- The coronavirus is primarily a respiratory illness, and it typically spreads via airborne droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes.
- Viral particles can survive for a time on surfaces, but the coronavirus’ lifespan on surfaces depends on various factors like temperature and humidity.
- New research suggests the coronavirus can last between three hours and three days on surfaces, depending on the material.
A new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports Graham’s assessment. The study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests the virus can live up to four hours on copper, up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
The coronavirus can also live in the air for up to three hours, the study authors found.
The NIH researchers compared the new coronavirus’ lifespan on surfaces to that of the SARS coronavirus. They found that both coronaviruses lived the longest on stainless steel and polypropylene, a type of plastic used in everything from toys to car parts. Both viruses lasted up to three days on plastic, and the new coronavirus lasted up to three days on steel.
On cardboard, however, the new coronavirus lasted three times longer than SARS did: 24 hours, compared to eight hours.
Another study published March 1 in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at the lifespans of other coronaviruses found in humans on various surfaces. The SARS coronavirus, at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), lasted for two days on steel, four days on wood and glass, and five days on metal, plastic, and ceramics. (The researchers also found that one strain of SARS lasted up to nine days on a plastic surface at room temperature.)
SARS survived for two to eight hours on aluminum and for less than eight hours on latex.
According to Graham, smooth, nonporous surfaces like doorknobs and tabletops are better at carrying viruses in general. Porous surfaces like money, hair, and fabric don’t allow viruses to survive as long because the small spaces or holes in them can trap the microbe and prevent its transfer, Graham said.
“Coins will transmit a virus better than cash, but this shouldn’t be a huge concern,” she said. “Basic rule of thumb should be to consider money dirty anyway, because it is. It goes through too many hands not to be.”
Your smartphone, with all its glass and aluminum, can also carry viral particles. Graham recommended disinfecting your phone, “particularly if it travels to the bathroom with you.”
Does the type of shoe matter?
While it is thought that it is unlikely you can get coronavirus from the bottom of your shoes, experts do acknowledge that the virus can live on certain materials for a few days at a time.
We’ve learned from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that coronavirus can remain active on some surfaces, like plastic, for up to two to three days,” Winner told the outlet. “This suggests that viruses deposited on shoes made of plastic could retain the active virus for a few days.”
According to the study, the virus is viable on stainless steel for up to three days as well, and up to one day on cardboard.
How to disinfect surfaces
The authors of the Journal of Hospital Infection study noted that human coronaviruses could be “efficiently inactivated” on surfaces within one minute if they’re cleaned with solutions containing 62% to 71% ethanol alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite.
“We expect a similar effect against the SARS-CoV-2,” they added.