How Long Do Fingerprints Last?

Kevin Dooley/CC-BY-2.0

Each human has a unique set of fingerprints, and every person will have the same unique prints for their entire lives. The length of time a print lasts on a specific object depends on the object’s surface characteristics and environment.

In forensic science, a fingerprint that gets left on any given surface after being touched is known as a latent fingerprint. These fingerprints are commonly used in criminal investigations, and they can last for days at a time. Made of water and biological components such as triglycerides and fatty acids, latent prints tend to loose their water content after about 24 hours. However, there are multiple methods for preserving latent prints, and these preserved images can last indefinitely. Latent fingerprints tend to disappear most quickly from nonporous materials that are exposed to humidity and high temperatures.