A Wonderous Tale of a Sperm Tail - Originally published in the Fall 2010 issue (Issue 19) of The Oakland Journal
The QUESTION most frequently asked to Dr. Lindemann via e-mail: How long can sperm live on environmental surfaces? ANSWER: They die as they dry out, so it depends on how quickly they dry. They also are killed by fresh water due to osmotic shock. Soap and detergents such as those used for laundering and hand washing also kill them, as these substances strip off the cell membrane of the sperm. Something to consider: They are the haploid half of your life cycle so be careful where you leave them.
Please note, while sperm are relatively easy to kill on environmental surfaces, do not try to use water or detergents to kill them in the vagina or female reproductive tract. The female tract and the jelly-like consistency of human semen protect them from mixing well with water once inside the female body. In addition, water and detergent can be harmful to the tissues. This is not a good birth control strategy!