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How long does coronavirus live on surfaces?

CLAIM: The novel coronavirus can live on surfaces for days.

IT DEPENDS. The virus can survive from hours to days on different types of surfaces.

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The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive for hours to days, depending on the surface.

So far, a few studies have been conducted looking at how long the novel coronavirus can stay viable—able to cause an infection—on surfaces. They found that, depending on the type of surface, the virus can survive from hours to several days. However, the amount of viable virus present typically drops dramatically within the first few hours. The following surfaces have been tested and no viable virus was present after the amount of time noted:

  • Printing paper and tissue paper: 3 hours
  • Copper: 4 hours
  • Cardboard: 24 hours
  • Cloth: 2 days
  • Wood: 2 days
  • Paper money: 4 days
  • Glass: 4 days
  • Plastic: 3–7 days
  • Stainless steel: 2–7 days
  • Surgical masks: A small amount of viable virus was still present on the outside of the mask after 7 days. More studies of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) need to be done to learn more about the ability of the virus to survive on PPE.

It’s important to emphasize that these studies were done in laboratory settings. The surfaces were indoors, and the virus was carefully collected from the surfaces. Environmental conditions, such as wind and sunlight, may reduce the amount of virus present on a surface and the length of time the virus can stay viable.

 
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We need more research to know how the virus infects people.

More studies are needed to answer questions about how long the virus can survive on different surfaces in large enough amounts to infect someone. Even if the virus is found on a surface, it might not be able to cause infection if there is only a small amount.

Along with the amount of virus, catching COVID-19 also depends on whether the virus has a path into the body to cause an infection. The easiest point of entry for the virus is through the mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, and eyes. This is why handwashing and not touching your face, especially after contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, is very important.

 
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There are many ways to clean the coronavirus from surfaces.

The virus is easily destroyed with regular cleaning products. Soap, detergent, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and diluted bleach solutions (4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water) are all effective at breaking apart coronaviruses. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects reduces the chance that a person will catch COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface.

 
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Keeping surfaces clean is important, but washing your hands and keeping your distance are the best ways to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19.

You are more likely to catch the virus from a sneeze or cough of an infected person than to pick it up from a contaminated surface.

  • Follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to avoid close physical contact with other people.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with your elbow.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially if you’ve touched an object that lots of other people touch, like a doorknob or a stair railing. Scrubbing for 20 seconds and rinsing well is the best way to get the virus off your hands.
 
Published on: April 22, 2020