow to Missoula, Newark to Nairobi, and everywhere in between, and whoever reaches for one does so at their peril.
The danger was highlighted by Dr. Keith Warriner, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Canada, who conducted a recent study for the news program “Marketplace” on CBC, the country’s public broadcaster. Analyzing 60 makeup testers from four Canadian national retailers, Dr. Warriner found more than 50 percent of all brushes, lipstick and mascara carried potentially life-threatening pathogens. In a real-world example, an Australian fashion model got a severe staph infection in 2016 after a contaminated makeup brush was used on her at a fashion show. If untreated, these infections can cause meningitis, blood poisoning and blindness.
That was the same year Schnetz came upon the work of German chemist Johann Wilhelm Ritter, who had popularized the idea of using light rays to kill germs more than two centuries before. She used that idea as the technological driver for the company she founded, SterileLight LLC, whose first product, the ILLUMICIDE™ Disinfecting Case, uses light rays to disinfect cosmetics and makeup brushes. That was just the first in a line of products the company has produced to help protect people at work, at play and in their homes.
SterileLight’s all-woman team
The journey from bright idea to product took more than creative insight, however. It took a tremendous amount of hard work, along with resources, research and collaboration with scientists, cosmetics industry pros, funders and marketers. Schnetz’s first priority was to put together a talented team of women.
Illumicide disenfecting case by SterileLight
Bridget McGann-Curran, a fashion brand-ambassador, was the first recruit and became executive assistant, SterileLight’s sales director, and then Schnetz’s partner. McGann-Curran knew all about product “liftoff,” and her hiring would prove invaluable when launch time arrived for the original SterileLight™ sanitizer. She became the engine that drove the team.
Schnetz then turned to one of her colleagues and trusted clients, Ellen Tucker Schoen, a valuable business-development insider who eventually connected the SterileLight team with AT&T – and introduced them to SterileLight’s CountDown Antimicrobial screen protectors.
One of the first obstacles the women faced was the existence of several companies touting light-disinfecting products that were, shall we say, less than reliable. With the help of John Pasternak, a seasoned technology professional, Schnetz reverse-engineered all of the products she could find, discovering in the process that almost all were ineffective at best, and harmful at worst. Some even used light sources containing mercury, a known carcinogen and toxic agent.
“I was so mad that those charlatans were not only taking people’s money under false pretenses, but they were endangering people’s lives,” says Schnetz. That assessment propelled her to assure that whatever products SterileLight brought to market — as the company’s motto affirms — “you’re safer with SterileLight.”
The right dose of UVC light for disinfecting
To make that promise a reality, she enlisted the expertise of doctors, including Dr. Robert Murphy, an infectious disease physician at Northwestern University.
Next, Schnetz consulted with engineers and scientists in the field of UVC (ultraviolet C ) LED light. From Thom Connolly at International Light Technologies she learned the importance of the correct “dosing” of the light by considering how far the objects were placed from the light and how long the exposure needed to be in order to disinfect the surface. Then SterileLight acquired the successful light-sterilizing technology of a company which used UVC LED light to deactivate bacteria, mold and other pathogens, and designed the first portable and affordable UVC LED sanitizing system, called ILLUMICIDE.
Made of molded plastic on the outside, with a sturdy handle, the ILLUMICIDE case stands 6 inches high, 12 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and houses 40 UVC lights emitting rays of a variable wave length in the C spectrum range for germicidal effectiveness. Lined with mirrored interior walls, this construction increases the efficacy of the light source, allowing the reflected rays to bombard the items in the case, reducing surface disinfection time from 30 minutes to only three.
In line with the company’s commitment to safety, the ILLUMICIDE case is constructed with seal-tight insulation creating a solid, safe barrier from the UVC LED light rays once closed. The ILLUMICIDE case can be plugged into any outlet or charged for up to 60 uses, and comes with a specially invented proprietary piece called the “Reactor,” which tests the potency of the lights.
Another group of underestimated female entrepreneurs
Even with the backing of great science and the creation of an effective device, the SterileLight team met with a lot of resistance. As a woman-owned business, they found their male counterparts underestimated their abilities, dismissed their vision, or thought they were naive — and in one case even tried to steal the concept they had developed.
