You work hard to keep your home clean and free of harmful germs. And it’s not an easy task!

In fact, one instance of hand contact with a contaminated surface can transfer the pathogen to five more surfaces, or 14 other individuals.

Knowing when to use which cleanser or disinfectant on which surface, keeping an eye on everything your sick kid touches, and teaching your family how to prevent the spread of germs could be a full-time job!

Creating a health-protecting cleaning routine also requires you to know how long a virus lasts on inanimate surfaces.

Though germs, viruses, and bacteria are tiny and may seem delicate, many are adept at surviving outside of the body for quite a long time.

To keep your home and family free from harmful contagions, find out once and for all: how long does a virus last on inanimate surfaces?

How Long Does a Virus Last Outside the Body?

Different viruses have different lifespans and abilities to survive on inanimate surfaces. Depending on the bacteria type, temperature, humidity, and other conditions, certain bacterium such as MRSA, Strep, and E.coli may survive outside the body for months at a time on a dry surface.

For many bacteria, a more humid environment means a longer life-span. Similarly, most bacteria are able to survive outside of the human body for longer when temperatures are mild and cool.

While some pathogens can only survive a few hours or days – like pertussis (aka whooping cough), coronavirus, SARS, and coxsackie (Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease) – other illness-causing viruses and bacteria are able to survive for months!

Want to know exactly how long does a virus last on inanimate surfaces? Here’s a list of the most common viruses and bacteria and how long they are able to survive outside of a host (aka, duration of persistence).

Lifespans of Common Bacteria & Viruses Outside the Body

Type Name Duration of Persistence
Bacterium Bordetella Pertussis 3 – 5 days
Clostridium difficile (spores) 5 months
Chlamydia pneumonia and Chlamydia trachomatis Less than 30 hours
Chlamydia psittaci 15 days
Escherichia coli (E. coli) 90 minutes to 16 months
Haemophilus influenzae (bacterial meningitis) 12 days
Listeria spp. 1 day – 1 month
Mycobacterium tuberculosis 1 day – 4 months
Salmonella typhi 6 hours – 4 weeks
Salmonella typhimurium 10 days – 4.2 years
Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA) 7 days – 7 months
Streptococcus pneumoniae 1 day – 20 days
Virus Adenivirus 7 days – 3 months
Coronavirus 3 hours
SARS-associated virus 72 hours – 96 hours
Cytomegalovirus 8 hours
HIV More than 1 week
Herpes simplex virus (type 1 and 2) 4.5 hours – 8 weeks
Influenza virus (the flu) 1 – 2 days
Norovirus and feline calici virus (FCV) 8 hours – 7 days
Parvovirus More than 1 year
Poliovirus type 1 4 hours – 8 days
Poliovirus type 2 1 day – 8 weeks
Pseudorabies virus 1 week or more
Rhinovirus (common cold) 2 hours – 7 days
Rotavirus 6 days – 60 days


Does the Surface Make a Difference?

Yes! Research has shown that microorganisms are more likely to survive in porous surfaces such as sponges, cloths, and grout because they are able to hide in the small openings of the surface.

However, the transfer rate – in other words, the likelihood that you will pick up the virus or bacteria by touching a surface – is higher with non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel or plastic.

There are some surfaces that are naturally antimicrobial and may shorten the lifespan of pathogens.

For example, copper and copper alloy (such as brass or bronze) are inherently antimicrobial. Experimental data shows that copper can kill germs such as influenza A, E.Coli, and MRSA, as well as many others. Surfaces containing 60 percent or more copper are shown to be especially effective, which is why many hospitals are beginning to use copper surfaces to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

How to Minimize Contamination

Surfaces are going to collect germs – it’s inevitable. But there are steps you can take to reduce picking up those germs and becoming contaminated with a bacterial or viral infection.

The first step is knowing the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

  • Cleaning physically removes germs, usually with soap or detergent and lowers the risk of spreading infection.
  • Sanitizing is a process of reducing the presence and growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on a surface to a safe level by public health standards or requirements, such as in the food service or hospitality industries.
  • Disinfecting kills microscopic organisms with chemicals but does not necessarily clean surfaces. However, disinfecting does kill a vast majority of germs, thereby reducing the risk of contamination.

To prevent contamination, be sure to clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched on a regular basis. Use effective and reputable cleaning products and services to ensure that your efforts are effective at protecting you and your family.

After cleaning, dispose of items such as rubber gloves to avoid cross-contamination. Then, remember to wash your hands with soap and hot water after cleaning and disinfecting your surfaces, even if you wore gloves while doing so.

Have a question about how to clean and disinfect specific surfaces? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help you keep your home safe and germ-free.