Sanitize Your Surfaces: How Long Can COVID-19 Survive? (Updated)

This article was updated on March 23, 2020 to include Sars-CoV-2 viability on glass smartphone screens.

The COVID-19 outbreak has brought with it many questions, one of which seems simple enough: How long can it last on different surfaces?

Virologists and other scientists are studying the disease and the virus believed to cause it.

A team of virologists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have come up with some answers about how long COVID-19 may persist on surfaces by studying Sars-CoV-2.

Two Datassential reports focused on COVID-19 have revealed that consumers are concerned about contact points in bars and restaurants. In the first report, the research firm showed that most consumers were worried about contracting the disease by touching door handles. Another area of concern is the bathrooms.

As the BBC has reported, that NIH virologist Neeltje van Doremalen and her colleagues have been testing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19. The virologists have been attempting to discover how long the virus can survive on various surfaces.

I need to mention before proceeding that the NIH study findings haven’t yet been published in a scientific journal.

Please read this: How Your Bar or Restaurant Will Survive the Pandemic

The study shows that SARS-CoV-2 can survive as droplets in the air after an infected person coughs for up to three hours. Were the droplets to be circulated in an unfiltered air conditioning system, they would only survive for a couple of hours.

SARS-CoV-2 can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard, according to NIH study. The virus can persist for up to three days on stainless steel and plastic. As any operator will understand immediately, that covers everything from flatware to door handles to kitchens to bathrooms in a bar, restaurant or nightclub. The study found that copper appears to kill SARS-CoV-2 in around four hours.

According to NIH research, COVID-19 can survive on smartphone screens made of glass material for up to four days. Van Doremalen and the NIH have yet to determine how long the virus can survive on clothing, porous materials, and other surfaces that can be difficult to disinfect.

When airborne, the virus loses half its viability in a reported 66 minutes, according to the NIH. After another 66 minutes, viability is reduced by 75 percent. After a full three hours, viability is just 12.5 percent. It's crucial to note that environment plays a role in virus viability. The virus tends to survive for longer in aerosol form and on surfaces at room temperature, according to the best information available currently.

Research shows that the virus doesn’t do well in humid, higher-temperature environments. But the best way to “inactivate” the virus, according to the NIH study, is by disinfecting a surface with either 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide bleach, 0.1 percent sodium hypochlorite household bleach, or 62 to 71 percent alcohol.

Whether remaining fully operational or offering only delivery and/or takeout, operators would do well to perform a deep clean using the cleaners listed above. Contact points should be cleaned frequently if an operation remains open, even in a limited capacity. Those who have shut down temporarily should also perform a deep clean in anticipation of reopening.

Please read this: How to Handle Closing Your Doors Temporarily Due to Coronavirus

It wouldn't hurt to document sanitation efforts and share them with guests and followers on social media to assuage health and safety concerns.

The NIH study focused on how long SARS-CoV-2 and by extention COVID-19 has not been published in a scientific journal. Bar & Restaurant, Nightclub & Bar Show and Questex cannot, therefore, guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information shared in this article. Proceed at your own risk.


Gray, Richard. “Covid-19: How long does the coronavirus last on surfaces?” The BBC. March 17, 2020.