How long do viruses live on surfaces?

How Long Do Viruses Live on Surfaces?


Flu season has always made people a little more wary of handshakes and shared items, but the global COVID-19 health pandemic has elevated that fear even further. Doorknobs, desks, and public areas become suspects, even within one’s own home. But how long can viruses live on these surfaces? Can a virus survive long enough to pose a threat to your health? The answer depends on so many variables that it’s impossible to give exact answers. But we know enough to give general guidelines, and the answers might surprise you.

A note

In this article, when we say a virus “dies” we are indicating that the virus is no longer infectious. In some cases the virus can remain intact much longer, but is harmless after the points the data here describes. Industry grade sanitizer, however, truly kills the virus by destroying the lipid membrane that acts as its “skin,” whether or not the virus was contagious.

Viruses Vary

Viruses vary widely in function, shape, and, as you would expect, the amount of time they can survive on a surface outside a host body. We’ll give you general statistics for several viruses, including flu, herpes, norovirus, rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses. Of course, viruses in the same family can vary drastically (just look at the coronavirus family — one coronavirus causes a common cold, another causes a worldwide pandemic) but we give general information so you can get a better understanding of how long a virus can survive on various surfaces.

Environment Matters

Environmental factors also come into play. Flu viruses may die quickly in the warm summer air, but during frigid winter days, they can survive for hours. This is part of the reason influenza is seasonal.

Environmental factors that may affect how long a virus lives on surfaces include surface type, temperature, humidity, and of course if any surface or air has been treated with an antimicrobial solution.

Viruses will survive longer on hard, smooth surfaces than on soft, porous ones. A virus will have more trouble surviving in your carpet than on your kitchen sink (but which one is easier to clean?)

How Long Do Viruses Live on Surfaces?

Note: all times are approximate

A Note on COVID-19

COVID-19, a member of the coronavirus family, has become an incredibly worrying phenomenon for many. The novel nature of this coronavirus means that it was largely unstudied before 2020. We may not yet fully understand the specific strain of virus that causes COVID-19. However, there are things we do know, both about COVID-19 and coronaviruses in general. Chem-Dry has compiled a coronavirus fact sheet and a tips and tricks article detailing how to protect your home during this time.

Boost your Home Health with Chem-Dry

Chem-Dry’s hospital grade sanitizing solution meets the EPA criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. Our processes and solutions are safe for your homes surfaces. With proper treatment, you can keep your home’s surfaces free of infectious viruses, pandemic-causing or otherwise. Contact your local Chem-Dry today.

Infographic text:

Influenza - Seasonal flu

  • Hard surfaces - 24 hours
  • Soft surfaces - 15 minutes to several hours
  • Skin - 5-15 minutes
  • Air - 1-24+ hours (longer in colder air)

Herpes - cold sores and skin blisters

  • Hard, dry surfaces - up to 8 weeks
  • hard, humid surfaces - 1-5 hours
  • skin - 2 hours

Rotavirus - Year-round stomach bug

  • Hard, dry surfaces, - 8 hours
  • Hard, wet surfaces - 2 weeks+
  • Skin - 4 hours

Norovirus - Winter stomach bug

  • Hard, dry surfaces - 2 weeks
  • Still water - up to months

Rhinovirus - Common colds

  • Hard surfaces - 24 hours
  • Soft surfaces - 3 hours
  • Skin - 3 hours

Coronaviruses - Common colds, COVID-19, and SARS

  • Hard surfaces - up to 3 days
  • Soft surfaces - 24 hours
  • Skin - 3-9 hours, depending on virus
  • Air - 3 hours

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