Time coronavirus lives on surfaces

On hands, the probable lifespan of coronavirus is 15-20 minutes.

On paper such as banknotes, the time it lives is estimated at 24 hours.

On everyday items, current data indicates 1 to 3 days for plastics, wood and metals (except for copper, which has a bactericide/viricide action, hence the virus has a shortened lifespan). There is no experimental data available for how long the coronavirus lives specifically regarding fabrics/clothes. It might be imagined that it is somewhere between cardboard and plastic, given the nature of the fibres that make up the material.

Note that this information comes from a single publication of experiments conducted in “ambient” temperature conditions for a given viral load corresponding to the contamination that the people conducting the experiments have estimated that an infected patient might produce. After given periods of time, a smear of the surface was carried out and the presence of live virus tested on cell culture.  Each experiment was repeated three times.

These lifetimes for the virus are not necessarily an absolute guarantee of safety under all circumstances. For instance, cold (as in a refrigerator) preserves viruses (in the same way as it preserves food), whereas direct exposure to intense sunlight (UV) tends to accelerate the speed at which they degrade. A highly contaminated surface will present more of a risk of actual contagion for longer than a surface with a low level of contamination.

Whatever the surface, the virus is not going to jump on to you by itself from a surface. Unless you tend to lick the things around you like some children might do, the risk of indirect contamination from an object involves soiling your hands by touching the object and then transmitting from your hands to your face, nose and eyes. So good hand hygiene is the number one essential means of protection.

Also, because it has been proved that the virus may be present in excreted stools and it has been shown that flushing the lavatory sends a wonderful shower of visible and invisible particles into the air, loaded with their contents, a metre around the lavatory pan, it is wise to adopt the habit of closing the loo lid when you flush, certainly in public conveniences. And now that you are aware of this rather unappetising detail, you will probably want to adopt this habit anyway – coronavirus or no coronavirus.


Actual size


Detecting a virus on a surface does not necessarily mean that the virus is still infectious.

up to 3 hours 24 hours 2-3 days 2-3 days
/!\ items used by us all Lift buttons Toilet seats Door handles Washbasins


Practical cases :

Can a parcel received by post infect me?

The risk of a package delivered by the postman being infected when it has been handled by the person making the delivery is low, assuming the postie adheres to hygiene recommendations. If you wish to eliminate all risk, there are two alternatives we can suggest:

  • Open the parcel away from your everyday household items, then wash your hands before taking out the contents. Dispose of the packaging away from your living area, without touching the exterior or wash your hands after disposing of it.
  • Leave the parcel somewhere away from your living area for 24 hours (this corresponds to the maximum lifespan data for the virus on cardboard, according to the current literature).

Can I be infected when I touch my change?

The risk of transmission of the virus via banknotes and coins cannot be considered as zero because they pass from hand to hand. For this reason, the authorities recommend that you pay by card, ideally contactlessly.

I work in contact with the public. When I come home, do my clothes present a risk?

If you work in your own clothes as a health worker, without any special protective clothing, and you are worried that your clothes have become contaminated, even simply by being in contact with the public, then you should change out of your clothes immediately when you get home and either wash any “suspicious” clothes at 60°C, if they will tolerate that temperature, or else keep your clothes for 2 to 3 days in an enclosed space (closed laundry bin, plastic bag) that you use for this purpose alone (i.e. the maximum life of the virus on plastic is set at 2-3 days).