Virus Survival Time on Different Surfaces Virus Survival Time on Different Surfaces

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?

If we actually consider the duration of lives of viruses we have to keep in mind a lot of factors, if we consider a surface we have to check its warmth, moisture content, and surroundings also the type of contamination to check its viability.

Although they can not survive long but if we use microscopic studies or biological reactions like the polymerase chain reaction then we can find some ruminants of the virus, but they are not infectious by then.

1. How Long Do Flu Viruses Stay Infectious?

According to a study conducted in 2011, the  Influenza A virus can survive for 4 hours minimum and up to 9 hours. The surfaces which allow the maximum growth of viruses are hard and non-porous surfaces.

Examples of such surfaces include computer keyboards and switches made from polyvinyl chloride.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Distinguishing between an infectious and non – infectious virus is very important, as they do not have replication machinery of their own and they can not spread the infection without multiplication, they utilize the host cell’s machinery for replication, so they have to infect cells for the same.

Once they are ejected from the living organism’s body they can not function on their own, they disintegrate completely because biologically a virus is just a unit of genetic material in a protein coat.

So once degraded, it can not cause or spread infection as it can not attach to living cells.

Cold and other related viruses however can remain infectious for over a couple of days too, but it completely depends upon where they are located or where have the droplets fallen.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

Hard materials like stainless steel and plastic have a longer active life for the virus as compared to soft materials like fabrics.

Another factor that is important is the extent of infection from the virus that is present on a surface, the temperature and the humid conditions of the surrounding space also affect the same.

2. Catching a Cold by Some Virus on Surfaces

We can not rule out the possibility of catching a cold by touching objects that have been infected by viruses, if an infected person has sneezed or coughed some moments ago and the droplets have reached the surface in contact they are infectious.

Similarly, shaking hands or coming in close contact such that you might end up breathing in droplets from the cough or sneeze also causes the virus to spread.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

To reduce the spread of viruses in the way and prevention of getting infected we can do the following –

  • Frequently wash hands with soap, if water is a problem use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Get vaccinated every year for Flu viruses and other such diseases like Covid – 19.
  • Do not touch your nose, mouth, and eyes very often, especially when you are outdoors, and avoid coming in close contact with infected people.
  • Surfaces that are points of common contact like doorknobs and switchboards should be cleaned often and properly disinfected.
  • Use a mask when you are spreading out during the flu season or the pollen season, you can do that even for large crowds or similar gatherings..

3. Destroying Viruses from Nonporous Surfaces

As we have seen above we can get infected by coming in contact with viral-loaded surfaces, let’s see some methods to kill viruses on nonporous surfaces.

Using hydrogen peroxide can kill a variety of viruses, the proper application process involves spraying the infected surface and letting it stay for about a minute or so before wiping off the chemical.

Rubbing alcohol or even hand sanitizer can kill all types of viruses but they need to be strong, having around 70% isopropyl concentration.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Image by Luisella Planeta LOVE PEACE from Pixabay

Just like Hydrogen peroxide, it should be sprayed on the infected surface and then wiped off after about 30/40 seconds.

If we consider more homely remedies like vinegar, we need to know that it is too mild to act on any kind of virus.

However, undiluted white vinegar can be used to kill some types. Heat can also affect the lives of viruses, but this will depend upon water temperature, the virus’s resistance to heat, and other factors.

4. Why Can a Virus Not Live for Long?

The short life span of the viruses can be attributed to their structure, environmental conditions, and immune response against them.

The enveloped structure of viruses like Influenza A usually gets neutralized within 48 hours meaning they are self-destructive, the non-enveloped viruses on the other hand like Norovirus can live up to weeks.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash

The protein on the viruses is not very resistant in nature and can be disrupted by pH changes, temperature, salt, and UV radiation from the sun.

Moisture however is the most essential factor, as viruses are known to survive in damp and moist climates mostly, so when they’re exposed to dry regions they lose stability and break down easily.

If the mucus secretion around the virus is enough for it to get blocked, it also implies that now its movement becomes difficult due to increased weight thus preventing further spread.

How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Photo by Jellybee on Unsplash

It is almost amusing to know that one of the best surfaces for reducing the rate of thriving viruses is our skin, it can be safely assumed that they do not last on our skin for more than 20 minutes.

This is because our hands are very antimicrobial, with the pH and the porous nature they play a very good role in pushing off the viruses from us.

5. Final Thoughts

As we know that not all of us are germaphobes but when the season is infectious, you feel like everyone is having a cold or some kind of infection or allergy; you automatically protect yourselves from being another one in the queue.

This happens every year, indeed 2-3 times a year which is why it is estimated that every adult catches a cold 2-3 times a year and children even more.

It is very obvious when the time comes you can see it around you everyone is coughing or sneezing the typical flu-season symptoms that should alert you to be careful and prepared accordingly.

Last Updated on December 18, 2023 by suchi


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. This detailed article provides insights into the lifespan of viruses on surfaces. It was insightful to learn factors like warmth, moisture, and the type of contamination affect viability and that though remnants may linger, they’re non-infectious. The risk of infection through contact with viral-loaded surfaces is also discussed. Effective methods to eliminate viruses on nonporous surfaces, such as hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, are highlighted.

  2. The longevity of viruses on surfaces is discussed in length in this article. Finding out that conditions like temperature, moisture content, and the kind of contamination influence viability and that, despite the possibility of leftovers, they are not contagious was enlightening. It is also covered how coming into contact with surfaces that have viruses on them might infect oneself.

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