Most of us are familiar with the special effect of what we commonly call black lights -- when everything else is dark, a black light makes certain objects glow in the dark. This is because certain objects "fluoresce" under ultraviolet (UV) light, which is what a black light emits.

But when we talk about black lights, many of us are actually referring to what the lighting industry calls a "blacklight blue" bulb (BLB). There are differences between these and what the industry calls a true black light (BL). Let's explore those differences.

Blacklight Blue Bulbs
A blacklight blue bulb is a light bulb that purposely blocks almost all visible light from leaving the bulb, so you're left with only a dim purple (or violet) glow coming from the bulb. The rest of what comes from the bulb is beyond violet, or what we call "ultraviolet" -- wavelengths that are too long for us to see with our eyes. But they can cause items to fluoresce, or glow, and this is why we get a fluorescent effect from these bulbs, which are often used in night clubs or at parties especially during Halloween.

So if you remember seeing your shoe laces glowing from a black light, this is why. And now you know that was really a blacklight blue light bulb.

Since ultraviolet or UV light is infamously associated with skin cancer and potentially other health problems, it's worth mentioning that there are three types of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA, which is closest to the visible light spectrum, is the safest of the three, and this is primarily the type of UV light emitted by a black light. So occasional exposure to a blacklight blue bulb is not expected to cause any health problems.

Black Lights
While we typically refer to blacklight blue bulbs as "black lights," now you know that's not the correct term, at least in the lighting industry. Black lights, ironically, not only produce more visible light than blacklight blue bulbs, but the light from a black light is actually bluer. (The blacklight blue bulb's light is more purple, or violet.)

The light from a black light is much brighter than that from a blacklight blue bulb, because it doesn't attempt to block all visible light from the bulb. These bulbs are perhaps most famously used in bug lights, or bug zappers. You may recall the bluish glow coming from these devices. Insects can see the emitted UV light and are attracted to it.

Of course if you're looking to avoid bugs, yellow lights work best. So you can keep your bug zapper at one end of the yard while you and your friends sit closer to a yellow or "bug repellant" light. (These are just harder for bugs to see.)

We hope this helps you to understand the difference between black lights and blacklight blue bulbs -- a somewhat confusing topic until you've seen the facts! Of course if you need black lights or any kind of lighting at all, we're here to assist by answering your questions and helping to take your order.