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Why Do Rubber Gloves Get Stiff?

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

why do rubber gloves get stiff

Rubber gloves are known for their versatility. They have a vast amount of applications in industries like automotive assembly, food processing, or mining, and even at home.

However, one tiny drawback of rubber gloves is that they can get stiff or sticky. And when this happens, it gets a little hard for them to be worn. Worse, they can get very uncomfortable and even break during use.

But why do rubber gloves get stiff in the first place?

They get stiff because of the deterioration of the molecules that make up the rubber. If you want to know why and how this happens, keep reading!

Why Do Rubber Gloves Get Stiff?


As an elastomer, rubber is prone to chain hardening. This is a process that occurs when the rubber is exposed to light, oxygen, and heat and eventually undergoes thermal-oxidative rubber degradation.

When the molecules degenerate, the rubber’s elasticity is reduced. This also makes the rubber brittle, char, and lose its color.

However, this process is rather normal for rubbers, especially as they age.

Now, this can be a problem if the gloves you are using are for daily activities. Kitchen rubber gloves and those for household tasks in general may also decline quicker if they are made from low-quality materials and exposed to chemicals.

The good thing is, this degeneration can be delayed if you maintain them. Here’s how you keep your rubber gloves soft.

How Do You Keep Rubber Gloves Soft?

Step #1: Wash them after every use.


Gloves are worn to protect your hands as you perform various tasks. This also means that they will be reacting to the chemicals that you are handling.

Therefore, cleaning rubber gloves after use will partially, if not totally, get rid of the substances that can potentially damage the rubber.

It is recommended to wash both the outer and inner parts of the gloves.

  • To clean the outer part, all you have to do is to don the gloves and rub them thoroughly. You can simply use hot water and dishwashing liquid in doing this step.
  • After washing the outer part, turn the gloves inside out. Don them again, and wash with hot water and dishwashing soap.

Rotate the pairs you have so that each glove lasts longer.

Step #2: Dry your gloves.


While hanging your gloves, ensure the cuffs face down so that water drains out of the rubber. Keep mildew from developing by turning the gloves inside out so that moisture can evaporate.

It is also important to note that rubber gloves should be air-dried and not put in the dryer. This is because dryers emit heat that can be excessive and damage the rubber. This also applies to other artificial sources of heat such as hair dryers.

Step #3: Store your gloves properly.


The perfect place to store dishwashing gloves and other reusable rubber gloves is a cool, dry place. Also avoid storing them in an open or wet environment and under direct sunlight.

This is to ensure that they will not be contaminated and deformed by external elements.

Why Do My Rubber Gloves Get Sticky?

Aside from hardening or stiffening, it is also normal that rubber gloves get sticky after some time. In fact, both natural and synthetic rubber, such as silicone get sticky over time.

Before turning into an elastic and stretchable material, rubber starts out as latex. Latex is a white, sticky substance derived from plants.

It goes through several processes to become rubber, including vulcanization. Through vulcanization, the rubber is heated in order to form strong polymer cross-links that make rubber durable and elastic.

However, when these crosslinks deteriorate, the rubber loses its durable and elastic properties and goes back to its sticky characteristic.

This problem occurs when the gloves come into contact with grease, oil, UV rays, and as they naturally age.


Rubber gloves are definitely useful, whether you want to avoid getting your hands sticky after washing dishes or protect yourself from chemicals and grime. And when their quality declines, the gloves’ comfort and protective qualities are compromised.

Therefore, answering “why do rubber gloves get stiff?” is important in understanding the science behind rubbers. Consequently, the proper ways of caring for and preserving rubber gloves can be determined.

And though it is true that rubbers will degenerate over time, there are still measures that you can take so that your gloves can protect you a little longer.

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