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How Long Does the Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

How Long Does the Coronavirus Live

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 can 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 on a daily basis. Keep in mind that researchers still have a lot to learn about the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. For example, they don't know whether exposure to heat, cold, or sunlight affects how long it lives on surfaces.

Metal
Examples: doorknobs, jewelry, silverware
5 days

Wood
Examples: furniture, decking
4 days

Plastics
Examples: packaging like milk containers and detergent bottles, subway and bus seats, backpacks, elevator buttons
2 to 3 days

Stainless steel
Examples: refrigerators, pots and pans, sinks, some water bottles
2 to 3 days

Cardboard
Examples: shipping boxes
24 hours

Copper
Examples: pennies, teakettles, cookware
4 hours

Aluminum
Examples: soda cans, tinfoil, water bottles
2 to 8 hours

Glass
Examples: drinking glasses, measuring cups, mirrors, windows
Up to 5 days

Ceramics
Examples: dishes, pottery, mugs
5 days

Paper
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.

Food

Coronavirus doesn't seem to spread through exposure to food. Still, it's a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them. Scrub them with a brush or your hands to remove any germs that might be on their surface. Wash your hands after you visit the supermarket. If you have a weakened immune system, you might want to buy frozen or canned produce.

Water

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.

Coronaviruses can live on a variety of other surfaces, like fabrics and countertops. 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.

Coronavirus Transmission: What You Need to Know

What You Can Do

To reduce your chance of catching or spreading coronavirus, clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects in your home and office every day. This includes:

  • Countertops
  • Tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Phones
  • Keyboards
  • Remote controls
  • Toilets

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 onto surfaces.

After you visit the drugstore or supermarket, or bring in takeout food or packages, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Do the same thing after you pick up a delivered newspaper.

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Meet Our Staff

  • Meredith Saillant,
    MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Saillant completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brown University and  The University of Michigan, respectively, before graduating from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2000.  She completed her pediatric residency in 2003 training at Children's Hospital Boston and Boston Medical Center through the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics.  She founded the town-wide middle school baseline concussion screening program in conjunction with the Town of Brookline in 2012 and has served as a consultant to the Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children's Hospital on their concussion treatment protocol. She is on the board of the Massachusetts Concussion Management Coalition. She joined the practice in 2003.

  • Rebecca Horne,
    MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Horne graduated from Brown University and received her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.  Before going to medical school, she spent a year in Eritrea working in HIV/AIDS awareness and a year working at Planned Parenthood's public outreach department.  Dr. Horne completed her pediatric residency in the Boston Combined Residency Program at Boston Children's Hospital and Boston Medical Center.  She spent several years at Boston Children's Hospital providing care for patients in the Young Parents Program.  She joined the practice in 2010.

  • Julie Dollinger, MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Dollinger graduated from Princeton University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and also holds a Master's degree in pharmacology from New York University.  She completed her pediatric training at Boston Children's Hospital, and has practiced general pediatrics in the greater Boston area for over 20 years.  Dr. Dollinger's areas of interests include developmental-behavioral pediatrics, adolescent medicine, natural/holistic medicine, and adoption. Dr. Dollinger has worked in the Indian Health Service in Chinle, AZ and Wolf Point, MT; she has travelled on medical missions to Cuba and Dneprepotrovsk, Ukraine.  Locally, she is a longtime member of the Maimonides Society (the medical philanthropic arm of Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies) and has been medical consultant to several area preschools and private schools.  She also serves as Director of the Community Pediatrics Program at Boston Childrens Hospital.She joined the practice in 2017

  • Shana Zandman, MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Zandman graduated from Cornell University where she studied Human Biology and Development.  She received her MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan and completed her pediatric residency at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.  Dr. Zandman completed one year as Chief Resident at Floating Hospital and then worked for two years in a busy pediatric private practice in Barrington, Rhode Island prior to joining the practice in 2014.  She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young girls, cooking and international travel.