The COVID-19 Virus Life Expectancy and How to Prevent This Virus Infection

August 12, 2020 | Answered by: Dr Mohd Ramzdhan Bin Mohd Masdar

I'm Raju, 25 years old. I read about COVID-19 virus prevention measures. Some of the steps include regularly cleaning objects in my environment. I was wondering about the lifespan of this virus on the surface of an object. To my knowledge, the virus can live up to 24 hours on the surface of an object that is not cleaned. I hope doctor can enlighten me. Thank you.
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Thanks for asking me this question. For your information, the lifespan of this virus depends on the surface type of the object. Objects can be made of plastic, glass, copper, steel and so on. These different surfaces affect the life of the object. Don't worry, I'll explain more to ease your understanding.

It is well-established that COVID-19 spreads via respiratory droplets from person-to-person. This happens when a person sneezes or coughs. This virus can also infect a healthy person when they touch contaminated surfaces. Initially, scientists were not sure of how long this virus would manage to live outside of the human host. However, the pressure to know more about this virus has yielded results from researches revealing the lifespan of COVID-19 on different surfaces.

There are a few surface materials that are common in our daily lives. Namely, metals, wood, plastic, stainless steel, cardboard, copper, aluminium, glass, ceramics and paper.

Metals, glass, ceramics and paper may harbour the virus for up to five days. The most common metal surfaces that we come across in our day-to-day activities are doorknobs, jewellery and silverware. Glass surfaces like windows and mirrors can be found in your office or shopping malls. Sharing ceramics like mugs and dishes may potentially be the source of COVID-19, especially amongst household members. Paper is a widely used material. You may come across it in the office, at the clinic, or even in the public when one hands you a flyer or tuck it underneath your car’s wiper. 

COVID-19 can survive on wood for up to 4 days. You might want to be more careful when touching shared furniture, especially when someone shows symptoms of COVID-19 infection around you.

This virus can also survive on plastic and stainless steels for 2-3 days. Examples are like snack packaging, mineral water bottles, and your elevator button surface that COVID-19 may be surviving on.

This respiratory virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboards. Many have raised their concerns regarding packages that are shipped from China. Hence, this is good information to bear in mind when receiving your parcel from overseas and even locally.

On aluminium, the virus may persist up to 2-8 hours and 4 hours on copper. Examples of things made out of aluminium are soda can and tinfoil. Copper makes up things like coins which are used in cash transactions. 

When you head to your favourite grocery store, the thought of the virus lingering on fresh food may cross your mind. There is no evidence that this virus can spread through exposure to food. However, you are still encouraged to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them raw. Wash them thoroughly with a brush or rubbing them with your hands.

This virus also would not be able to survive in your water supply. The content of chlorine in our water supply will kill the virus before it reaches the tap in our homes.

We will not be able to go about our daily activities by avoiding touching everything in order to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Hence, we can:

  • Disinfect surfaces you frequently touch like tabletops, phones, laptops, doorknobs, keyboards, handles and taps.
  • Wash hands after going to the groceries store or bringing your takeout food for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. 
  • Use sanitizers after touching surfaces like elevator buttons or rails.


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