A virus that doesn’t reach the ground or floor can fall on shared surfaces – or be transferred there by those with the pathogen on their hands. Whatever the case, unsuspecting people can pick it up. How long a virus lives depends on the surface it’s on:

How long coronavirus lives on steel

The coronavirus can exist on stainless steel objects for two to three days. That’s a problem because steel is commonly used in public transportation and in scores of other public places such as restroom stalls, faucets, and manual paper towel handles.

How long coronavirus lives on plastic

Plastic objects can harbor the virus for two to three days. That’s a special concern because many shared items are made of plastic and may not be sanitized often enough or completely enough. Take out food containers, light switches, cell phone cases, elevator buttons and more are commonly made of plastics.

How long coronavirus lives on cardboard

The virus can last on cardboard up to 24 hours. That’s noteworthy because many customers are using online delivery services during the coronavirus outbreak instead of going to stores in person. Food products packaged in cardboard could also be a risk.

How long coronavirus lives on glass

A virus can last as long as four days on glass, depending on location and temperature, according to a separate study by the Journal of Hospital Infection published in January. That report charted the persistence of the SARS-CoV virus, which is similar to the current virus causing COVID-19. Items such as cell phone screens, mirrors and inside glass doors can also support the virus.

How long coronavirus lives on copper

The coronavirus lasted about four hours on copper, a finding consistent with historical use.

“Copper has been used for years,” says Dr. Meechan. “Copper ions have been used as disinfectants, they’re an effective virucide. It’s one of the reasons why old doorknobs were made of brass.”

Hospitals are increasing copper use in patient settings, including rails on hospital beds and other shared items.

This is how the reports calculate the survival rate of viruses, in hours, on non-disinfected surfaces:

Cleaning these materials

The CDC defines cleaning as the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Disinfecting is use of chemicals to kill pathogens on surfaces. The agency says surfaces should be cleaned using disposable gloves, then disinfected to lower infection risk.

The EPA has a list of disinfectant products that meet their criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.