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How Long Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

August 3, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

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Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

How Long Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

While many places are seeing fewer cases of the novel coronavirus, the threat is very much still around and most communities remain in shelter in place and are following various social distancing regulations.


As of August 3, 2020, over 18.3 million people around the world have had confirmed COVID-19 infections, with over 4.8 million of those cases in the United States. 


As some cities and states prepare to start opening, how can you keep yourself and your family safe?

Here’s some of the latest information about the coronavirus, how long it can live on surfaces, how you can catch it, and you to keep your family safe. 

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How Long Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

Preliminary studies show that the COVID-19 coronavirus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard, up to four hours on copper, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Cardboard24 hours
Copper4 hours
Plastic2-3 days
Stainless Steel2-3 days

The virus can also hang in the air (after a person coughs or sneezes, for example) for up to three hours. 

Can You Contract the Coronavirus Disease by Touching a Surface?

Yes. If you touch a surface where the virus is lingering, then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, then you can contract the coronavirus disease. 

How Do You Disinfect Surfaces for the Coronavirus Disease?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning frequently touched household surfaces at least once a day with a household cleaner, then going back and disinfecting surfaces with an EPA-approved disinfectant

Always follow the directions of the cleaners and disinfectants – they may include using gloves or only using in a well-ventilated area. For electronics, use alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens.

Can the Coronavirus Disease Spread Through Food?

There is no evidence that the coronavirus disease can spread through food. The virus needs to make contact with your respiratory system to infect you, so even if the virus got on the food, swallowing it is unlikely to make you sick. Additionally, cooking kills bacteria and viruses, so hot foods wouldn’t harbor the virus. 

What is the Incubation Period of the Coronavirus Disease?

The incubation period of a disease is the time between when you’re exposed to the virus and when you start showing symptoms.

With the novel coronavirus disease, the average incubation period is about five to six days. However, people may start to experience symptoms as soon as three days to as long as 13 days after exposure.

That’s why the CDC recommends a 14-day quarantine period for people who have potentially been exposed to the virus – that’s long enough for just about anybody to start showing symptoms. 

What Can I Do to Prevent the Coronavirus Disease at Home?

According to the CDC, there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent the coronavirus disease at home. Here are a few tips:

  • Know how it spreads. Coronavirus spreads primarily through person-to-person contact, even from people who aren’t showing symptoms. 
  • Wash your hands often. Using soap, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep sick family members apart from anybody else. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a clean face cover. This helps prevent you from spreading coronavirus since you could have it and not have symptoms yet. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow, then immediately wash your hands. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home at least once a day. 

How Can I Care for a Family Member with the Coronavirus Disease at Home?

As much as possible, a family member who is sick with the coronavirus disease should be separated from the rest of the family to help prevent transmission of the virus. If possible, have them use a different bathroom, too. If you only have one bathroom in your home, try to clean and disinfect it after every use by the sick person. 


Read: Caring for Someone With Coronavirus


The CDC has a lot of information for people taking care of family members who are sick with coronavirus. Here are some of their tips:

  • Provide support and help cover basic needs. Help with grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, caring for their pets, and similar basic needs. 
  • Watch for warning signs. Call the person’s doctor if they seem to worsen, and call 911 if they start showing extreme symptoms like difficulty breathing. 
  • Protect yourself. Limit contact with the sick person, avoid sharing personal items, wash your hands often, clean the house frequently, wear gloves when you tend to the sick person, and have the sick person wear a mask. 
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Read More About Coronavirus


Sources

Harvard Health Publishing by Harvard Medical School. COVID-19 Basics. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-basics

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and Disinfection for Households. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html

United States Environmental Protection Agency. List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caring for Someone Sick at Home. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html

WorldOMeter. COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

WebMD. Can coronavirus spread through food? Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.webmd.com/lung/qa/can-coronavirus-spread-through-food

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to Protect Yourself & Others. Accessed on April 26, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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