Coronavirus Can Last on Some Surfaces for Days, New Study Finds
According to the findings, the virus can last up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel objects
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
New research has shed light on the lifespan of coronavirus on different surfaces.
In a recent study — conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCLA and Princeton University, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine — scientists simulated how the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread onto everyday surfaces, through coughing and touching objects. From there, there were able to monitor how long the virus continued to be infectious on various surface types.
According to the findings, the virus can last for up to three hours in aerosols (liquid droplets in the air, from coughs or sneezes), four hours on copper and 24 hours on cardboard.
The surfaces that allowed the virus to survive the longest were plastic and stainless steel — lasting up to two to three days.
“The results provide key information about the stability of [the virus] and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects,” reads a press release from NIH.
The virus spreads person-to-person through close contact or respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and can be highly contagious, according to CDC guidelines.
Since touching objects and surfaces can leave the infectious virus on your fingertips, experts recommend washing one’s hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, a hand sanitizer can be used, best with at least 60 percent alcohol content.
The CDC also reminds people to avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths with unwashed hands.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories
Frequently touched surfaces that could harbor the virus without disinfecting include tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, remotes, hard-backed chairs, faucets and sinks, according to the CDC.
Normal household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface can be used to clean and disinfect objects while following label instructions, which may suggest wearing gloves during the process.
For dirty laundry from an infected person, the CDC recommends washing the clothing items at the warmest temperature able with detergent, and to disinfect the hamper or basket after emptying it of dirty clothes.