How long do germs live on surfaces? In the age of coronavirus, knowing how long germs live on bedding, plastic, and other surfaces has never been more important. But to correctly answer this question, it's critical to understand that the nature of the surface can greatly affect a germ's lifespan. Did you know that a germ that lives on bedding for 48 hours may live for a week on plastic?
Not only does hard vs. soft surface play a large role, but germs have different lifespans. In other words, some are more "stable" without a human host than others.
Whether you're wondering about grocery store safety, sharing a space with roommates, or thinking of resuming parts of your routine, it's critical to know how long flu and COVID-19 germs live and what factors impede and prolong their lifecycles.
DISCLAIMER: The following is not medical information and was written for informational purposes only. If you have any questions related to your health, please speak with your physician. For up-to-date information on the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic, please see the CDC website and local authorities.
When it comes to how long coronavirus germs live, research is preliminary, and results are contradictory. However, studies suggest that a surface's texture and porousness may significantly impact COVID-19's lifespan. Here is how long SARS-CoV-2 may live on bedding, plastic, wood, and metal, according to research.
Approximate Lifespan of COVID-19
|Paper money||4 days|
|Paper (printing paper, tissue paper)||3 hours|
|Stainless steel||7 days|
|Surgical face mask||7 days|
COVID-19 aerosols may remain in the air for between eight and fourteen minutes, according to a study published in PNAS.
According to the WHO and the CDC, there are three significant ways that coronavirus is transmitted:
Research suggests that aerosols account for the majority of coronavirus infections--rather than surfaces or droplets. As COVID-19 germs can stay in the air for extended periods, outbreaks are common in crowded and poorly ventilated areas.
Events that involve singing and shouting are also more likely to become super-spreader events: a person exhales 50 times more aerosols when shouting than talking.
There is much we don't know about coronavirus. Also known as a novel coronavirus--a new virus that scientists discovered at the end of 2019--SARS-CoV-2 transmission largely remains a mystery for scientists.
The best way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and your hands frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water.
If you are concerned about your health, please speak with your physician. See the CDC website for other information regarding the virus' spread.
Germs can survive for hours or days, depending on a variety of factors. Influenza, meaning the flu, may persist up to 48 hours on surfaces. As is true for COVID-19, the typical flu virus exists on harder surfaces longer than fabrics or bedding.
Both of these illnesses are very common. The average American experiences 2 to 3 colds per year, according to the CDC. Most colds come from a virus called a rhinovirus, though coronavirus and other respiratory viruses may show symptoms. By contrast, the flu is typically a result of Influenza A.
There isn’t a lot of research on that subject, and the results are contradictory. Here is what we know:
How long do flu germs live on surfaces? A lot depends on the virus and the material in question. They seem to have an even shorter life expectancy on human skin. The safest course of action is to wash hands regularly and use natural antimicrobial products.
Hard surfaces, specifically metal and plastic, are more favorable to both cold and flu viruses. However, they can live on human skin and porous surfaces, like fabric, typically for shorter periods.
Not all metals are equally receptive to germs. Our upcoming antimicrobial door knob cover, made from silicone infused with micronized silver, uses silver’s antibacterial properties to stop the spread of germs on one of a household’s most commonly touched surfaces.
Specifically, silver and bronze, including brass, are well-known for killing bacteria and viruses. Stainless steel does not share these properties. Instead, it may house bacteria and viruses for an extended time. Plastic, such as a phone cover, may also harbor germs. It's a good idea to routinely clean surfaces with cleaning agents, such as a natural disinfectant.
Though this seems like a silly question, it’s important to distinguish between viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Most people use the "germs" to refer to a variety of microorganisms and that cause diseases. But the severity of these illnesses and their lifespans on bedding, plastic, metal, and other materials varies.
Wondering how long do germs last on bedding or plastic? Now that we know the difference between bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, let's go over some examples of each.
Remember that not all bacteria are harmful. The digestive tract requires healthy bacteria to function properly. How long do bacteria germs last within the human body? Antibiotics are the standard treatment for many of these conditions—fun fact: Antibiotics only work on bacteria, not viruses.
Viruses range in severity. The common cold is a virus—so is Ebola. In most of these cases, there is no “cure;” getting better may mean resting, drinking fluids, and sometimes taking supplemental oxygen. Some antiviral treatments and vaccines are available, but the medical community has yet to find cures for all viruses.
COVID-19 is, as its name would suggest, a virus. How long do flu germs live on surfaces is more critical than ever because COVID-19 is so contagious. Like other viruses on this list, COVID-19 is not curable.
Though doctors are discovering new ways to assist patients suffering from coronavirus, there is no "one size fits all" cure. In the worst cases, COVID-19 treatment may involve supplemental oxygen, steroids, experimental medications, or a ventilator.
A fungus is a type of organism that includes mold, mildew, yeast, mushrooms, rusts, and smuts. The difference between mushrooms and mildew is that the former needs a host--in this case, a human, to survive.
How long do germs like these live on surfaces? Some fungi, such as mushrooms and mold, live in the ground or water in perpetuity. Other types of fungi, such as ringworm and athlete's foot, may live for months on surfaces without finding a host.
The treatment for many of these conditions is an anti-fungal cream or, in extreme cases, an oral anti-fungal medication.
According to the WHO, malaria--a mosquito-borne infectious disease--is caused by parasites that exist in a mosquitos' saliva. It is both preventable and curable.
How long can parasites live outside the human body? There are two main types of parasites: facultative parasites and obligate parasites. The former can live without a host while the latter cannot. In many cases, a variety of creatures can serve as the host (ex: a mosquito and a human for the parasite that causes malaria).
The best way to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria is to wash your hands thoroughly for a minimum of 20 seconds, maintain social distancing, wear a face covering such as a face shield, and follow other advice from the Center for Disease Control.
But how do you keep germs off common touch points throughout the home and office? We recommend you stay up-to-date on the release of our antimicrobial door handle covers. Made from third-party lab tested antimicrobial silicone, our doorknob covers may help reduce the spread of germs on one of their favorite resting places.