How long does COVID-19 survive in the air and on surfaces? 2 factors you should know.

How long does COVID-19 survive in the air and on surfaces? 2 factors you should know.

How long the virus survives depends on the material & external factors

SARS-CoV-2 (or COVID-19), the coronavirus that has taken over 4 million lives, has been circulating in humans since its outbreak in 2019. It spreads easily from person to person, mainly when one breathes in the air containing tiny droplets released from infected individuals when talking, coughing, or sneezing. It is also possible to contract the virus if these droplets landed on your mouth, eyes, or nose.

While chances are slim, most people don’t realize that our hands can play a role in transmitting the disease, too. Scientists have found that the virus can live up to a certain period of time on different objects or surfaces. If one touches their mouth, nose, or eyes right after touching the surface of an object that has already been contaminated with the virus, they can be at risk of getting COVID-19.

Understanding how long the virus can stay alive on surfaces or in the air can help prevent transmission!

How long does COVID-19 survive in the air?

The role aerosols play in the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 in indoor spaces was formally acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2020, backed by the evidence put forward by 239 researchers in 32 countries. An aerosol is a fine mist of liquid suspended in a gas, such as air.

The study found that SARS-CoV-2 could survive in aerosol form for 3 hours. As the experiment ended, the total amount of time that SARS-CoV-2 survives as droplets in the air could be longer.
It can also travel at least 13 feet by aerosols that are emitted by breathing or speaking, twice as far as established physical distancing guidelines, based on a report by the CDC.

However, some factors, such as air humidity and temperature, may also play an important role. A July 2020 review notes that coronaviruses survive for longer in the colder, less humid air. This may mean SARS-CoV-2 will become a more seasonal virus in some climates.

Talking can emit thousands of fluid droplets per second that can remain suspended in the air for 8 to 14 minutes in a confined space. Face masks are effective in blocking, at least limiting your exposure to these contagious viral droplets and aerosol particles.


How long does it live on surfaces?

The SARS-CoV-2 research that’s been conducted thus far has measured how long the virus can live on various surfaces, but not all studies determined how long the virus remains infectious. We found two studies have been published on this topic. We’ll discuss their findings below.

The first study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In this study, a standard amount of aerosolized virus was applied to different surfaces.

The second study was published in The Lancet. For this study, a droplet containing a set amount of virus was placed onto a surface.

In both studies, which the virus has been applied were incubated at room temperature. Samples were collected at different time intervals, which were then used to calculate the number of viable viruses.

Using data collected from the NEJM, Lancet. We’re outlining how long the virus can be detected on surfaces in a laboratory setting below.

How Long Can The Coronavirus Live On Surfaces?

PAPER 3 HOURS Printed paper、tissue
COPPER 4 HOURS Coins、accessories
CARDBOARD 24 HOURS Food packaging 、shipping boxes
WOOD 2 DAYS Furniture
CLOTH 3 DAYS Cotton and other porous soft surfaces
GLASS 4 DAYS Smartphones、computers、mirror
PLASTIC 3-7 DAYS Credit card、toys、controllers
METAL 3-7 DAYS Stainless steel、iron、aluminum



Research suggests that viruses can be detected anywhere from 3 to 7 days.
Many objects that we use every day are made of plastic.

Examples of:

  • toys
  • ATM buttons
  • credit cards
  • food packaging
  • water bottles
  • remote controls
  • video game controllers
  • computer keyboards and mouse


The viable virus could be detected on stainless steel and metals surfaces between 3 to 7 days. The virus was less stable on copper, with no viable virus detected after only 4 hours.
Metal is used in a wide variety of objects that we use every day. Some of the common metals include stainless steel and copper. Examples of:

Stainless steel

  • keys
  • cutlery
  • refrigerators
  • door handles
  • pots and pans
  • metal handrails
  • industrial equipment


  • coins
  • jewelry
  • cookware
  • electrical wires


The Lancet study found that the virus could be detected on paper money for up to 4 days after first exposure. They also determined that virus couldn’t be found on printing paper or tissue paper after 3 hours.

Some common paper products
Example of:

  • tissues
  • letters
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • paper towels
  • paper money


The virus could be detected on surfaces for up to 4 days.
Some glass objects
Example of:

  • mirrors
  • windows
  • drinkware
  • TV screen
  • smartphones
  • Computer screen


The NEJM study suggests that viable viruses couldn’t be detected on cardboard after 24 hours.
Some cardboard surfaces that you may come into contact with include:

  • food packaging
  • shipping boxes


The viable virus from wood surfaces could not be detected after 2 days.
The wooden objects that we find in our homes are often
Example of:

  • Tabletops
  • Furniture
  • Shelving

Clothes or non-porous surfaces

While evidence has been limited on this category, the CSIRO team’s research found that common cotton didn’t hold onto the virus beyond 2 weeks (most of which was inactivated upon the first contact).

