Ask an Expert: How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?

Digital Now

COLORADO SPRINGS — FOX21 Digital Now is offering a new resource for you.

It’s called Ask an Expert, where we answer your lingering questions about the coronavirus in any category.  

Our first question is something multiple viewers have reached out to us about: How long does the coronavirus live on surfaces?

“It’s pretty resilient. It can live on hard surfaces like steel and plastic for a little two to three days. And you’re able to pick the virus up and still grow it in cultures. Other things like cardboard, much less. Usually about 24 hours. And so, usually things that you get shipped from other places, we’re no so concerned about that. It’s more the places that you touch. Door knobs, handles, elevator buttons, things like that, are the areas where it can live for quite a long period of time,” said Dr. Leon kelly, deputy medical director for El Paso County Public Health.

But what about soft surfaces like clothing?

“Usually soft surfaces like clothing, and dog hair, and pets and things, the virus may get on there, but it’s hard to pick back up, you don’t get it. Obviously, it’s important to wash your hands, don’t touch your face and all those kinds of things, but the majority of spread is going to be person to person, through those respiratory droplets, coughing, sneezing. But those are on surfaces that are hard, that the virus can’t get absorbed into, are easy to pick back up. And so, those are the places that we’re really, really focused on cleaning and not touching,” Dr. Kelly said.

Be sure to protect yourself. Spray or wipe down those hard surfaces with germ killing disinfectant, made up of around 70-percent alcohol.

But the big trick is you have to leave those surfaces wet, you can’t just wipe them dry. You have to leave it on there because it needs those chemicals and the alcohol, or the bleach if you’re using that type of a cleaner, to be able to sit on the virus for some period of time, several minutes and kill it,”

He adds don’t worry about outdoor surfaces, they’ll take care of themselves.

And while every virus is different, what you need to do to stay healthy isn’t.

“Wash your hands, cover your mouth and your cough and clean your surfaces and take good care of yourself. So, from that respect, the virus is new, but what we’re asking folks to do has really been around for a long time,” Dr. Kelly said.

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Ask it at and we’ll do the leg work.

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