Data on COVID-19 and Shoes

By Rebecca Israel, MS & Charles Li, MD

April 14, 2020

  • Public health officials recommend disinfecting shoes to avoid spreading the virus on floors and other surfaces.

  • In Wuhan, China, scientists collected swabs from surfaces throughout the isolation ward to test for coronavirus contamination.

  • Half of the ICU medical staff’s shoe soles tested positive.

COVID-19 & Shoes

While the coronavirus spreads, scientists are working against the clock to understand how the virus moves around, how to contain it, and how to treat those already infected. New reports are coming out daily that paint a clearer picture of the virus’s lifecycle.

Scientists in Wuhan, China, wanted to know what surfaces the virus can live on. To find out, they swabbed numerous high-touch surfaces throughout the isolation ward and tested them.

Of all the surfaces that were tested, the objects with the highest rate of contamination include shoe soles, computer mouses, trash cans, and the floor.

Cleaner areas like dressing rooms, nurse stations, and buffer rooms tested negative.

Most Contaminated COVID-19 surfaces in a hospital

Source: Aerosol and Surface Distribution of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Hospital Wards, Wuhan, China, 2020

COVID-19 & Plastic

This is consistent with a previous study that looked at plastic and COVID-19.

Among all materials studied, including steel and cardboard, COVID-19 lived the longest on plastic.

COVID-19 Survivability on surfaces

Patient care facilities follow strict disinfecting protocols to ensure these surfaces are virus-free. This is an essential preventative measure for patients, their families, and the medical staff.

The shoes of medical staff are not kept within the facility and, therefore, are likely to spread the virus outside of the contained environment.

It is highly recommended for medical personnel to disinfect their shoes before leaving the clinic. It is also advised for everyone to dedicate a pair of shoes for work and stow them outside of the home, especially those who have been to a heavily populated area.

The ideal shoe to wear out of the home is machine washable or easy to clean with soap and water.

Shoes can be washed at a high temperature with Bleach or vinegar: both of which have been proven to kill viruses. Alcohol-based wipes are also suggested for daily shoe disinfecting.

COVID-19 & Shoes Guide

You can practice routine cleaning of other high-touch surfaces with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions. Make sure to check the product exportation date before use.

It is important to protect your hands by using gloves and washing after cleaning. You can consult our “How to Wash Your Hands: The Science” page to learn more.

Washing & Disinfecting COVID-19

The results of this study only reflect the contamination levels in this particular Wuhan hospital, though the results confirm existing hypotheses about the lifespan and spread of the virus. Further research on more facilities is required to generalize the results.

Source: CDC Guide on Cleaning and Disinfection

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