Face mask

Researchers found the virus lasted on the outer layer of a surgical mask for 7 days.


Keep in mind: Although SARS-CoV-2 can be detected on these surfaces for a particular length of time, the viability of the virus, due to environmental and other conditions, is not known.


How long does the virus last in food?

There is no direct evidence a person can contract SARS-CoV-2 from food. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that coronaviruses need a live human or animal host to survive and that they cannot multiply on food packaging surfaces.

The WHO suggests washing fruits and vegetables as normal and washing hands thoroughly before eating. People should also ensure they do not share cutlery or plates with those who may have SARS-CoV-2.


Can temperature and humidity affect the SARS-CoV2?

SARS-CoV2 can definitely be impacted by factors like temperature and humidity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most coronaviruses survive for a shorter time at higher temperatures and humidity levels.

For example, in one observation from the Lancet article, SARS-CoV-2 remained very stable when incubated at 4°C Celsius (about 39°F). But it was rapidly inactivated when incubated at 70°C (158°F).


How to clean common surfaces?

SARS-CoV-2 can live on various surfaces for several hours up to several days, it is important to take steps to clean objects and areas that may come into contact with the virus.

So how can we effectively clean the surfaces in your home? Follow the tips below.

What should you clean?

Focus on high-touch surfaces. These are things that you or others in your household can touch frequently during your daily activities. Examples include:

  • toilets
  • doorknobs
  • countertops
  • tables and desks
  • staircase railings
  • faucets and sinks
  • computer keyboards and computer mouse
  • handles on appliances (the refrigerator and oven)
  • handheld electronics (phones, tablets, and video game controllers)

If possible, you can try to wear disposable gloves while cleaning. Be sure to throw them away as soon as you are done cleaning.
If you don’t have gloves, just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you’re done.


What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?

According to the CDC, you can use household cleaning products or EPA List N disinfectants to clean your surfaces. Follow the directions on the label and only use these products on surfaces that they’re appropriate for.

Household bleach solutions can also be used when appropriate. To mix your own bleach solution, the CDC recommends using either:

1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water
4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water

3 common disinfection and antiviral products:

  1. Alcohol: Can be used to disinfect the skin and small areas
  2. Bleach: the widest application range, suitable for large-scale environmental disinfection
  3. Hypochlorous acid water: suitable for cleaning tableware and home cleaning

Other ingredients: There are also many different kinds of disinfection products on the market, such as TiO2, Ag+, silver ions, pH 12.5 electrolyzed alkaline water, etc. Please follow the instructions on the packaging of each product before using it. In the future, we will also analyze the differences between various antibacterial and antiviral products on the market.

If you want to know more related information, please go to [About List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus], the link below

Use care while cleaning electronics. Use an alcohol-based wipe or a 70 % ethanol spray to clean your electronics. Be sure to dry them thoroughly so the liquid doesn’t accumulate inside the device.

Use a disinfectant product from EPA List N that is effective against COVID-19.


There is currently no evidence the virus can survive in food, but early a few studies have been performed on how long the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, can live on surfaces. However, this does not necessarily mean the virus detected on these materials can trigger an infection.

Scientists are still studying how long SARS-CoV-2 can last on surfaces and clothes, and how it can travel through the air. It’s still important to maintain proper cleaning, hand washing, and wearing masks, which can help you keep the risk of transmission low.

If you’re looking for the easiest ways to keep your surfaces clean, Medtecs Shield is here for you! We’re here to help guide you and make the best recommendation for your needs.



  1. J.S.-S.P.D. (2020, April 29). How Long Does the Coronavirus Live on Different Surfaces? Healthline. 
  2. Z.E.E.K.R.S.T.I.C. (2020b, October 21). How Long Can Coronavirus Really Live on Surfaces? Experts Weigh In on New Evidence. Good House Keeping. 
  3. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. (2020, April 2). THE LANCET. 
  4. About List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19). (2021, April 27). The United States Environmental Protection Agency. 
  5. Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Surface (Fomite) Transmission for Indoor Community Environments. (2021, April 5). CDC. 
  6. How long the virus can survive. (n.d.). CSIRO. 


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