How long can SARS-CoV-2 survive on surfaces?


Answer: Depending on the material, the virus causing COVID-19 can stay on surfaces for days. Recent research suggests that SARS-CoV-2 could last longer on some surfaces than previously thought and that crucially, it could stay viable on the outer layer of surgical masks for up to seven days.

How do we know this? Researchers conducted a lab experiment and dropped viral samples on different surfaces in a room temperature (22 C) environment with 65% relative humidity. They found that the virus stopped being infectious

  • on tissue paper and printing paper after 3 hours,
  • on wood and clothing after 1 day
  • on smooth, shiny surfaces, like glass and banknotes after 3 days
  • on stainless steel and plastic after 6 days – contrary to earlier research suggesting 3 days
  • and strikingly, on the outer surface of surgical masks for up to 7 days.
Can disinfectants kill SARS-CoV-2? Yes. The researchers tested various disinfectants, including household bleach, hand soap solution, ethanol, povidone-iodine and chloroxylenol. They found that all of them rendered the virus ineffective within 5 minutes. Hand soap solution was the exception as it disabled the virus between 5-15 minutes. The researchers noted that if not subjected to disinfectants, the virus can be extremely stable in a wide range of pH values at room temperature. It means that one of the best lines of defence is still the thorough washing of hands to avoid picking up the virus from contaminated surfaces.
 

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Endre Szvetnik

by Endre Szvetnik

Endre Szvetnik is Senior Editor at Sparrho. Endre works with Sparrho Heroes to curate, translate and disseminate scientific research to the wider public.