Disposable gloves protect your hands from exposure to infectious agents, and using hand sanitizer is a safe and cost-effective way of keeping your hands clean. However, you may be wondering if combining both approaches grants extra protection against pathogens. Find out whether using hand sanitizer on latex gloves is a good idea and why.
Effects of Hand Sanitizers on Gloves
Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS) are a highly cost-efficient method of killing germs on the skin, they negatively impact the protective capabilities of most disposable gloves.
All types of disposable gloves develop tears and pinholes over time and should be replaced when noticed. Repeated exposure to hand sanitizer makes disposable gloves sticky and increases their porosity, which may cause infectious agents to remain on the gloves or come in contact with the skin.
In general, the CDC does not recommend using hand sanitizer with gloved hands unless under two specific circumstances:
- In case of extreme disposable glove shortages, as part of a logistical optimization strategy, such as managing a steep increase in patients over a short period.
- If your gloves are non-disposable and are intended to be washed and reused (e.g., heavy rubber gloves). Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, as every pair of gloves is constructed differently.
How to Disinfect Disposable Gloves
If you need to extend a limited supply of gloves and cannot afford to replace used pairs frequently, there are ways to clean and disinfect them.
Disinfection with ABHS
You may be able to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer on specific types of disposable gloves, provided they meet specific criteria. High-quality medical-grade gloves made of nitrile or latex may be able to withstand 5-6 disinfections with ABHS before becoming ineffective or compromised.
Disinfection with soap and water
If you do not have access to ABHS, you may be able to use regular soap and water. Quality disposable medical gloves may be washed up to 10 times.
However, this disinfection method may be unsuitable if you use short-cuffed disposable gloves, as water may seep on the inside and remain trapped between the user’s hand and the glove, compromising their structural integrity and irritating the skin.
Disinfection with diluted bleach solution
Specific brands of medical-grade nitrile gloves tested per ASTM F739-12 standards do not show permeation when applying a bleach solution (10-13%).
Don the gloves, check for signs of damage, and dip them into a diluted bleach solution for at least 5 seconds, ensuring the bleach does not touch the skin. Then, let the solution remain on the donned gloves for at least one minute, hands facing downward, before rinsing with water. You may repeat the process up to 10 times or until the gloves develop signs of damage.
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