How long does SARS-CoV2 survive on surfaces

Posted on May 20, 2020 by Gemma Percival


While Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2)  is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets, its ability to survive on surfaces may contribute to its spread (1). Indeed, the virus remains viable and infectious for up to 3 hours in aerosols and for days on surfaces (2, 3). While SARS-CoV-2 can be highly stable in the environment, it is susceptible to hand hygiene and standard disinfection methods (4). Thus, experts emphasize hand hygiene and disinfection as key to combating COVID-19, rather than the specific length of time SARS-CoV2 survives on surfaces. 


Surface Survival on Surfaces (2, 3)
Paper 30 mins
Tissue Paper 30 mins
Copper 4 hours
Cardboard 24 hours
Cloth 24 hours
Wood 24 hours
Glass 2 days
Paper money 2 days
Plastic 3-4 days
Stainless steel 3-4 days
Surgical Mask Inner Layer 4 days
Surgical Mask Outer Layer 7 days

I.   Persistence of SARS-CoV2 on environmental surfaces

SARS-CoV-2 survives longer on smooth surfaces like glass, steel, and plastic compared to rough surfaces like paper, wood, and cloth (1). It also remains viable for longer periods of time on highly porous fabrics (1). Importantly, SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can be effectively inactivated by lipid solvents and common disinfectants including ether (75%), ethanol, chlorine-containing disinfectant, peroxyacetic acid and chloroform (2, 4). Soap, which dissolves the lipid bilayer of the virus, also induces SARS-CoV-2 inactivation (4).


Much of what is known about the persistence of SARS-CoV2 on surfaces and fomites is derived from experimental studies conducted by Van Doremalen et al. (2020) and Chin et al. (2020):


Van Doremalen et al. (2020 April 16)

“The authors analyzed the stability of the SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols and on four surfaces (plastic, stainless steel, copper and cardboard), compared to that of SARS-CoV-1.” (5)

Key findings:

  • “In aerosols: COVID-19 was detectable for up to three hours. 
  • Both  COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-1 were detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. On copper, live COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-1 were not found after four hours and eight hours, respectively.” (5)


Chin et al. (2020 April 4)

“Investigated the stability of SARS-CoV-2 on different surfaces. Viral culture was pipetted on a surface and left at room temperature (22°C) with a relative humidity of around 65%. Inoculated objects were retrieved at desired time-intervals and immediately soaked in a virus transport medium for 30 mins to elute the virus. Consequently, this recovery of the virus does not necessarily reflect the potential to pick up the virus from casual contact.” (2)

Key findings:

  • Detectable levels of infectious virus were  present on the inner and outer layer of a surgical mask on day 4 and 7, respectively.

II.   Patient resources

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  1. Aboubakr, H, Sharafeldin, TA, Goyal, SM. Stability of SARS-CoV2 and other coronaviruses in the environment and on common touch surfaces and the influence of climatic conditions: A review [Internet]. OSF Preprints. 2020 Apr 24 [cited 2020 May 19]. Available from:
  2. Chin et al. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions [Internet]. The Lancet Microbe. 2020 Apr 2 [cited 2020 May 19]. Available from:
  3. van Doremalen et al. Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared 789 to SARS-CoV-1 [Internet]. NEJM. 2020 Apr 16 [cited 2020 May 19]. Available from:
  4. Sciensano. Fact Sheet: COVID-19 disease (SARS-CoV-2 virus) Version 4 [Internet]. 2020 May 15 [cited 2020 May 19]. Available from:
  5. Public Health Ontario. Review of Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1 [Internet]. 2020 Mar 20 [cited 2020 May 19]. Available from:


The above is intended to serve as a rapidly-created, accessible source of information curated by medical students and healthcare professionals. It is for educational purposes only and is not a complete reference resource. It is not professional medical advice, and is not a substitute for the discretion, judgment, and duties of healthcare professionals. You are solely responsible for evaluating the information above.