How long does COVID-19 live on Plastic? | Visualized Science

By Charles Li, MD

April 01, 2020

  • How long does COVID-19 survive on plastic?

  • While most COVID-19 viruses degrade rapidly, some can remain for days.

  • About 10% of COVID-19 viruses remain on a plastic surface after 24 hours.

Coronavirus and Plastic

How long does coronavirus live on a plastic surface? We handle plastic surfaces every day, from our credit cards to our shopping bags.

Coronavirus, as you know, gets transmitted through droplets. That's why it's so important to keep your hands and commonly touched surfaces clean.

A new study finds that COVID-19 viruses can live on plastic, in particular, for many hours.

Coronavirus survival time on plastic

After 8 hours, scientists estimate that just over a quarter of coronavirus particles will remain on a plastic surface.

How they measured it

Scientists measured this by laying down a few drops of fluid containing COVID-19 viral particles.

They then collected samples at regular time points to measure how many viruses were still present.

By doing so, they were able to generate the model below:

PlasticCOVID-19 decay

% Virus Alive






24 hours






Hours since inoculation

Chart Icon

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free to copy and distribute

As you can see on the curve above, most COVID-19 viruses die pretty quickly on a plastic surface.

However, some of it can remain for hours and days.

This means that if someone sneezes on a plastic car dashboard, for example, most of the viruses will die within a few hours.

However, if you were to go back a day later, you would still expect to find a stray virus or two.

Plastic vs Other Surfaces

COVID-19 Survivability on surfaces

Based on the chart above, you can see that COVID-19 lives longer on plastic than on other surfaces, including cardboard and steel.

Plastic forms a relatively hospitable environment for COVID-19. Fortunately, plastic tends to be easier to clean than cardboard.

Key Takeaways

Be sure to disinfect frequently touched plastic surfaces. As you can see in the data above, COVID-19 coronaviruses can live quite a long time on a plastic surface.

While most coronaviruses die quickly, some can live on, and potentially remain infectious, for over a day.

Protect yourself by frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Coronavirus and plastic tips

Source: Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1

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