The novel coronavirus has led to unprecedented measures being taken including school closures across the country to keep students, staff, and families as safe as possible. State school boards and health officials have been working closely together to reach solutions that continue to keep individuals safe when schools resume. These procedures will differ state by state, and even district by district. However, the importance of cleaning and disinfecting are vital in every school across the country. In this article, we review how long the novel coronavirus lives on surfaces, how to properly sanitize, suggestions from the CDC, and more. 

How Long Does COVID-19 Live on Various Surfaces? 

COVID-19 spreads very easily and rapidly from person to person and can live on common surfaces found in classrooms that students and staff come in contact regularly. Will students and staff pick up the virus from touching the same table as someone else? Copy machine? Paper assignment? Lunch from the cafeteria? Experts know that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, or from touching a surface with the germs and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. 

Proper handwashing and cleaning/sanitizing all surfaces in the school setting will be exceptionally important as classes resume. Though it will be standard procedure to sanitize all surfaces regularly, it is important to know how long the virus can live on various surfaces to know exactly how frequently the surface should be cleaned. The longer that the virus can live on a surface, the more often it will need to be sanitized to limit the spread.  


Examples in Schools 

How Long it Lives 


Doorknobs, parts of desks, pencil sharpeners, stair rails 

5 days 


Classroom furniture 

4 days 


Chairs, desks, backpacks, elevator buttons, light switches, keyboards 

2 to 3 days 



24 hours 

Stainless Steel 

Kitchen equipment 

2 to 3 days 


Windows, classroom supplies  

Up to 5 days 


Dishes, restrooms 

5 days 


Assignments, supplies 

Varies with strands – up to 5 days 


Meals and snacks 

Limited findings to draw a conclusion  


Water fountain 

Hasn’t been found in drinking water 


Clothing, classroom supplies 

Limited research – not believed to spread if on hard surfaces 

Sourced from: and Healthline 

Cleaning/ Disinfecting 

The first step to proper disinfecting of surfaces is to clean with soap and water or detergent. Following cleaning, use a household bleach solution on appropriate surfaces of at least 70% alcohol to disinfect. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, as well as proper ventilation for your safety. Ensure that cleaning solution is not expired. To prepare the bleach solution, mix 1/3 cup of bleach for every one gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach for each one quart of water. 

Use these instructions to clean hard surfaces such as metals, plastics, treated wood, glass, ceramics, etc. Visit our recent article for instructions on sanitizing stainless steel surfaces. 

Important Reminders From the CDC 

  • Warmer temperatures and sunlight exposure reduce the time the virus lives on surfaces. 
  • Regular cleaning with soap and water removes dirt and germs from surfaces. Disinfect after cleaning to further lower the risk of spreading the virus. 
  • Store and use disinfectants as instructed on the label. 
  • Always wear gloves appropriate for the chemicals. 
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