When ILLUMICIDE first launched, a container of their newly shipped cases went missing from the loading docks at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Seven months later, as SterileLight continued its investigation into the disappearance of the missing prototype cases, the team happened upon a company selling the devices online, using the SterileLight brand and charging exactly the same amount that had been listed on the SterileLight website. Eventually SterileLight was able to get the imposter site shut down. (SterileLight is still in legal discovery to find out how the sellers obtained the devices).
Those and other challenges notwithstanding, the women of SterileLight were not deterred, and ILLUMICIDE soon found an appreciative audience, first in the cosmetics, beauty and spa industries for which it was initially intended, and then in a number of industries beyond that original scope. Today, healthcare providers are using it to disinfect masks, thermometers, stethoscopes and more. Construction companies have found it useful to protect their workers: They pop in their tools, masks, gloves, gear, even their electrical devices. In the hypervigilant arena of COVID-consciousness, ILLUMICIDE cases are being purchased for placement in office settings, to be used as needed by staff working closely together who might be sharing tools and equipment.
“I bought a unit for my office and one for my home and have been so impressed with how they function,” says consumer advocate Susie Goldner. “I did lots of research to find just the right product to protect my staff and to use with my family … ILLUMICIDE makes me confident that I am taking better care of myself. It’s become my security blanket.”
Hair salon stylists now have the ability disinfect their hair brushes and other items between clients by simply placing them in the ILLUMICIDE disinfecting case for only three minutes, rather than the previous 30.
“I had been searching for a disinfection/sterilization device since COVID hit,” says celebrity hair stylist and beauty guru Darrell Redleaf-Fielder. “I came across the ILLUMICIDE device and had to have it. As an A-list-star makeup artist hairstylist/groomer, I had to have the Rolls-Royce of sanitizing devices.”
Illumicide cleans brushes in three minutes

And in the film industry, a field that has been greatly impacted by the virus and its effects, it’s become an on-set necessity to keep actors and makeup artists safe and healthy at all times. Award-winning Hollywood makeup artist Donald Mowat (Bladerunner 2049, The Fighter, 8 Mile, Spectre, Skyfall, and many more) has used ILLUMICIDE on sets all over the world. “The brush-drying feature is a game changer and added protection. My colleagues, peers and actors love it,” he says.
A new line of sterilization products for home, office and beyond
Since the introduction of ILLUMICIDE in 2016, SterileLight has added several new products to the mix, including the CountDown antimicrobial screen protectors, which attach to the screens of computers, tablets, notebooks and other electronic devices. They are also now used in kitchens, on touch screens, and on appliances to protect users from harmful pathogens and viruses. The ECO GREEN is a soft, disposable towel, which features a patented, non-woven barrier that is effective against bacteria. These disposables are being used in a variety of settings, from nail salons and operating rooms to post-surgical recovery and rehab facilities — the towels are creating huge savings in water, detergent and labor, along with shrinking its own carbon footprint. Finally, The Essential Bag/Mat and Mesh Bag Trio Set is SterileLight’s most recent launch, which offers antimicrobial medical-grade protection and is water resistant, so germs and viruses can’t hop on for a free ride.
The SterileLight team is proud their innovations are used by a diverse, impressive list of consumers, including Johns Hopkins Children’s Center; Philips Healthcare; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and even the Statue of Liberty.
As COVID-19 continues to surge around the world, SterileLight has taken the initiative to donate more than 100 of their products to the health and beauty-care industries. As Tucker Schoen says, “Our brand is revolutionary. We will continue to invent and create products for residential and commercial sterilization solutions, for today and for the future.”
Anti-microbial Essential Bag & Mat Set

“You’re safer with SterileLight” — as their tag line implies — speaks of a company assuredly relevant for today as we battle COVID-19 and relevant in the “new” normal going forward.
Copyright © 2021. The National Business Post. All rights reserved.
Arlene Michlin Bronstein is a writer and the author of several books: Beautiful Buffets, Beautiful Buffets II, Carlos: Contemporary French Cuisine and My Word is my Bond: Voice’s Inside the Chicago Board of Trade. She was the executive producer of My Word Is My Bond, a PBS special based on her book. Her most recent book, How did Nonnie Get to Heaven? is a children’s book about loss. She is fascinated by the life-events that make each human being a unique storyteller. Arlene lives in Scottsdale Arizona.