How long is COVID-19 detectable on surfaces?

(Source: National Institute of Health - March 23, 2020)

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the coronavirus is usually transmitted through respiratory droplets (typically from an infected person sneezing or coughing) rather than through objects, and materials (such as clothes, utensils, and furniture). Hand sanitizers and disinfectants cannot penetrate dirt, so cleaning with soap and water is the most effective means of removing the virus.

COVID-19 is detectable on copper for four hours, cardboard for 24 hours, stainless steel for two to three days, and plastic for up to three days, according to the National Institute of Health.

Natural fiber clothing allows for quicker drying, meaning that respiratory droplets containing the virus will dry faster, reducing the viability of the virus on natural fiber cloth. Polyester and spandex-like material may retain germs for longer since they dry at a slower rate.

There have been no studies to date regarding the viability of the virus on clothing, but the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease predicts that the virus may remain viable on clothing for up to 24 hours.

Shopping or out and about

According to the National Institute of Health, most secondary cases of virus transmission appear to be occurring in community settings rather than healthcare settings.

If at all possible, limit potential exposure to virus by avoiding unnecessary interactions with others and high-traffic areas, such as stores, places of worship, offices, etc.

If a trip to the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. is necessary, protect yourself by avoiding close contact with others (maintain 6ft. distance as much as possible), avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and bring disinfectant wipes to wipe down any surfaces you may need to touch.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands both before entering and after leaving the store.

Once you return home, immediately remove shoes, exterior clothing that may have come into contact with an infected person, wipe down items you have brought in with you with disinfectant wipes (such as keys, phone, etc.), and wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water. 

At Home

Wash hands with soap for 20 seconds prior to leaving home and immediately upon returning home.

Remove shoes prior to entering your house and remove and wash exterior clothing. Viruses and respiratory droplets can survive up to 24 hours on cloth and leather. Viruses are killed by washing clothing over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to current CDC and medical guidelines.

Target “high-touch” surfaces for frequent cleaning with CDC-approved disinfectants. Wipe down doorknobs, switches, mobile phones, and other frequently touched items twice a day with detergent.

If you want to disinfect, clean first, then disinfect with a CDC-approved disinfectant cleaning product. Disposable gloves should be worn while cleaning and wiping in an ‘S’ shaped pattern prevents re-contaminating the surface while cleaning and will ensure that the surface area is well-covered.

If a household member gets sick

Quarantine the sick house member in a separate bedroom or section of the house (ideally with their own bathroom) for 14 days if possible. Contact with others should be minimized and you should increase cleaning of the house to several times a day, especially areas frequented by infected household members.

If possible, clothes and bed sheets – handled with gloves and surgical masks – should be washed more frequently to minimize the risk of transmission.

The clothing and utensils used by an infected person can also spread the virus, so they should be kept separate.

The hottest water possible should be used for all cleaning and washing.

Do NOT take Ibuprofen if you believe you have COVID-19 as its ingredients are believed to worsen the infection. Use Aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen based products) instead.

Seek immediate medical attention if you are in a high-risk category and develop symptoms.

Those not at high-risk should stay home and self-isolate. Monitor temperature and drink plenty of fluids. Most people feel better after a week and are no longer contagious 14 days after the onset of symptoms.