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

By Charles Li, MD

April 02, 2020

  • How long does COVID-19 survive on steel?

  • While stainless steel appears clean, coronaviruses can actually live for over a day on a stainless steel surface.

  • Researchers estimate that about 2% of COVID-19 viruses remain on a stainless steel surface after 24 hours.

Coronavirus and Stainless Steel

Steel feels clean. After all, hospitals and labs use plenty of stainless steel surfaces in operating rooms and other sterile areas.

However, when it comes to coronavirus, it may not be as safe as you think.

A new study finds that COVID-19 viruses can live on steel for up to a day.

Coronavirus survival time on steel

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 on the stainless steel surface.

They compared this to other surfaces including plastic and cardboard.

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

SteelCOVID-19 decay

% Virus Alive






24 hours
% Left1.82






Hours since inoculation

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

However, some viral particles can remain for hours on the surface.

Since stainless steel is often found on frequently touched surfaces, it's essential to keep steel surfaces clean.

Key Takeaways

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

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

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