How long the coronavirus survives on your face mask

A study by The Lancet has detailed the length of time the COVID-19 coronavirus survives on various surfaces.

Of the materials tested, the virus lasts longest on the outer layer of a surgical mask, while paper and tissue paper were the “worst” surfaces for the COVID-19 coronavirus’s survival.

“Briefly, a 5 μL droplet of virus culture (∼7·8 log unit of TCID50 per mL) was pipetted on a surface and left at room temperature (22°C) with a relative humidity of around 65%,” explained The Lancet.

“The inoculated objects retrieved at desired time points were immediately soaked with 200 μL of virus transport medium for 30 mins to elute the virus.”

The Lancet then monitored the “infectiousness” of these surfaces at the following intervals:

  • 3 hours
  • 6 hours
  • 1 day
  • 2 days
  • 4 days
  • 7 days


According to the research, the virus could not be recovered from printing and tissue paper after the initial 3-hour incubation period.

The virus lasted for two days on both wood and cloth, while smoother surfaces including glass, banknotes, stainless steel, and plastic saw it last between 4-7 days.

“Strikingly, a detectable level of infectious virus could still be present on the outer layer of a surgical mask on day 7,” said The Lancet.

Effect of temperature

The Lancet also investigated the effect of temperature on the COVID-19 coronavirus.

According to The Lancet, the virus is very stable at four degrees celsius, but is much more sensitive to heat.

At 14 days, there was still only a minor decrease in the amount of infectious titre at four degrees celsius.

In contrast, when the temperature was increased to 70 degrees, the time that it took for “virus inactivation” was just five minutes.

At 22 degrees celsius the virus lasted for up to 14 days, whereas this was reduced to two days when the temperature was 37 degrees celsius.

Survivability data

A graph detailing the survivability of the COVID-19 coronavirus on different surfaces, as discovered by The Lancet, is below.

Virus on Surfaces

Stability of COVID-19 Coronavirus Surfaces
Surface Time until not infectious
Paper 3 hours
Tissue paper 3 hours
Wood 2 days
Cloth 2 days
Glass 4 days
Banknote 4 days
Stainless steel 7 days
Plastic 7 days
Mask (inner layer) 7 days
Mask (outer layer) Over 7 days

Now read: What South Africans must do if they have coronavirus symptoms

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How long the coronavirus survives on your face mask