How long do you think fingerprints last? Well, long enough to nab the criminals! It is a well-known fact that fingerprints are unique1 for everyone. In fact, the chances of your fingerprints matching with another person are 1-in-64 billion1.
Technically, fingerprints can last as long as they want to (unless they are destroyed). However, their life-span is largely affected depending on the type of surface2 and also the environmental conditions2.
|Objects||How long it lasts|
|Fingerprints on paper||40+ years|
|Fingerprints on metal||2 ½ + years|
|Fingerprints on plastic||7+ years|
|Fingerprint on a surface||10+ years|
What are fingerprints?
Fingerprints refer to the distinctive friction ridges pattern1 on our fingertips. The pattern varies from person-to-person.
Fingerprints develop as a result of the baby’s developing fingers pressing against the mother’s womb1. Fingerprints are usually of four different patterns – arch, simple loop, double loop, and whorl1.
Fingerprints find massive applications in the field of forensic science5, as they are more unique than our DNA. Besides, collecting fingerprints and analyzing them are also fairly inexpensive1.
How do experts tell if fingerprints are new or old?
Experts use a number of techniques to determine the age of the latent prints. However, the accuracy of such techniques is fairly moderate.
Determining the age of a fingerprint depends on numerous factors2. For instance, experts need to know what was on the finger before it left the latent print2.
Experts say that fingerprints that tend to grow dark2 quickly are signs that they are NOT recent. It also becomes more difficult to determine the fingerprint residue once they are processed with powder or chemicals2.
Experts analyze unique characteristic called “minutiae”1 to distinguish between different fingerprints and their age.
Recently, the Netherlands Forensic Institute6 came up with a new technique that can help date fingerprints accurately. However, the technique is only applicable to “fresh” latent prints that are less than 15 days old.
How long do fingerprints last after you die?
Do you know what doesn’t die after you, well, die? Your fingerprints!
It turns out your fingerprints are quite persistent1. Experts say fingerprints are one of the last things to disappear after you die3.
So, how long do fingerprints survive on a corpse? The accurate time of survivability is not known. However, experts say they can last up to several months3.
In one peculiar case, Haans Galassi3 lost four of his fingers in a wakeboarding incident.
Three months later, one of his fingers “surfaced” in the belly of a trout. The police were able to identify the fingerprint and trace it back to Gallasi.
How to artificially change your fingerprint?
For the unversed – yes, it is possible to artificially change your fingerprint3. At least, up to some extent.
Over the years, people (mostly criminals) have tried to change their fingerprints using artificial techniques. Some of the common methods include using acid and fire to burn their fingertips3.
Others also try slicing their fingertips in an attempt to change the pattern. Lastly, people also use skin-smoothening methods like applying nail polish and glues to change their fingerprints3.
It is not certain if such artificial methods are effective. However, it is extremely difficult to change your fingerprint entirely1.
Fingerprints are unquestionably one of the most unique features of your body. They also have a persistent nature that allows them to survive long after you die3. You could also try changing your fingerprint using some artificial methods. But, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to change the pattern completely.