How quickly would boiling water kill coronavirus?

There are numerous articles telling us to disinfect groceries - wash all packages with soap and water and then disinfect with wipes, also wash produce.

For example: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/worried-about-contaminated-groceries-how-to-be-safe

"... wiping down all packaging with a disinfectant before putting your groceries away"

"For fruits and vegetables, VanWingen suggests scrubbing them for at least 20 seconds with soap and water"

However, disinfecting wipes and disinfecting bleach as well as rubbing alcohol are all sold out and we may never see them again (until it is too late). And soap and water are not enough - plastic containers are covered with ridges and crevices (potentially filled with deadly droplets). Washing them all is impossible.

But many of us still have running water and electricity. So, it is trivial to boil a large pot of water and dip all packages and even produce in it. But is it effective? How long to dip? I guess there were no study yet about modern covid-19 but there must have been some studies about older coronaviruses. Does anybody know?

P.S. I made a simple test: mixed few drops of saliva with a dye, dropped it to a groove on a plastic bottle, let it dry, then washed the bottle with soap and running water for 20 seconds while scrubbing very hard. But scrubbing cannot reach the groove, so some residue remained clearly visible and can now cross contaminate other objects. This confirms my original suspicion that washing alone is not sufficient. We need a more reliable disinfectant, like a boiling water.

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    Soap and water has long been proven to be the most effective means of disinfection of hands, surfaces, etc. Soapy water goes into ridges and crevices just as readily as boiling water would. You need to do some more research. You're operating on false assumptions.
    – Carey Gregory
    Apr 1, 2020 at 0:48
  • Thank you for the edit to improve your question. The quote you added from a reputable source agrees with what Graham said in his answer and what I said in my comment above. Soap and water are your friend.
    – Carey Gregory
    Apr 1, 2020 at 4:17
  • @Carey_Gregory Water is not enough. Google for "cleaning body fluids" and every answer mentions using "disinfectant" or "bleach solution". That's why bleach and alcohol are all sold out.
    – jhnlmn
    Apr 1, 2020 at 20:39
  • I didn't say water alone; I said soap and water. Soap dissolves the virus' lipid shell and without that the virus simply falls apart. Soap and water are superior to alcohol and bleach-based products. I don't know what sources you're reading but if they're not telling you that then you need to find better sources. You don't need alcohol and bleach at all, nor do you need to boil things.
    – Carey Gregory
    Apr 1, 2020 at 20:55
  • A better contamination simulant would be grease or oil: something that reacts to soap in the same way that the virus does.
    – Mark
    Apr 9, 2020 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


The accepted knowledge is that boiling water for 1 minute kills viruses. However, that is not necessary for SARS-CoV-2. Any food you eat is going to be cooked for longer than a minute, and packaging can left for a couple of days for the virus to inactivate naturally.

The standard recommendation for boiling water is a FULL ROLLING BOIL for ONE MINUTE and COOL BEFORE USE. The term rolling boil facilitates communication and assures that an effective pasteurization temperature is reached to kill or inactivate waterborne pathogens. Some agencies recommend boiling for longer periods, but this extra time is not necessary and can cause unnecessary power demand and increase safety concerns.

For cardboard boxes:

On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours

And on plastics/stainless steel

SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces (Figure 1A), although the virus titer was greatly reduced (from 103.7 to 100.6 TCID50 per milliliter of medium after 72 hours on plastic and from 103.7 to 100.6 TCID50 per milliliter after 48 hours on stainless steel).

So, it can last for 72 hours at least though at greatly diminished amounts of viable virus. So, use soap/water to wipe these surfaces down. Soap disrupts the virus capsule, and also forms a surfactant around the virus so it can be dislodged from surfaces. Some people do recommend you wash your vegetables of unknown provenance in soap and water.



  • "Any food you eat is going to be cooked for longer than a minute" - this not correct at all. Juices are not cooked, milk usually not cooked, bred is not cooked, cheese is not cooked, fruits, vegetables usually not cooked. Also, placing a contaminated container to a fridge is a really bad idea. So, are you saying that I should boil fruits and vegetables and everything else for 1 minute?
    – jhnlmn
    Apr 1, 2020 at 2:33
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    Is there any authority in the world saying that factory produced food is going to be contaminated? Remember the virus if on fruit etc will usually take longer than 3 days to get to you from an orchard. The virus can't replicate in your fridge either. It needs human body parts. Milk is usually already pasteurised. Bread is baked. Apr 1, 2020 at 2:37
  • Currently the worst risk of contamination is in the store. Hundreds of infected people are walking over the food, sneeze, cough, touch the food before you have a chance of buying it. Surfaces of containers and produce almost certainly carry saliva droplets. It is being discussed in the news non-stop for days.
    – jhnlmn
    Apr 1, 2020 at 2:48
  • Stores should be screening people coming into the supermarkets as is done in many countries. If you live in a country with poor sanitation control then apply the measures above wiping down all fruit/veges with soap/water. But in such a place I'd switch to frozen veges and canned fruits. Apr 1, 2020 at 2:52
  • 1
    well, you should edit your question to add an extract from a reputable source about this concern. Apr 1, 2020 at 3:33

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