Surface Transmission FACTS

Surface transmission of deadly viruses, like Sars-CoV-2, is a major issue in healthcare settings where the flow of staff, patients, and pathogens runs 24/7, 365. Hospital-acquired Infections (HAIs) account for a massive percentage of death in the United States, incredible costs for healthcare facilities, and an increase in hospitalization days required for patients.

The disinfection of high-contact surfaces is a necessary step to take in the march towards better healthcare experiences for patients and a critical component in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Understanding types of surfaces and the duration of time that bacteria can survive on them is necessary for targeted disinfection efforts.

Porous…Non-porous, What’s the Difference?

When classifying types of hard surfaces, we place them into two groups: porous and non-porous. Materials that have porous surfaces have minute holes (microscopic) or spaces through which liquid or air can pass through. On the contrary, non-porous surfaces have no pores and are completely sealed and smooth so air and liquid can’t move through them.

Porous: a surface or material that has pores (microscopic holes or crevices that allow liquids or air to penetrate it).

  • Bones
  • Wood
  • Rocks
  • Cements
  • Ceramics

Non-Porous: something that is not permeable to any outside influences.

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • Stainless steal
  • Some rigid plastic materials

Survival Time

Both types of surfaces can collect and hold bacteria, but the survival time and detectability of the bacteria varies depending on the type of surface. Germs can survive for longer periods of time on non-porous surfaces, sometimes up to seven days but then quickly lose their ability to cause infection. Porous surfaces can still harbor infectious diseases but the ability for them to permeate and thrive is much harder due to lack of nutrient flow. According to a study on microbial competition in porous environments showed that, “bacteria in porous environments face a fundamental dilemma: they rely on flow for nutrients and dispersal; however, as cells grow, they tend to reduce their access to flow. A fast-growing strain can, therefore, choke off its own nutrient supply, diverting it instead to competitors.”

How Quickly should we Disinfect

In situations when there has been a confirmed case (or suspected) of COVID-19 indoors, the next 24 hours are critical to disinfect high-touch surfaces since the presence of infectious virus is highly likely. According to a study found on the researchers found:

“The virus, or at least its genetic signature, abounds. The team detected the virus on the floors next to the beds of patients with COVID-19 (39 percent of samples tested), floors outside patient rooms (29 percent) and surfaces inside the rooms (16 percent). SARS-CoV-2 detection tended to be highest during the first five days after a patient’s onset of symptoms.”

The Hand Hygiene Factor

When aiming to mitigate the transmission (i.e., cross-contamination) of pathogens hand hygiene plays a central role. Consistent hand washing can drastically reduce the number of bacteria on shared surfaces and help abate the transmission from person to person. With that in mind, handheld devices, such as phones, are touched thousands of times per day, shared, and they travel. You cannot have consistent hand hygiene if you don’t disinfect what is in your hands all the time. Phones, tablets, and any other shared electronics can pass the risk right back into your clean hands.

Cloth masks (very different from N95 masks) are in the same boat as mobile devices. While they help stop the spread of contaminated aerosol droplets to others, they do harbor your pathogens and need to be washed/disinfected just as regularly as your phone. Both items can act as a Trojan Horse for dangerous microbes and need to be considered in your cleaning and disinfecting efforts.


UV disinfection technology affords quick, efficacious disinfection to both porous and non-porous surfaces. Great tools such as the UV Cube, UV Box, and The ExpressPro can eliminate very deadly pathogens and bacteria and high frequency disinfection drastically knocks down the bio-load on the target.

Regular disinfection of high-touch surfaces (or devices) that hands regularly encounter should be a focal point in any healthcare facility’s infection prevention plans. Newer disinfecting technologies such as electrostatic spraying can also drastically reduce the number of bacteria living on a given surface while increasing the efficacy of your disinfection. Porous or non-porous surfaces can be completely rid of all pathogens with the power of electrostatics. Additionally, whole room fogging can be a highly efficacious and efficient approach as technologies like the AP-4 are beginning to hit the market and make a drastic impact right out the gate.

Better products that are rooted in scientific evidence need to be normalized to ethically combat the spread of HAIs as well as general community infections. Regardless of healthcare facility or place of business, all public space operators should be well-informed of the facts of surface transmission, specific infection risks within their environment, and the solutions that can be implemented therein.