17:06 PM

How Long Can the Coronavirus Survive on Surfaces?



A new study reveals the length of time COVID-19 can live on common surfaces. Your best defense? Disinfect thoroughly. Here’s how.

Amidst the pandemic fears remains confusion around contamination — and what role some of the most commonly touched surfaces may play in the spread of the disease. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to update COVID-19 guidelines, we’re beginning to understand what kinds of surfaces can keep the virus around.

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine revealed how long the coronavirus can live on different surfaces. Researchers still have a lot to learn about how the virus is passed or how much of it is needed to cause an infection. But the study can point us to potential ways to decrease our risks – and highlight one of the best defenses we have: disinfectants.

Here’s how long the virus lives on surfaces that we commonly touch:

  • Plastics: Up to 72 hours
  • Stainless steel: Up to 48 hours
  • Cardboard: Up to 24 hours
  • Copper: Up to 4 hours

It’s unknown if, at the end of this time period, touching these surfaces can cause an infection. Plastics, for example, held only 0.1 percent of the virus after 72 hours. Again, the most likely way to catch the virus is by being around other infected people, not by touching a contaminated surface.

But with so many unknowns, we can’t practice too much caution. The best way to stay safe in your household is to keep it clean. The CDC recommends:

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily in many common household areas such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks
  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • Use a diluted bleach solution (one-third cup of bleach per gallon of water) or a product from this list of approved disinfectants

Safety measures for grocery shopping

When you’re away from home doing your grocery shopping, try to practice similar precautions:

  • Use disinfectant wipes on grocery carts or basket handles
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Use hand sanitizer right when you leave the store and wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds once you’re home
  • There is no current evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted through food. But you should still consider washing or disinfecting the outside surfaces of cans, bottles and boxes, and wash fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them. What’s inside sealed containers won't be contaminated
  • After finishing unpacking, wash your hands with soap and water again for at least 20 seconds. Any surfaces on which you placed groceries should be disinfected

For more information about cleaning and disinfecting more household items like electronics, clothing, or rugs and drapes, visit this dedicated CDC website.