Though it is generally not recommended to wash and reuse disposable medical gloves, a study carried out by researchers at the University of Waterloo (Canada) announced that latex gloves can be reused up to 20 times when disinfected properly (you can read more about the study here). A turbulent time like this leads to PPE shortages in many parts of the world. I believe we all can use some help from accurate information on how to sterilize latex gloves.
The process to disinfect latex gloves is rather simple. All you need to do is apply a disinfectant to the inside and outside of the gloves. If you’re working with used gloves, wash and leave them to dry before sanitizing. In addition, there are a few important points, such as washing your hands, putting on, and taking off sterilized gloves correctly. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide.
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Things You Need
Sterilization is a process that can only be conducted in healthcare facilities, in which physical or chemical methods (e.g., steam under pressure, dry heat, EtO gas, liquid chemicals) are applied. Sterilization eliminates all microbial life. Unfortunately, we can’t sterilize gloves without such technologies.
With alcohol and disinfectant wipes, we can only sanitize latex gloves, which removes many microorganisms, but not all of them. Disinfection and sterilization are sometimes misused, just know that you can’t turn regular disposable gloves into sterile or surgical gloves. Also, gloves that were contacted with blood, bodily fluids, and secretions should never be reused. Continuing to use them puts you at a high risk of contamination.
With that out of the way, gather the following to proceed.
1. 70% Ethanol solution or disinfectant wipes
Some common techniques to sanitize disposable gloves include UV radiation, dry heat, steam, chlorine or QUAT compounds (easily found in household disinfectant wipes or sprays), and alcohol. The most accessible ways are ethanol and household disinfectants.
A 70% ethanol solution, also known as isopropyl alcohol, can remove most bacteria. You don’t need higher alcohol concentration. 80% or 100% ethanol solutions might do more harm than good and they have lower disinfecting abilities. If you only have 100% isopropyl alcohol, make a mixture of seven parts alcohol and three parts distilled water. Be careful to maintain hygiene while mixing the solution.
We advise using alcohol to sanitize gloves as it doesn’t affect the lifespan of PPE as much as commercial disinfectants. But if you choose household disinfectants, check the label to make sure they are designed to kill germs. You can use spray bottles or wipes, just remember to avoid highly-fragranced ones.
2. Hand soap
Prepare a hand soap, preferably medical ones, to wash your hands thoroughly before working with the gloves.
3. Your latex gloves
If you are sanitizing new gloves, grab them to proceed. But in case you are dealing with used gloves, remember that stretched or discolored gloves are non-reusable. If they tear or split while being on your hands, they lose their protective functions. Similarly, gloves that have tiny punctures or soiled spots should be disposed of.
Steps to Sterilizing Latex Gloves
Step 1: Wash the gloves
If you are sanitizing used rubber gloves, you need to wash them beforehand. I know this sounds doubtful, but big brands like Mechanix actually encourage wearers to wash and reuse their disposable gloves. As long as your latex gloves are in good shape, rest assured and give them a thorough wash.
While the gloves are on your hands, apply a decent amount of mild detergent and warm water. Then, gently rub your hands together. Be careful not to damage the thin rubber. Afterward, rinse them under running water, squeeze the excess, and hang them to air dry. If you want to wash the inside of the gloves, wait until they are completely dry, turn them inside out, and repeat the steps.
You can refer to this video How to clean hand gloves and reuse them again for a visualized step-by-step guide.
Step 2: Wash your hands
Now, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Don’t forget the wrists and fingertips.
Step 3: Apply the solution
Place the gloves on a clean tray or surface, then spray or wipe them with the solution. Work on the inside of the gloves first, let them dry, and turn them right side out to sanitize the exterior. Simple as that and your gloves are good to go.
Step 4: Put on and take off the gloves properly
Disposable gloves can be a source of contamination if you don’t learn how to put them on and take them off properly. Follow these steps to don sanitized gloves:
- Wash your hands with soap.
- Touch a small area on the cuff to don the first glove. It’s important not to contact your hands with the gloves’ palms and fingers.
- Pull the second glove with the gloved hand and don it.
- When the gloves are on, adjust the fingers. Avoid touching any surfaces before carrying out your tasks.
When you finish using the gloves, refer back to step one to wash them for further use. If you wish to dispose of them, take them off using this procedure:
- With your dominant hand, pinch the other glove near the twist and peel away from the hand. Never touch your skin with the gloves’ outside.
- Hold the peeled glove in your dominant hand. Then, take off the second glove by sliding two fingers inside the wrist, rolling it down the hand, wrapping around the other glove.
- Finally, rub your hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or wash them with soap and water.
Cautions When Sterilizing Latex Gloves
Proper disinfection and reuse of disposable latex gloves would not only save us during the shortages but also lower the number that ends up in the landfill. It helps decrease the waste impact on the environment. However, the risk of contamination and disease spreading should always be considered first. Please be aware of applying this sanitizing procedure appropriately. Never perform surgical or invasive procedures with such gloves.
How to sterilize latex gloves is not difficult, but each step should be taken cautiously. We hope you’ve gathered enough information to disinfect latex gloves correctly. If you found the article useful, please share it with the people around you to raise awareness of disposable glove hygiene. We’re flattered to have your attention.
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.