How Long Does Sperm Live Outside The Body?

Do you want to know, how long does sperm live outside the body? 

Right after ejaculation, the sperm comes in contact with different surface areas. 

Some sperm die in 15 to 30 minutes, and others can survive longer.

How long sperm lives depends on where it goes. 

For sperm to survive, it needs warmth and moisture. The quicker it dries, the sooner the sperm cells die. 

The best place for a sperm cell to survive is in the cervical mucus, which is basically inside a woman’s body.

Even though an average ejaculation has 300 to 400 million sperm, only one can fertilize an egg. 

In other words, even if the sperm survives inside the vagina for a while, it doesn’t mean it will result in a pregnancy. 

Here, you can learn more about the sperm life span on different surfaces, such as outside, inside the body, near the vagina, on clothes, and more.

How long does sperm live outside the body?

How long sperm can live outside the body varies on the environment they are released. If the sperm ends up on dry surfaces, such as bed sheets, pants, underwear, or shirt, they die by the time the semen is fully dry. 

This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. The semen dries faster in warmer areas.

How long sperm live outside the body on wetter surfaces is a different story. Semen thrives in moist environments. 

This means that the sperm’s life span might be longer if a man ejaculates in a wet area. Like in a tub of water.

But, even if a man releases sperm in a tub of water, the odds of the sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg are very low. 

Still, it is important to take the necessary precautions if you don’t want to get pregnant. 

When we talk about the sperm life span outside the body, it’s crucial to mention how long sperm lives ejaculated into condoms. 

If left inside a condom, sperm die in a couple of hours. Lubricated condoms offer a good amount of moisture for the sperm to survive. 

Some condoms are saturated with spermicide. Using spermicide won’t kill the sperm, but it can affect their ability to swim and reach the egg. This is like quicksand for swimming sperm.

To successfully conceive a child, men should work on improving their sperm health. The best ways to manage your fertility are to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, prevent STDs, and stay physically active. 

Can you get pregnant if there’s semen near the vagina?

For insemination to happen, the sperm need to get inside the female’s reproductive system. If a partner were to ejaculate near the vagina, a woman could get pregnant in two ways:

  • The wet sperm moves and leaks into the vaginal opening. This can occur when the sperm hasn’t completely dried.
  • The partner’s erect penis enters the vagina after ejaculating. If the semen is near the vagina, the erect penis can move the semen toward the female genital area.

The odds of getting pregnant this way are incredibly low. But if you don’t want a successful conception, it’s best to avoid ejaculating near the vagina.

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How long does sperm live on the skin?

How long does sperm live outside the body on the skin? On the skin, like the hand, for example, the semen that contains sperm usually dies in 15 to 30 minutes. But it depends on the ambient humidity. 

If the skin is moist, like from using body lotion, lubricant, or massage oils, the sperm might take longer to dry. It can also slide and move with ease. 

When the semen is dry, the cells are either dead or close to dying. This makes it difficult for the sperm to result in a pregnancy.  

How long does sperm live outside the body on clothes?

How long sperm can survive outside the body, especially on fabric, ranges from 15 to 30 minutes. Usually, the sperm lifecycle is very short on cloth – it can only survive for a couple of minutes. At room temperature, it should survive for up to 30 minutes. 

If the sperm was deposited on underwear in the first 1 to 2 minutes after ejaculation, and the woman used the fabric to clean her vagina, then there could be a small chance of pregnancy. The sperm has to actually get inside the vagina to conceive a child.

But, if the fabric was simply used to wipe the vulva, or the outer skin of the vulva, the risks for pregnancy are minimal. 

To be on the safe side, avoid wiping the vagina with semen-stained clothing, regardless if the semen is dry or wet.

Do sperm die when they hit the air?

There is a common misconception that oxygen kills sperm in seconds. In reality, it takes a couple of minutes for the sperm to die once it hits the air. 

High heat kills sperm much faster than cold air. Take saunas, for example.

According to semen samples from a 2013 study, at the end of sauna exposure, researchers found a strong impairment in sperm motility and count. 

Exposure to wet heat can affect sperm quality. Although these effects are just temporary, men should limit their exposure to heat while using the sauna for not more than 20 minutes. 

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How long do sperm live after getting frozen in a sperm bank?

Those who want to know how long sperm will last outside the body may also be interested in sperm freezing. Men who want to store their sperm for future use can freeze it. 

Experts place the healthy sperm into a special storage container and cover it in a freezing solution. The vial then goes into a storage freezer, which is packed with liquid nitrogen. 

When kept at a constant temperature of -196°C, the sperm sample can survive indefinitely. 

Can you freeze your own sperm at home? 

You can’t freeze sperm samples at home and expect to have swimming sperm. For the sperm to maintain its quality, sperm count, and motility, it has to be frozen in a controlled laboratory. 

The average household freezer can work at about -18°C. Sperm requires a constantly controlled environment of -196°C.

How long does sperm live inside the body?

Now that you know how long sperm lives outside the body, it’s important to talk about how long sperm can live inside the body. More precisely, how long can sperm survive in a woman’s body?

Studies show that sperm in fertile mucus typically live for 3 days. But, if the conditions are right, the sperm can make it for 5 days straight. The sperm can endure the longest inside the body during ovulation.

Ovulation changes the hormones in the body, which affect the composition and consistency of the cervical mucus. 

When a woman is ovulating, her estrogen levels are at their peak. This alters the cervical mucus from its pasty-like consistency to a stretchy substance. 

The cervical mucus becomes slippery and wet, which creates the perfect environment for sperm to survive the longest, swim, and fertilize the egg. 

But, if the cervical mucus is not fertile, it is downright taxing for the sperm to get to the fallopian tubes.

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Can sperm survive in a hot tub or bath?

Sperm can’t survive for long in super hot bath water and soap. In hot water, the sperm dies in a couple of seconds to a few minutes. 

If you are worried about the quality of your sperm and the possibility of conception, consult with a healthcare provider. 


So, how long can a sperm live on different surfaces? Here is the takeaway. When outside the body, sperm can survive for 15 to 30 minutes. 

Sperm dies as soon as it dries up. When the sperm is wet, it can be dangerous when trying to avoid pregnancy. Dried-out semen shouldn’t be a risk for pregnancy.

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  1. Garolla A, Torino M, Sartini B, Cosci I, Patassini C, Carraro U, Foresta C. Seminal and molecular evidence that sauna exposure affects human spermatogenesis. Hum Reprod. 2013.
  2. Clubb E. Natural methods of family planning. J R Soc Health. 1986 Aug;106(4):121-6. PMID: 3091823.

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