How Long Can the Coronavirus Live On Surfaces?

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Now, weeks into the nationwide lockdown, people are getting eager to return to normal life. They’re bored but nervous. They want life to go back the way it was and some experts have stated that life may never go back the way it was. Hopefully, this is an exaggeration. In time, our lives will return to normal and life in America will be as it once was.

In areas where the lockdowns and restrictions are being carefully observed, the number of cases has diminished. Texas is a good example. Citizens there have chosen to follow the guidelines and restrictions set forth by the CDC and local government. To date, there have been 21,944 cases of COVID-19 but only 561 deaths. At least 8,100 people have recovered although it’s difficult to get solid numbers sometimes in such a large state with so many counties and cities.

One of the big issues that everyone is concerned with is how long the virus can live on surfaces. Let’s say you go out to check the mail. Mail carriers are in that group of people who go out into the world each day and interact with lots of people. Just like police officers and nurses, they have reported higher numbers of the illness. So checking your mail each day does come with some risk. However, most mailboxes are constructed of aluminum, steel, and other types of metal. So maybe the virus can’t live for long on those types of surfaces.

Research is still limited in this field. All the experts are trying to find cures, vaccines, and such. In years to come, the scientific community will have time to go back and run the tests required to learn everything about COVID-19. At this time, though, these estimates are based on a relatively small amount of data.

How long can the virus exist on metal surfaces?
For many types of metal surfaces, the best estimate here is five days. This includes jewelry boxes, mailboxes, doorknobs and such. For items made of stainless steel, the virus can live approximately 2-3 days. For metal objects made of aluminum, the virus can live up to 8 hours. On copper items like pennies or cookware, the virus can live up to 4 hours.

For all plastic surfaces, such as milk containers, detergent bottles, and salad oil bottles, the virus can live 2-3 days. This is also true for plastic bus and subway seats, elevator buttons, and most other types of plastic.

What about wooden surfaces?
The virus is estimated to still be viable on wood surfaces for four days. This includes wood siding, decking, flooring, wood furniture and all other wooden items.

How long can the virus last on cardboard?
The short answer is 24 hours. This question has caused quite a stir and some controversy because many people are now having everything shipped to their door so they don’t have to risk going out in public. Is it safe to pick up a box left by a delivery man at your door?

First of all, most delivery people are wearing gloves now. Many of the factories that ship items to us, such as Amazon also insist on their workers wearing gloves. This was true even before the virus. Gloves protect the hands of workers. Just remember that it’s possible that no one has ever touched the box who was not wearing gloves. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, wear gloves before picking up a box left at your door.

How long for glass and ceramics?
On drinking glasses, window glass, and ceramics, the virus can live up to five days. This includes dishes, pottery, coffee mugs, and all other glass and ceramic surfaces.

How long for paper surfaces?
This area has been difficult to nail down. It depends on the type of paper. Some paper is more porous than others. The coronavirus has been known to live anywhere from a few minutes to five days on paper surfaces.

Is fresh fruit at risk?
As always, it’s a good idea to wash fresh fruit before eating it. It’s not uncommon for people at a supermarket to pick up apples, peaches, tomatoes, potatoes, and others. It’s a good idea to rinse off any type of fruit or vegetable including avocados. Since no one really knows how long the virus might last on something like an avocado, just wash them when you get home to be on the safe side.

Miscellaneous items
For all other surfaces, such as shoe soles, countertops, and fabric, the estimates vary. That’s because these types of surfaces can be constructed of a wide range of materials. It makes sense that a cotton fabric where dirt and germs can get embedded in the fabric would stay infected longer than a slick surface such as a piece of marble. However, very little testing has been done into these areas so it’s important not to assume anything. Always protect yourself and stay safe.

How to protect yourself
Wear disposable gloves when you go out and then throw them away when you get back home. Clean surfaces like the mailbox each day with a good cleanser like Lysol. Be sure to wear a mask when going outside. This virus is easily killed by ordinary soap and water. Choose a good soap that lathers and wash for 20 seconds. We would all stay healthier if we’d observe these precautions in everyday life.

Final Thoughts
Researchers are still learning about COVID-19. They don’t know yet whether cold, heat, and sunlight affect the virus. It’s possible that they do and that the length of time the virus can exist on a surface could be diminished by natural forces like rain or sunlight. Let’s do whatever necessary to protect ourselves and our families. Let’s listen and adhere to the mandates of local health officials. They risk their lives each day to care for our population.