Snippets of article – WebMD Medical Reference, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 01, 2020
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person. When someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, they send droplets containing the virus into the air. A healthy person can then breathe in those droplets. You may also catch the virus if you touch a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Coronavirus: What you Need to Know
The coronavirus can live for hours to days on surfaces like countertops and doorknobs. How long it survives depends on the material the surface is made from.
Here’s a guide to how long coronaviruses — the family of viruses that includes the one that causes COVID-19 — can live on some of the surfaces you probably touch every day.
Keep in mind that researchers still have a lot to learn about the new coronavirus.
Different Kinds of Surfaces:
Examples: doorknobs, jewelry, silverware
Examples: furniture, decking
Examples: milk containers and detergent bottles, subway and bus seats, backpacks, elevator buttons
2 to 3 days
Examples: refrigerators, pots and pans, sinks, some water bottles
2 to 3 days
Examples: shipping boxes
Examples: pennies, teakettles, cookware
Examples: soda cans, tinfoil, water bottles
2 to 8 hours
Examples: drinking glasses, measuring cups, mirrors, windows
Up to 5 days
Examples: dishes, pottery, mugs
Examples: mail, newspaper
The length of time varies. Some strains of coronavirus live for only a few minutes on paper, while others live for up to 5 days.
Examples: takeout, produce
Coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread through food.
Coronavirus hasn’t been found in drinking water. If it does get into the water supply, your local water treatment plant filters and disinfects the water, which should kill any germs.
Examples: clothes, linens
There’s not much research about how long the virus lives on fabric, but it’s probably not as long as on hard surfaces.
One study tested the shoe soles of medical staff in a Chinese hospital intensive care unit (ICU) and found that half were positive for nucleic acids from the virus. But it’s not clear whether these pieces of the virus cause infection. The hospital’s general ward, which had people with milder cases, was less contaminated than the ICU.
Skin and hair
There’s no research yet on exactly how long the virus can live on your skin or hair. Rhinoviruses, which cause colds, survive for hours. That’s why it’s important to wash or disinfect your hands, which are most likely to come into contact with contaminated surfaces.
What You Can Do
To reduce your chance of catching or spreading the new coronavirus, clean and disinfect common surfaces and objects in your home and office every day. This includes:
Use a household cleaning spray or wipe. If the surfaces are dirty, clean them first with soap and water and then disinfect them.
Keep surfaces clean, even if everyone in your house is healthy. People who are infected may not show symptoms, but they can still shed the virus.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after you visit the drugstore or supermarket or bring in takeout food or a delivered newspaper.
If you want, you can disinfect the soles of your shoes and avoid wearing them indoors.