How Long Can the Coronavirus Live on Different Surfaces?

How Long Can the Coronavirus Live on Different Surfaces?

  • This page was last updated at July 14, 2024.

COVID-19 a new virus that started affecting humans during the latter half of 2019. The media of transmission of the virus is respiratory droplets. These droplets are let out when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks.

The droplets settle on objects and if you touch these infected surfaces and then place your hand on your eye, nose, or mouth then there is a good chance that you might be infected.

That does not guarantee that you will be infected. In fact, the CDC has recently announced that spread via surfaces is far less than previously hypothesized.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has a different life-span on different items. The question is: How long does the coronavirus live on different objects?

The Lifespan of Coronavirus on Different Surfaces

Many studies have been conducted on different aspects of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some studies have been conducted to determine how long the virus will survive on any surface. For this, the researchers in the studies deliberately infected the surface of objects.

The researchers did this in a controlled environment. Then they collected samples from these surfaces and determined if the virus was still alive. From these studies, it was found that the virus had different lifespans on different surfaces.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Plastic

Many objects fall under plastics and we use daily. These include bottles used to store milk, water, and other objects. Electric switches, credit cards, controller for playing games and viewing T.V., and buttons on the ATM.

The list is endless.

One study said that the virus can live on plastic objects for up to three days while another concluded that the virus can be active for up to seven days.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Paper

Paper objects play a vital part in our daily lives. One can say that life would be difficult without them.

The different paper objects that we use include paper towels, letters and stationery, tissues, paper money, newspaper and magazines, and toilet paper. 

A study has found that on most paper objects the virus has a lifespan of fewer than three hours. However, that is not the case with paper money. The virus has a lifespan of four days in this regard.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Metals

Many of the objects we use in our daily lives are made of metal. Most of these objects are made of either copper or stainless steel. The common objects made from copper are jewelry, cookware, electrical wire, and coins.

Objects made from stainless steel are cutlery, refrigerators, pots and pans, keys, and door handles. One study found that the virus can survive on stainless steel for three days but can survive for less than three hours on copper.

Another study has shown that the virus can survive on stainless steel for a maximum of seven days.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Cardboard

Cardboard is used for packaging and shipping objects. It is used to package food. One of the studies has found that the maximum lifespan of the virus on the cardboard is 24 hours.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Glass

Glass is used in making smartphones, TVs, computers, windows, drinkware, and mirrors. The virus has a higher lifespan on glass than it has on cardboard. On glass surfaces, the coronavirus can survive for four days.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Wood

Most of the furniture used in our house is made of wood. One of the studies found that the virus can survive on the wood for less than two days.

Coronavirus Lifespan on Floors and Clothes

The ability of the virus to survive on clothing items does not extend beyond two days. If you can maintain social distancing and no one has coughed or sneezed near when you are out then you need not wash your clothes. However, if you are not able to meet any of the above conditions then it is better to wash your clothes after you enter your house.

A study conducted by the Emerging Infectious Diseases on the surfaces of the hospital found that floors were the worst. Many samples collected from floors were found positive for COVID-19. The next on the list was shoes. Many samples collected from shoes tested positive for COVID-19. So if you have doubts that your shoes might contain the virus you should remove your shoes outside your house before entering. Another thing you can do is use a wipe to clean your shoes if you have gone out.

Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Coronavirus

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the COVID-19 is affected by temperature and humidity like all viruses. One study found that the virus can survive at 4° C (around 39° F). But once the temperature is rapidly increased to 70° C (158° F) the virus becomes inactive.


Food and water - How long does COVID-19 survive?

The survival rate of COVID-19 in water is not known. But a study has been conducted on a similar kind of virus. That study found that this kind of virus cannot survive in water at room temperature. The ability to survive increases as the temperature is reduced. When the temperature is increased, the ability to survive decreases. You must remember that the drinking water found in homes is treated and thus the chances of the virus being found in it non-existent.

The ability to survive on food items is poor but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that you should still be careful when handling food items. The rule of washing fruits and vegetables before using them still applies. In case you are handling food items, you should wash your hands after both handling and storing them. In case you preparing food you should wash your hand before and after the preparation. You should wash your hands before you eat your food.

Having doubts about surfaces

Even though the above studies have mentioned the time for each surface it is not possible to be sure. In case you have any doubts about the surface you should clean it. There are certain surfaces that you must clean regularly. These things include

  1. Appliances like refrigerator and ovens
  2. Toilets
  3. Railings on stairways
  4. Sinks and faucets
  5. Computer products like mouse and keyboard
  6. Countertops
  7. Light switches
  8. Doorknobs
  9. Handheld electronic items like game controllers, remotes, and smartphones.

How to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should use regular household cleaning agents to clean. When it comes to clothes you can use your regular detergents. Make sure that the clothes are completely dry before putting them away.

When cleaning surfaces, you should consider wearing disposable gloves. Nitrile gloves tend to be thicker than latex or vinyl, but pay attention to the 'mil' of the gloves. A 2 mil glove is thin and usually meant for examination purposes. A 4mil or 6 mil nitrile glove thickness is better for household cleaning.


Even though the studies have found that the virus thrives on certain surfaces better than others, you should be careful when handling items. Data about the virus is incomplete when it comes to certain items like water and food. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.