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How a Utah tech gadget became one of Oprah’s favorite things

Dan Barnes, president and co-founder of PhoneSoap, and
Wes Laporte, the company’s CEO and co-founder, pose for photos with
their newest product, the SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable,
hand-held device that disinfects hard surfaces with
bacteria-killing ultraviolet light, inside the company’s warehouse
in Provo on Tuesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

PROVO — Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things 2021 List dropped this week and, in a year the talk show host and actor said she wanted to champion the best products from small businesses, Utah startup PhoneSoap scored a featured spot on the popular compendium.

“It’s been 25 years since Oprah’s Favorite Things began,” Winfrey said in a video posted with the 2021 edition of the list. “It all started as a way for me to share joy and gratitude to the people who matter most, including yourselves.

“In honor of this milestone we’re going to go big by focusing small. This year we’re celebrating small businesses. And many that are owned by women and people of color.”

Provo-based PhoneSoap earned its way into Oprah’s 2021 world of favor with its SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable, hand-held device that disinfects hard surfaces with bacteria-killing ultraviolet light. The product launched on Monday, simultaneous with the release of the 2021 favorite things and was among just eight products that made it to the tech section on a list that includes 110 recommended products in 10 categories.

PhoneSoap began life as a proposal in a BYU business program over a decade ago that would go on to launch a debut product that combined a phone charger with UV cellphone disinfection. Since then its offerings have expanded to include disinfecting devices for larger objects, filterless air purifiers and now, the UV wand.

PhoneSoap co-founder and President Dan Barnes said this wasn’t the first time his company has worked with Winfrey.

“We’ve worked with Oprah before, in 2019,” Barnes said. “We were featured in her summertime favorite things list that year.”

This time around, Barnes said Winfrey’s team reached out to PhoneSoap over the summer to see what they had to offer. The company sent out the new SurfaceSoap wand for review and, in September, learned they had made it on the big holiday list.

“It’s an honor to be selected for Oprah’s list,” Barnes said. “It comes with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement.”

Dan Barnes, president and co-founder of PhoneSoap, and
Wes Laporte, the company’s CEO and co-founder, show off the
company’s newest product, the SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable,
hand-held device that disinfects hard surfaces with
bacteria-killing ultraviolet light, inside the company’s warehouse
in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Dan Barnes, president and co-founder of PhoneSoap, and
Wes Laporte, the company’s CEO and co-founder, show off the
company’s newest product, the SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable,
hand-held device that disinfects hard surfaces with
bacteria-killing ultraviolet light, inside the company’s warehouse
in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

The UV wand is rechargeable and can disinfect nonporous hard surfaces in a matter of seconds, Barnes said. The device, which retails for $199.99, is available on Amazon (the sponsor of Winfrey’s list this year) and via the PhoneSoap website.

Barnes said interest in PhoneSoap’s disinfecting devices has soared amid the COVID-19 pandemic and elevated concerns about disinfecting the things people come in contact with on a regular basis.

“Our devices really aren’t meant for germaphobes,” Barnes said. “They’re meant for those looking to build on healthy lifestyles.”

He added that the prior experience was definitely a boost, but said every product must still earn Oprah’s seal of approval.

“She goes with brands she trusts and knows,” Barnes said.

The 25th edition of Oprah’s Favorite Things includes a record number of items that range from clothing, home goods and personal care to tech gadgets, food items and gift ideas for children and family pets.

PhoneSoap’s SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable, hand-held
device that disinfects hard surfaces with bacteria-killing
ultraviolet light, is shown with other sanitizing products at the
company’s warehouse in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
PhoneSoap’s SurfaceSoap UV Wand, a portable, hand-held
device that disinfects hard surfaces with bacteria-killing
ultraviolet light, is shown with other sanitizing products at the
company’s warehouse in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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