How Long Does Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

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Woman cleaning her kitchen sink
Dragana Gordic /

As fears about the new coronavirus multiply, people want to know how long the germ lingers on surfaces — from kitchen sinks to cardboard boxes.

Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently put the new virus to the test as part of a study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health, which includes the NIAID, explains:

“The NIH study attempted to mimic virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects.”

That included using a device to aerosolize the coronavirus — which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 — in a manner similar to what happens when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Researchers found that the virus can live on:

  • Plastic for as long as two to three days
  • Stainless steel for as long as two to three days
  • Cardboard for as long as 24 hours
  • Copper for as long as four hours

It is important to note that the virus does not remain at full strength for these entire periods. Its viability diminishes over the course of these time periods, the researchers say.

How to kill the coronavirus

Despite these findings, contaminated surfaces are not believed to be the chief way that the virus is transmitted from person to person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned, though. In fact, the CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects, including:

  • Tables
  • Countertops
  • Light switches
  • Doorknobs
  • Cabinet handles

Wondering how to do that effectively? It may not be as difficult as you think to keep the coronavirus at bay. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

“Coronaviruses like the one currently circulating the world are enveloped viruses — that is, they have a protective coating. This makes them one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product.”

For more, check out “5 Household Cleaners That Can Kill the Coronavirus.”

What are you doing to protect yourself from the coronavirus? Share your tips in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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