One of the common ways COVID-19, or coronavirus, spreads is across surfaces. When one person with the virus touches something, the virus transfers to that surface. Then, when someone else comes along and touches the same surface, they pick up the virus.
The best way to mitigate this problem is to clean all surfaces you touch with a disinfectant and regularly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or by washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Surfaces that should be cleaned frequently include tabletops, counters, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, phones, and tablets. If the surfaces are dirty, clean them first with detergent and water, and then disinfect them. However, you’ll also want to be aware of how long the virus can live on different surfaces, so you can better judge your safety in case the surface wasn’t properly disinfected.
While it’s not known for sure exactly how long the COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces, we can get a good idea based on other types of coronavirus and current studies being done. As reported on the Harvard Health COVID-19 page, one recent study suggests that the virus lives for, “up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” The same study found that the virus can live on droplets in the air, expelled when someone coughs or sneezes, for up to 3 hours, but will often fall much more quickly.
Researchers are still doing studies to find out how different conditions such as temperature, humidity, or exposure to sunlight affect how long COVID-19 lives on surfaces. For the time being, the best course of action is to consistently disinfect surfaces you touch and wash or sanitize your hands regularly to prevent the virus spreading over surfaces.