How Long Do Viruses Live on Surfaces?

With the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak that has struck many countries, businesses are having to take measures to protect their clients and staff. Schools are responsible for the health of attending students. Many precautions must now be taken, particularly when it comes to disinfecting buildings. Viruses can easily live on surfaces and infect people. Desks, chairs, doorknobs, toilet seats, are just some of the many places where these viruses can be found.

So how long do viruses live on surfaces such as glass, plastic, steel, or cloth? Well, it depends on the type of virus and a few other factors. Some types of viruses can survive for months on hard surfaces.

However, there are some viruses that are simply more common than others. These are the ones that contribute to many of the world’s infections each year. Many of these infections, which can sometimes lead to serious illness, are transmitted by surface-to-hand contact. With that said, what follows are some of the most common viruses in the human population and the known survival times for each.

Human Coronaviruses

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can survive on hard surfaces for at least 28 days and remains infectious to humans for at least 9 days. It can also remain present and active on the outside of a surgical mask for up to 7 days.

To make matters worse, it can still be infectious on the skin after 9 hours. On cardboard, it can still be infectious at 24 hours when exposed to regular temperatures. SARS-CoV-1 is the virus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak. Think of it as a predecessor to the virus that’s now causing COVID-19 across the globe.

In comparisons between the two, researchers have found that both of these viruses have similar survival times on surfaces under normal temperatures. MERS-CoV, the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has been found to persist on surfaces for at least 9 days.


Influenza, the virus that causes the seasonal flu, is regularly blamed each year for school and workplace absences. It can also be a deadly disease for the young, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. For this reason, it’s important to know its survival times in the environment.

Influenza A, the influenza type that includes the deadly subtype H1N1, has been shown to last at least seven weeks at detectable levels on different types of surfaces.

However, detectable levels are not necessarily infectious levels. For infectious levels, it’s been shown to last up to 2 weeks on hard surfaces such as stainless steel, up to 48 hours on sealed wooden surfaces, and up to 8 hours on soft surfaces such as cloth or microfiber.

It can also transfer from stainless steel surfaces to hands for at least 24 hours and from a common tissue to hands for at least 15 minutes.

Influenza B can survive at least 48 hours on hard surfaces and up to 12 hours on softer surfaces including paper and cloth. However, it’s important to note that Influenza B may share the same survival times as most strains of Influenza A. Different studies test these viruses in different environments or with different amounts of each virus applied.


Coxsackievirus and echovirus are both enteroviruses and two of the most common ones. However, this family of viruses contains many more types. Transmission can occur through different modes depending on each virus within this family.

These viruses enter the body through the intestine and are often acquired from surfaces where secretions of saliva or mucus are sometimes found.

Coxsackievirus is responsible for causing hand, foot, and mouth disease. This infection occasionally causes school closures in various countries when outbreaks occur. The coxsackievirus has been found to last at least two weeks on hard surfaces.

Norovirus, an enterovirus that is responsible for most cases of food poisoning, can remain infectious on these same types of surfaces for at least 28 days.

Poliovirus, the cause of the potentially fatal disease polio, can survive at infectious levels for at least 8 weeks on some surfaces.


The most frequent cause of the common cold, rhinovirus, begins to decline in infectivity on surfaces within the first 24 hours when it exposed to normal temperatures and air. However, it can still be highly transmittable during this period.

This is one major reason why millions of people contract the cold every single year. Because rhinovirus causes mostly respiratory and nasal symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, it’s not difficult to see how it ends up on surfaces so easily.

While many consider this virus to be harmless, it’s responsible for many emergency room visits related to asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) every day. Infants and the elderly can be particularly vulnerable to it.

Blood-Borne Viruses

Most blood-borne viruses can survive on surfaces for at least one week. HIV has been shown to last at least 5 days on surfaces under the right conditions.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is infectious for at least one month when dried and left at room temperature. Hepatitis C (HCV) has been shown to last even longer. It can survive at infectious levels for at least six weeks on different types of surfaces at room temperature.

Herpes Viruses

There are many different types of Herpes viruses, but the two most common types that typically cause symptoms are HSV-1 and HSV-2. These two types of Herpes can last anywhere from a few hours up to at least 7 days. Because these viruses can both cause infections when the skin is exposed to them, there is a possibility, although unlikely, that one can contract these viruses if there’s contact with surfaces where they’re found.

Treatment Options

The types of surfaces obviously play a large role in how long certain viruses can survive on them. Which brings us back to the original question: how long do viruses live on surfaces? As you can see, some survive for extremely long periods and often remain highly infectious during these times.

While products like Anasphere Plus Hospital Grade Disinfectant can easily destroy all of these viruses on hard surfaces, softer surfaces such as paper and cardboard require a non-liquid approach or they’ll be ruined. This is where a UV-C light sterilizer wand can be very useful, particularly for companies who want to protect their files and documents.

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