How Long Do Fingerprints Stay on Objects?

Chris Isherwood/CC-BY-SA 2.0

No scientific methods can determine the length of time for which a fingerprint lasts on an object. There are many factors that determine how long a fingerprint lasts on any surface or object, with environmental conditions being the primary influence on the longevity of the prints.

In some instances, fingerprints have been discovered on objects that have not been disturbed for more than 40 years. Sometimes prints cannot be not found on an object or surface that was recently tampered with as most prints are removed when the surface is cleaned. It is also not possible to determine the age of a latent print with scientific methods without knowing when a surface was last completely cleaned, according to the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation.