How Long Coronavirus Lives on Everything You Touch Every Day
This is where the coronavirus may be hiding in your house—and how to kill it.
A few months into the pandemic, and the importance of disinfecting surfaces to stop the spread of COVID-19 is widely understood. But which surfaces does the coronavirus cling to the longest? We looked at studies conducted by scientists to determine which household items you should be most concerned about when it comes to staying healthy. Read on to find out how long the coronavirus lives on things you touch and use every single day—and how to kill it. And to find out what a post-pandemic world will look like, check out 9 Things You'll Never See in Public After the Coronavirus.
Mail: Up to three hours
According to a study published by The Lancet, the coronavirus can survive on paper for up to four days, but the viable virus—the one that can infect you—only lasts for up to three hours. So after you grab your mail, it's best to open it outside to avoid bringing it into your home and placing it down on any furniture. You don't have to worry about the important contents of your mail, as the paper inside won't have been handled by another person without that time period. Whether you toss it outside or bring bills and letters into your house, be sure to wash your hands carefully after handling your mail.
Plastic water bottles: Up to three days
Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UCLA, and Princeton University attempted to mimic the different ways by which the coronavirus is transferred from an infected person onto certain surfaces. Then they investigated how long the virus remained infectious on those surfaces. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), found that coronavirus is most stable on plastic surfaces. That means that your plastic water bottles—whether single-use or refillable—could be carrying the virus. If you use a refillable water bottle, be sure to clean it thoroughly between uses either by hand or in the dishwasher. And dispose of single use bottles quickly, recycling if you can.
Tissues: Up to three hours
It's common sense: used tissues are rife with germs. They're also potentially a coronavirus haven. According to The Lancet study, the coronavirus can live for up to three hours on tissue paper. So be cautious when handling tissues, whether they were used by you or someone else, and wash your hands immediately after tossing them. If you have an open box of tissues in your home, you should also consider that the exposed tissue could potentially become contaminated if an infected person coughs or sneezes within six feet of it. To learn about what you might be kicking to the curb this year, check out 7 Things You'll Never Want in Your Home After Coronavirus.
Paper money: up to three hours
Just like it potentially can on your mail, the virus can survive for up to four days on paper money. But the viable virus can only live for up to three hours. For now, it's best to avoid cash transactions and opt for paying with a credit or debit card. It's safer for you and whoever is being handed your bills.
Drinking glasses: Up to four days
According to the study published by The Lancet, coronavirus can be found for up to four days on glass. Since glasses are in your mouth and near your nose when you take a sip, this is an especially troubling fact. Wash them with hot, soapy water between uses, and don't share a drink, even with a family member.
Cutting boards: Up to three days
According to the NEJM study, traces of coronavirus could be found lurking on your plastic cutting board for up to three days. Don't reuse your cutting board from meal to meal without thoroughly washing it. For other tips to stay healthy, check out The 7 Worst Coronavirus Mistakes You're Still Making.
Refrigerator: Up to three days
Stainless steel refrigerators are popular due to their sleek look and how easy they are to clean. Unfortunately, though, stainless steel surfaces provide a friendly environment for the coronavirus to survive in, according to the NEJM study. The virus can live for up to 72 hours on your refrigerator. And since it's on the receiving end of lot of fingertips, it would benefit from a daily disinfecting.
Plastic containers: Up to three days
You may be diligent about wiping down doorknobs and disinfecting your hands, but when was the last time you cleaned the containers you're reaching for to do those things? Since coronavirus can live on plastic surfaces for up to three days, that means it could be found on Lysol Wipes, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer containers. So don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly after you handle them and to disinfect the packaging periodically. To learn about the dangers of whipping up your own products, check out Does Homemade Hand Sanitizer Work? Health Experts Weigh In.
Packages: Up to 24 hours
Those Amazon packages waiting outside your door present a sneaky spot for the coronavirus to thrive. According to the NEJM study, the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. Experts suggest either sanitizing your packages before bringing them into your home or opening them outside. To find out the other steps you should take to keep your house safe, check out 11 Ways You're Spreading Germs All Over Your Home Without Realizing It.
Coins: Up to four hours
Handling change already felt like a dirty endeavor before the COVID-19 pandemic, but factoring in the possibility of the coronavirus contaminating your coins makes it even riskier. Metal currency contains copper, which according to the NEJM study, can host coronavirus for up to four hours. So this is a good time to hold off from literally counting pennies—leave your change jar be for now.