After our own skin, there are two things that viruses and bacteria love more than anything: plastic and glass. These smooth surfaces are the perfect breeding ground for them, and unfortunately for us, they’re what almost every electronic device in the modern home is made of. With so many surfaces in the home, the coronavirus has plenty of options when it comes to taking up residence in your house, sometimes surviving and spreading for up to a week in ideal conditions.
Take for example our phones: these are devices that we carry with us almost every waking hour. We handle them when we wake up, at work, at home, even in bed. But recent research at the University of Arizona discovered that the average phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. This is both because of the way you handle them constantly, but also because cleaning your phone wrong and fail to commit to keeping them truly clean.
Humans are tactile beings. We best understand and appreciate the world around us by coming into contact with it, turning things over in our hands, and getting a feel for something at a molecular level. Anyone that’s handed a child anything from a simple wooden block to a complicated lego set can see what a role contact plays in the way we encounter the world.
But the Coronavirus has upended this, turning the world around us – and even our own homes – into minefields of potential infection and transmission.
Though not all surfaces are created equal when it comes to the coronavirus (more on that later), the fact of the matter is that there’s increasingly strong evidence that it has some serious staying power when it comes to hanging around. Recently, Coronavirus was detected on surfaces in a cruise ship for a full 17 days after the last infected person disembarked.
This is troubling news since it dramatically expands the window for contraction and exposure for a person. Though the CDC recently advocated for the effectiveness of using germicidal UVC to effectively kill the coronavirus on surfaces, things like germicidal UVC wands for personal use are just beginning to hit the market and often selling out as soon as they do.
So even though there are increasingly effective tools of unknown sterility, the best defense is having a strong knowledge of the surfaces that put you most at risk. From a recent study, here are some of the surfaces we encounter every day, and so much risk they can present when it comes to harboring COVID-19.
How Long Can Coronavirus Live On These Common Surfaces?
- Cardboard: Though coronavirus can typically live on cardboard for only 24 hours or less, the concern here is the sheer amount of cardboard (which includes other paper materials like newsprint and letter stock) we come into contact with on a daily basis. While much of the country has been stuck at home, online orders for essentials have skyrocketed, which means a lot of cardboard shipping boxes being handled at every stop before they make their way right to your doorstep.
- Stainless Steel: Though those stainless steel appliances may look great in our kitchens, they also look pretty good to Coronavirus, which can live up to 3 days on it. This is especially of concern for restaurant kitchens and industrial food production, where stainless steel is the surface for preparing foods.
- Granite/Marble/Ceramics: Another category of surfaces that are ubiquitous in many homes, stones, and ceramics can host the coronavirus for up to 5 days. This means kitchen countertops, mugs and plates are surfaces that need to be carefully cleaned often to ensure that the virus cannot proliferate.
- Plastic: COVID-19 can easily live up to 3 days on plastics, potentially more if the larger environment (air temperature, humidity) is preferable to the virus.
- Fabrics: Much like cardboard, COVID-19 has a lifespan of roughly 24 hours on the most common fabric types. But the concern here is that also like cardboard, the fabric that makes up our furniture and clothing are items that we take out into the world or that have multiple people using. Much like us, the fabric in our lives can cover a lot of ground, so 24 hours is plenty of time for the virus to make its way into our homes.
- Glass: Unfortunately for us, Coronavirus can live on glass for up to 5 days or longer, depending on conditions. And while you might think that you don’t spend your days going around touching windows, there’s a lot of glass that’s probably in your life. From drinking glasses to appliances, to our phone screens, glass is a high-risk surface for coronavirus that most of us handle nearly every waking hour of the day.
- Wood: Though in many ways less and less of the world we encounter daily is made of wood products, there’s still plenty of surfaces in our homes that can be made from the natural fiber: one that COVID-19 can survive on for up to 4 days. Decks, tables, railings, and kitchen cabinetry are all surfaces in our homes that can host the virus, and when it comes to cleaning wood it’s no easy task, since many effective chemical-based cleaners will all but destroy the finish and character of most woods.
What To Do:
Ultimately, diligence is the name of the game. Being mindful of which surfaces put you most at risk, and which you come into contact with will help you understand and reduce your potential exposure to the Coronavirus. As mentioned above, CDC-approved cleaning products and methods can help us navigate the uncertainty. For those who want to clean your phone every day, but at the same time, they are concerned about the daily use of harsh chemical cleaners and the cost, waste, and effectiveness associated with them, the emerging technology of germicidal UVC light has proven to be a powerful weapon against the coronavirus.